Christopher Smith (Creep, Black Death) writes and directs this, a change of pace from his usual violent, gory and dark fare, a Christmas film set in modern Britain that mixes an element of comedic crime caper into the mixture. I’m fond of Smith’s films Creep, Severance, Triangle and Black Death, so I was eager to check out his shot at a Christmas movie.
The story follows Steve (Rafe Spall), a father who has just got out of prison where he was incarcerated after making the bad decision to be a getaway driver in a robbery. Trying to reunite with his young son, Tom, Steve finds that his son has found Santa in his garage. Santa (Jim Broadbent) has lost his reindeer and his sleigh and is in need of help to save Christmas. Through a series of crazy scenarios in which Santa is reprimanded and imprisoned for trying to steal back his reindeer troupe from an animal home, and Steve being hunted by police after missing his all-important parole meeting with cold and callous parole officer Ruth (Joanna Scanlan), we follow the father and son bond with Steve trying to prove that he isn’t as unreliable as everybody says he is. Steve, with help of the prisoners he met while serving time, including Sally (Warwick Davis), a dwarf who is attempting to tunnel out of the jail, try to help Santa escape from behind bars, all the while he and Tom try to round up the deer and find a way to get Father Christmas back in the sky, delivering presents in time.
I was surprised to see Christopher Smith try something like this after his previous films, but it’s a brave step and it isn’t often a director like Smith takes a gamble in changing what they are known for in order to try something different. Broadbent, as Santa, is a hoot, and I always enjoy seeing him in comedy roles. His timing is great. Spall, as the lead of Steve, is fine and offers an everyman who makes mistakes but wants to make up for them and show his son that he is able to keep his promises. It’s a cute story, and one I thought was entertaining. The scenes with Broadbent’s Santa in prison, and on-the-road bonding between father and Son, Steve and Tom, were enjoyable. There were, though, some things that let it down. The way the reindeers communicated, through farting, was tiresome, dated and didn’t entice a laugh at any point, though perhaps kids will find it chuckle-worthy. I thought it was let down by trying to be too many things at once. Warwick Davis, as prisoner-cum-elf, Sally Gunnel (slang for Tunnel), also fell flat for me. Davis is making a living, nowadays, off playing the sarcastic awkward little man, a role he played in the terrible “Life’s Too Short” and other places, and I find it terribly grating. His fantasy roles, in Harry Potter and Willow are top notch, but he needs to quit with the dry snarky stuff, it isn’t working. A couple of poor characters and off-the-mark jokes aside, I was entertained and found the overall story to be pleasant to watch.
Christmas movies don’t make their ways to the cinema too often these days. There aren’t many festive comedy movies that are actually good being released. What happened to films like Scrooged, Christmas Vacation and Elf? It seems like it’s been a while since a genuinely fantastic Christmas movie has been released that isn’t animated, and sadly, though this wasn’t dire, we are still waiting. It’s a middle of the road movie that will get a few laughs and pass an hour and forty minutes of time on a cold evening, but nothing more. Christopher Smith deserves credit for trying, but in my view should stick to his darker stuff. Jim Broadbent is the standout, but don’t rush out and buy a ticket to see this, I don’t think you’ll feel like it was worth the admission price.
Get Santa is out at cinemas in the UK, now.