Or, That Time That Santa Went to Prison and Dad Broke Parole to Spring Him. You know, for kids! No, seriously: That’s really what Get Santa is. In the annals of Yuletide movie misfires — of which there are many — this is up there with Santa with Muscles and Santa Claus, the Movie (counting only the ones aimed at children, that is). I don’t know what anyone involved here was thinking: Father Christmas and the criminal justice system do not go together. There is nothing jolly about jail.
I re-emphasize: This is a movie intended for children, complete with aw-shucks father-son bonding, fantasy Christmas magic, Stoogey slapstick, and new depths of toilet humor that only a grade-schooler could find hilarious. It’s from a writer and director, Christopher Smith, who once made a very grim, very funny black comedy about a corporate retreat that goes murderously wrong — that’s called Severance — and has made other films with titles like Creep and Black Death (neither of which I have not seen). This is not the sort of artist to whom you hand the keys to a would-be heartwarming and cheerful holiday jape.
And yet someone did precisely that.
This is not the sequel to Bad Santa. Yet it has Santa (Jim Broadbent [Paddington], much less amusing than the last time he played Santa, in the wonderful Arthur Christmas) arrested the day before Christmas eve after an incident in which he was trying to spring his reindeer from London’s famous Battersea animal shelter. (There’s a lot of incarceration in this movie. Tis the season!) Don’t ask why the reindeer were there, or why they can’t just fly away: there’s Reasons. Now Santa is in the same prison that Steve (Rafe Spall: The World’s End, I Give It a Year) just got released from, and even though it seems like not such a bad place — there’s only one guard, and all the inmates are apparently placid, misunderstood overgrown little boys — Santa needs to be sprung or else Christmas will be ruined. In but the first violation of his parole, which naturally forbids him from associating with other criminals, Steve is right back at the prison with his nine-year-old son, Tom (Kit Connor), who previously had an encounter with Santa that resulted in a pedophile joke — you know, for kids! — to see what they can do to help save Christmas.
That special Christmas magic is at work: Santa needs, basically, a getaway driver, and that’s exactly what Steve was in prison for!
Once more: Children’s movie.
So who are the villains here? Well, there’s Mom (Jodie Whittaker: One Day, Attack the Block), whom Tom complains is “being horrible” about Dad, merely because he’s been absent from the kid’s life for two years and was never reliable anyway. (Steve instantly proves Mom right by not returning Tom when he promised to, what with the saving Christmas and everything.) And then there’s Steve’s parole officer (Joanna Scanlan: The Invisible Woman, In the Loop), who is a mean fat lady who is constantly shoving food into her mouth, because fat. Women are mean and nasty here, failing to appreciate what really matters and getting in the way of boys’ fun.
And I haven’t even touched on the “let’s teach Santa how to be tough in prison” sequence. Ugh.
Eventually, the Lesson is imparted upon us: “Sometimes it’s better to listen to your heart than your head.” Yeah. That’s how some people end up in prison in the first place.