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Movie Review: ‘Saving Santa’

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Time-travel movies are a great chance to tinker with logic and do creative new points of view in storytelling, often showing the mysterious causes after the effects. Christmas movies are another genre staple, and the two combine arguably with the first of each with Scrooge’s journeys in A Christmas Carol. That is fine for fantasy folks who want their hearts warmed without thinking too much, but what about for fans of hard sci-fi?

savingsantaSaving Santa is just that movie. The direct-to-DVD film exclusive at Wal-Mart gives the story of Bernard D. Elf (Martin Freeman), a want-to-be inventor whose current position at the North Pole is the waste-disposal engineer (pooper-scooper) for the reindeer’s stable. The troubling day starts immediately with Bernard awakens late for his appointment with SANTECH, the hi-tech elf firm that inspires Christmas jolliness around the world through science. Bernard’s inventions have been unfortunately not up-to-snuff, but they show clever writing and actually profound science fiction.

Bernard is infamous for his invention the year before of a memory-eraser to solve the problems of “Santa sightings,” which erased too much and required months of rehabilitation for the unlucky board members. His new invention is a device that again digs into the brain of the user, this time to find the best Christmas memory and allow it to be relived. It is a genius idea, though it inevitably goes wrong as elves fight over it and end up causing a blackout in the whole North Pole. Bernard is blamed and sent back to his poop-scooping job, where he had devised translation boxes for the reindeer, though he cannot get the setting right for English, again a great idea that goes hilariously wrong.

Fortunately for Bernard, Santa (Tim Conway) speaks every language, so the big guy in red is very impressed with the invention. Santa shows Bernard the greatest secret in the North Pole (and perhaps the world), the answer to how Santa can visit every house in a single night: time-travel. The sleigh is rigged with a time-machine able to jump backward between houses, meaning that Santa, from an objective point of view, visits them all at the same time.

Such technology is very dangerous and comes with a warning from Santa that anything that has been done cannot be undone, only added to, which solves a great many paradoxes. Time-travel is also very powerful, attracting the interest of an evil billionaire (Tim Curry) who wants to steal it for his own delivery service empire. The result is sequences of integrated scenes worthy of Back to the Future II and a plot on a level with Primer.

Saving Santa is a must-see for budding sci-fi fans and old-timers alike. It features a fantastic cast of voice actors across several generations. The animation is cutesy, fitting the Christmas story without too much flash. Some of the songs and jokes are corny, making for a decent Christmas movie, but the science fiction value of the film transcends the Christmas genre with thought-provoking wonder and a good lesson for us all of the value of creativity in making the world a better place.

Three out of Five Stars

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.