The great big rein­deer get­away

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

GET SANTA ★★★ Di­rected by Christo­pher Smith. Star­ring Jim Broad­bent, Rafe Spall, Kit Con­nor, Stephen Gra­ham, Ewen Brem­ner, Jodie Whit­taker, Michael Wal­ter, War­wick Davis, Joanna Scan­lan G cert, gen­eral re­lease, 102 min

For­mer get­away driver Steve (Rafe Spall) has just been re­leased from prison and is be­ing keenly watched by his of­fi­cious pa­role of­fi­cer ( The Thick of It’s Joanna Scan­lan) when his young son Tom (new­comer Kit Con­nor) finds Santa Claus (Jim Broad­bent) hid­ing in the fam­ily tool shed.

Soon after, Santa is sent down for at­tempt­ing to res­cue his es­tranged rein­deer from Bat­tersea Cats and Dogs Home, and must learn to sur­vive prison while new chums Steve and Tom at­tempt to save Christ­mas.

When last we caught up with hip young Bri­tish au­teur Christo­pher Smith, pur­veyor of such dark genre de­lights as Creep, Tri­an­gle and Black Death, he oc­cu­pied the in­ter­sec­tion in a Venn di­a­gram com­pris­ing sets marked Ben Wheat­ley and Robert Hein­lein. Imag­ine our sur­prise to note that the same writer-di­rec­tor is re­spon­si­ble for this un­abashedly sea­sonal schmaltz.

Get Santa is an odd con­fec­tion. The cast is pop­u­lated by Proper Th­es­pi­ans who are almost too sub­tle, too nu­anced, too, well, tal­ented, for this kind of malarkey.

At its best, the film is a fish-out-of-wa­ter com­edy built around Santa’s at­tempts to fit in with har­dened crim­i­nals. (Yes, he strolls the cor­ri­dors to the strains of Straight Outta

Comp­ton.) But just when we’re primed for a very kitchen-sink Christ­mas, Smith’s film goes to Hol­ly­wood with a surg­ing John Wil­liams-alike score (from Ilan Eshkeri) and wide-eyed mir­a­cles. Ex­cept on a lesser bud­get than we’re ac­cus­tomed to with this sub­genre.

There are enough wel­come de­tails in the mar­gins to keep view­ers from fid­get­ing: a like­able if un­evenly paced story, some in­ven­tive La­p­land-re­lated steam­punk, and character ac­tors one would hap­pily crawl over jagged holly to see.

It helps, too, that after Na­tiv­ity 3, ev­ery Christ­mas film is sure to look like a master­piece.

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