Review: Saving Santa / Cert: U / Director: Leon Joosen, Aaron Seelman / Screenplay: Ricky Roxburgh / Starring: Martin Freeman, Newell Alexander, Noel Clarke, Joan Collins / Release Date: Out Now
Children, you're all special. You can be whatever you want to be. So said many a kiddies' cartoon, forever giving hope to the most average and mundane (save, refreshingly, for this year's Monsters University). Anything you want. Unless you're Martin Freeman, in which case you're doomed to play mildly exasperated British blue-collar variations on Tim from The Office forever.
Freeman trades in Hobbits for elves in Saving Santa, a colourful Christmas cartoon in which an outcast elf turns to time travel in order to save Christmas day. A would-be inventor cursed with bad luck and his contraptions' habitual (and catastrophic) breakages, Bernard D. Elf (geddit) is a character very much in the mould of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' Flint Lockwood or Flik from A Bug's Life. There's even, as in the former, a device designed to translate animals' thoughts.
Sadly, where Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and A Bug's Life tried to give the adults in the audience a reason for watching too, Saving Santa is tediously childish at times. Lacking in wit and ambition, it's rarely funny and frequently dull. Worst of all is the singing, ranging from tuneless (Freeman) to uninspired (Ashley Tisdale). It all looks very nice though. The ever-reliable Tim Curry lends the film an air of class as villain Neville Baddington, while Joan Collins, Noel Clarke and Chris Barrie are fun in their respective (if brief) roles. And at least the time travel element adds variety to the otherwise predictable story, in a Groundhog Day, timey-wimey sort of way.
Younger children should have fun with the cute and cuddly Saving Santa, but everyone else will find it to be daft, forgettable, and a waste of a decent idea. It's harmless, but lacking the individuality that its very message suggests we all have. “A Christmas without Santa doesn't sound like fun at all,” sings Ashley Tisdale in the climactic Christmas song. Actually, it does, if this is the alternative.