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September 22, 2014

The Year Without a Santa Claus (live version) -- an early look

by Richard Keller, posted Dec 11th 2006 9:01AM

Live remake of The Year Without a Santa Claus

When the networks all get together at their secret meeting. . . you know, the one where they laugh about how none of the mysteries will be solved on Lost and where they try to figure out how many more shows they can stuff into Thursday nights to cause our DVRs to have a meltdown . . . they need to adopt a new amendment into their secret constitution. An amendment that will be as important as the one that decrees that Cop Rock will never be duplicated, and the one that commands CBS to continually green light shows by Joe Pantoliano and then cancel them or keep them off the air entirely.

I'm talking about the amendment that prevents the networks from making live-action remakes of classic animated programs ever again. Especially if it is a remake of an animated holiday classic that millions of viewers still remember fondly. Because, no matter how hard they try to stay truthful to the original, they always manage to screw it up. Particularly when they decide to update the live-action remake of the animated holiday classic to reflect modern fads and values. When they try that disaster looms.

Case in point: the live-action remake of The Year Without a Santa Claus, which airs tonight on NBC. The remake is loosely based, in my opinion, on the 1974 stop-action animated special of the same name that was produced by Rankin-Bass. In the animated version Santa Claus (voiced by Mickey Rooney) wakes up with a cold and decides to take Christmas off. It's up to elves Jingle and Jangle to go out into the real world to find people who still believe in Santa Claus so they can convince the big, jolly guy to get back on the sleigh.

Santa, Jingle and Jangle are in the live remake, as well as the concept that Christmas is not about gifts (although my children would disagree), but everything else is different. This time around it's not Santa catching a cold that's the problem, it's that Santa Claus (John Goodman) has now become SantaCo., a new North Pole corporation run by head elf Sparky (Chris Kattan). Sparky feels that Santa is behind the times and tries to update his image with a new toy line featuring Goth dolls and fighting robots that explode. Santa feels that the holiday is getting too commercial and decides to take Christmas off, possibly for good. It is up to Jingle and Jangle (Ethan Suplee and Eddie Griffin) to go out into the real world to find someone who has the true meaning of Christmas in his or her heart.

While the original animated version of Year Without a Santa Claus was corny and charming at the same time, the live remake is cynical and almost too modern and hip for itself. John Goodman plays a cranky Santa who growls at everyone and really doesn't get much respect from his elves. I think he was channeling his role as the evil Santa Claus Robot from Futurama. Ethan Suplee plays Jingle like a slightly smarter Randy from My Name is Earl. I also think they could've found a better person than Chris Kattan to play Sparky the head elf, he just didn't fit into his character. Once again, too hip and modern.

Now, I haven't forgotten about the two most important players in Year Without a Santa Claus . . . Heat Miser and Snow Miser. Snow Mister is played by Michael McKean, who actually matches his animated counterpart fairly well in characterization. Heat Miser is played by . . . . ready for it . . . Harvey Firestein? Yes, I'm sure you're not reading it wrong. The gravelly-voiced actor plays Mr. Green Christmas. When he sings the little ditty about himself it sounds like someone stepping over crushed gravel. Yes, Snow and Heat Misers sing their songs like they do in the animated version. But, while the original version gave about 90 seconds for each Miser, the live version combines their performances into one. In addition, the Misers' minions aren't little versions of themselves; they're models dressed in bikinis. See the paragraph above about hip and modern.

So, if you are interested in watching The Year Without a Santa Claus then tune into the original animated version on ABC Family and forget this live version ever existed.

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BigDaddyJ

Yikes!! What a mess! I watched it with my kids thinking they'd get some fond memories like I have of watching the original animated version. It was horrid. I think my 8-yr old summed it up when he said, "Daddy, Santa got angry."

December 13 2006 at 2:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott

Yeeewwwww! This sounds really putrid. I'm a fan of the original. This remake sounds almost as bad as the Jim Carrey wholesale slaughter of "The Grinch" from a few years ago.

December 12 2006 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KMF

My sister convinced me to watch it. She was in cornball heaven laughing the whole time at how bad it was and how worse it could get. Me on the otherhand found it a nightmare of over the top hipness. The whole Sparky thing needed to be taken out. Doctor Laura?!! What the? Jingle and Jangle watching tv Jangle being Randy, and Jingle being way too hip. And they ruined most of the best parts which involved Mrs Claus, like tea with Mother Nature to get the Miser Brothers to behave and cooperate. Carol Kane wasn't anywhere near Mother Nature she was just recycling her Scrooged character. Delta Burke was wasted. All she did was walk into rooms and walk out, go up stairs and down, there was none of the Shirley Booth Mrs Claus in what they gave her. Michael McKean was almost perfect as Snow Miser and although I like Harvey Firestein I hated him as Heat Miser. I couldn't hear or understand him it was like he was whispering. Yeah and the bikini girls hmmm... And the updating of the South town plot made it even worse. Ugh. . For a good time get the original. It's corny but not as bad as this mess!!

December 12 2006 at 7:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Emily

Thanks for the warning. BTW, who plays Mrs. Claus?

December 11 2006 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bd

Too much.

December 11 2006 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

I don't think I have ever seen the "clasic" version, but it sounds lame. Santa Claus works one day a year and he took a sick day?! What kind of Santa is that?! And it sounds like John Goodman is playing Santa like he did on the first Futurama X-Mas special.

December 11 2006 at 9:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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