When Steve (Rafe Spall) is released from prison, he wants nothing more than to reconnect with his son Tom (Kit Connor), though gets more than he bargained for when confronted with the responsibility of saving Christmas. The pair become aware of the task at hand when Santa Clause (Jim Broadbent) finds himself in their shed, having crashed just days before Christmas Eve. In a desperate attempt to lure back his reindeer from Battersea Dog’s Home, he is arrested for trespassing and sentenced to a stint in prison. Though reluctant at first, Steve attempts to use his connections on the inside, such as the Barber (Stephen Graham), to help break Santa free in time for him to deliver presents across the world on his annual voyage.
Though adhering to a younger demographic, naturally, Smith is careful to never compromise the content as a result. He clings on to the more dramatic, adult inclined themes – such as reconnecting with your family after leaving prison and of course the conventional prison-break scenario. It helps that our entry point, Steve, is cynical and apprehensive towards Christmas. As a fully grown man, he is somewhat reluctant to believe in Christmas – and in that regard he’s representative of the adults in the audience. Meaning that while Smith attempts to convince his protagonist that Santa is real, he’s doing the same to his viewer, as we get immersed in this world and abide by the surrealism just as Steve does. Having modern day London as a setting is a tremendous help when bringing this tale to a world we know, a world we can invest in. Hearing that Santa is in Lambeth prison, or the reindeer in Richmond Park, adds to that sense of realism. It’s a notion we abide by throughout, placing Santa is very ordinary situations, and with very ordinary people.
Another rather important factor in allowing the audience to invest emotionally in this tale – are the distinct credentials of the cast. But not just that – it’s the sincere, earnest performances they turn in that matters most. In films aimed at children it’s excusable to expect the cast to dumb down somewhat, to play for their target crowd, but not in this case. The likes of Spall, Graham and Nonso Anozie give it their all, acting as they would in any dramatic role. This does nothing but improve the film, as they all do justice to the original screenplay at hand. The only actor who does play for laughs is Broadbent, but he’s Santa, what d’ya expect? Talking of which, props to the casting director who pulled off that coup. An obvious and yet somewhat inspiring decision.
Get Santa strikes that rare and yet perfect balance in appealing to children and parents alike. It’s an enchanting story, deftly executed, to make for a magical, compelling, funny and emotional piece of cinema. But best of all, it makes you believe in Santa for 90 minutes. You can’t ask for much more than that.