"“Like a bad pantomime, except without the enjoyable option of hissing...”"
There's something about Germany that's rather Christmassy. Maybe it's just lebkuchen, but there is something magical and festive about that nation this time of year. However, if Germany is the home of Christmas, well this year they can keep it, because having watched When Santa Fell to Earth, the only two words that spring to mind are Bah Humbug.
In the build up to Christmas, we delve into the life of youngster Ben (Noah Kraus) who has moved home to a new village with his parents for a fresh start, as his father (Fritz Karl) has recently lost his job, while his mother (Jessica Schwarz) starts up a new confectionary business. Struggling to adapt to life at a new school and having to make new friends, Ben isn't feeling very festive this year. That is, however, until Santa (Alexander Scheer) decides to drop by, aided by his two elves and fairy assistants.
The nature of Santa's surprise visit is to escape the evil nutcrackers – a vigilant army set out to destroy Christmas and rid it of all the tradition and magic, turning it into a dark, money-making convention. However, as the last 'good' Santa left, along with the help of Ben and his best friend Charlotte (Mercedes Jadea Diaz), the trio hope to save Christmas, once and for all.
The plot to the movie is about evil people trying to destroy Christmas and get rid of the tradition that makes it such a wonderful time of year – which, ironically, is what the director Oliver Dieckmann seems to be attempting himself. However, although admiring him for attempting to steer away from the stereotypical image we all have of Santa, the one featured in this resembles Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, which is not what we want to see. Christmas is all about tradition, so revel in it. Santa (albeit in this he is one of many) still needs to have white hair, a white beard, and a pot belly. Nothing else will do.
Dieckmann is evidently attempting a darker type of Christmas movie, as there is even a heavy rock song to be heard at one point, and the Santa committee look like Bond villains. Such an approach may work for a more adult-orientated film like Bad Santa, but this is for kids and needs to be more conventional. There's one scene where we see Santa playing a guitar, and I fully expected to see a discarded bong lying on the floor beside him. He's an infuriating character also, and I'm willing to bet we are not supposed to want to throttle Santa. Being Santa always strikes me as a retirement plan anyway, it shouldn't be this guy. He just needs to clean his act up and get a proper job.
Meanwhile, there is something cheap about When Santa Fell to Earth, in no way helped by the amateur dubbing. It's a kids film so naturally subtitles are asking too much of a younger, foreign audience, which I appreciate, but it just seems too corny and cheap. You keep expecting to hear an air freshener jingle after every sentence. The dubbing, a little unfairly for the filmmakers, really effects the enjoyment of this title. Also, the animated elves aren't very well done, and don't get me started on the nutcrackers. Even kids can tell when things are done on the cheap. It's like a bad pantomime, except without the enjoyable option of hissing.
Nonetheless, the premise is good, and the final act does feel rather festive, but on the whole When Santa Fell to Earth manages to avoid any sense of charm or poignancy, which is exactly what films like this need. And, to take a negative from a positive, it's not quite bad enough to be funny, sadly. This Christmas go and see Amour. It's more cheerful.