Despite the star-studded voice cast accompanying this enchanting children’s animation, there’s a very good chance that Leon Joosen and Aaron Seelman’s Saving Santa has passed you by somewhat, as a low-key adventure movie that has been shy of much media attention or publicity. However it takes only a matter of moments into proceedings to discover why this is the case, as a poorly animated, hackneyed kids’ film that does little to inspire.
With dreams of being an inventor, opportunist and eccentric elf Bernard D. Elf (Martin Freeman) is made to feel a fool yet again when his innovative creation to bring back people’s favourite Christmas memories back to life fails miserably. However he is then presented with the perfect opportunity to prove his worth, when Santa (Tim Conway) is kidnapped by the evil Neville Baddington (Tim Curry), and his demanding mother Vera (Joan Collins), who have their heart set on discovering Santa’s big secret: how he delivers presents across the world in just one night. However Bernard knows how he does it, using a time travelling device to ensure all children wake up on Christmas morning with their presents under the tree. The elf decides to use this to his advantage, as he plans on going back in time and preventing the abduction from ever happening, and save Santa – and Christmas – for the entire world.
Saving Santa is not the most aesthetically gratifying film, though the relatively modest budget does account for such technical shortcomings. However that doesn’t prevent the visual experience cheapening what is actually a fun and enjoyable narrative. The use of 3D is highly superfluous also, so much so, that if you take off your glasses it actually makes for a more pleasurable experience. Not only do the glasses darken what is a very vibrant and vivacious production, but on the whole they’re mostly ineffective, as a technique evidently used for the mere sake of it.
Talking of superfluous, the songs within this title feel entirely out of place, and what certainly doesn’t help, is quite how bad they are. You’re sitting there, harmlessly, and merrily enjoying the picture, and then a completely needless, bad 90s pop song kicks in, of the S Club 7 ilk. Of course one must appreciate the target audience are children – but that doesn’t excuse a badly written soundtrack. Just take Disney’s Frozen for example – they’ve managed it. Nonetheless, there are positives to be found, and Freeman’s inherent likeability ensures we have a protagonist to put our faith in and root for. It’s a shame that Joan Collins is underused somewhat though, as she’s playing a classic pantomime villain of sorts and a right diva (perhaps a Snickers help, in that regard?).
The film excels most within its well construed time travelling aspect, which has been handled intelligently and with a great sense of fun. Though that said, it is somewhat convoluted and may take some rigorous explaining when it comes to the little ones. Thankfully Saving Santa, much like our leading hero, is only short, at roughly 80 minutes long. Inside that lies an alluring narrative and a more than worthy voice cast to go with it, all bringing their own unique personalities to proceedings. However sadly this mediocre animation just hasn’t quite been executed to its full potential. If you’re going to save anyone this Christmas, save Mr. Banks instead.