Starring: Martin Freeman, Tim Curry, Tim Conway, Joan Collins, Ashley Tisdale, Noel Clarke.
Running time: 83 minutes.
Synopsis: A disrespected inventor elf finds himself having to save Santa (Tim Conway) from North Pole invaders.
It’s a time for giving, a time for getting, a time for forgiving and for forgetting. Those immortal words were once sung by (the also immortal?) Cliff Richard, and SAVING SANTA, a smaller Christmas themed animated movie not from one of the big studios, fills out those criteria pretty darn well. So let’s take a look at exactly what there is in terms of giving, getting, forgiving and forgetting.
Let’s start with the giving. The film gives us a range of colourful characters who are very well designed for the most part. There is no attempt to emulate the more prestigious animation giants and this allows SAVING SANTA to find its own voice. It also doesn’t become obsessed with trying to add too much detail to elements that really don’t need it. Snow is snow, and even though many films recreate the weather conditions with meticulous detail concerning reflective qualities and consistency, a film such as this reminds you that although it may be a plus, it most certainly isn’t a necessity. However, as we all know, any animation can overcome its technical shortcomings if there is a worthwhile story in play, which fortunately SAVING SANTA most certainly does give us. It mixes time travel with Christmas cheer as Bernard D. Elf (Martin Freeman) must use Santa’s time manipulating device (usually used for delivering presents in one night) to set things right after a villainous delivery service invades the North Pole. It gives us the comedic time travel qualities of BACK TO THE FUTURE, while never getting too complicated for the little ones.
In terms of getting, you’ll be getting a family feature film that is explicitly aimed at the younger members of the audience. It goes at a quick pace, with each of Bernard’s jumps into the past playing out with new moments to savour. Each of these segments is enjoyable thanks to the wonderful voice work by Martin Freeman and the writing of the character in general. Bernard may be your typical outcast that longs for greater things, but he is also partially responsible for the madness that unfolds, and this is something he comes to confront. One particularly moving moment sees his upbeat ‘go-get-em-tiger’ song interspersed with his later more downbeat song when he flirts with the idea of failure. Bernard has to earn his respect, his forgiveness and his success, a decent message for any child without being too sugar-coated.
When it comes to forgiving, that’s where the audience will play a major part. It’s obvious that you’ll have to forgive some of the animation, as certain background characters can feel stilted and look as though they are walking along computer processed routes. It’s not a film where you can get lost in the backgrounds, which is something kids aren’t going to be too fussed about. Older viewers will also have to forgive the very childish humour that arrives in the form of obvious slapstick and the mention of poo. As far as forgetting goes, those who don’t fit into the film’s demographic may simply find it hard to remember the film after a couple of days. It doesn’t push the boundaries and it doesn’t punch above its weight, but anyone in the Christmas spirit will certainly enjoy a few aspects of the film. And, as it is a time for giving, perhaps you should give this experience to little ones this year.