Though it may have been delighting audiences for almost three decades now, The Santa Clause actually doesn’t deserve its reputation as a Christmas classic. It may have all the trappings of a Christmas story: snow, reindeer, elves, and actual Santa Claus, but there are a few key ingredients that actually subtle undermine its festive credentials. Despite its stellar seasonal standing, 1994’s The Santa Clause is actually a secretly bad Christmas movie.

Following Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) after he accidentally kills Santa Claus one Christmas Eve, The Santa Clause sees the distant and cynical Scott reconnecting with his young son, Charlie, after being forced to assume the mantle of Santa himself. It’s a journey that sees Scott’s life turned entirely upside down, forcing him to reassess his personal philosophy as his career shift changes every almost aspect of his existence. It also spawned a franchise, with two movie sequels and a limited series fleshing out Scott’s story.

Though The Santa Clause has become popular festive fare, its overall story and message are actually less than ideal with regard to the spirit of the season. There are a number of issues with the film itself that actually undermine its ability to deliver an effective feel-good Christmas movie. Each of these presents only a minor issue, but overall they combine to create a slightly problematic overview of The Santa Clause that simply makes it a bad Christmas movie, especially in comparison to other festive favorites.

The Santa Clause Takes Place Over A Whole Year

Tim Allen as Scott Calvin/Santa Claus in The Santa Clause

To start with perhaps the pettiest of reasons why The Santa Clause isn’t a great Christmas movie: it’s not really about Christmas itself. It’s actually about Scott Calvin becoming Santa Claus, and this is a transformation that happens over the period of a full year. The movie starts on Christmas Eve and ends on Christmas the following year, meaning that the majority of the film’s story (maybe not proportionately, but technically speaking) takes place in the 50 or so intervening weeks. There’s nothing festive about a boardroom meeting in mid-Spring, is there?

Of course, The Santa Clause still manages to include all your favorite dumb Christmas movie tropes, so it still feels like a Christmas movie. However, when the overall scope of its story is considered, it isn’t completely set at Christmas, and that cheapens its festive impact. It’s more about the character of Scott Calvin than it is about Christmas itself, and that’s one of the film’s biggest Christmas conundrums.

Scott Calvin Doesn’t Even Believe In Santa – He’s An Awful Choice For The Job

Eric Lloyd and Tim Allen in The Santa Clause 1994

Christmas movies are almost always riddled with glaring plot holes, and The Santa Clause is really no exception. It breaks its own rules on several occasions, and everything is all so very convenient. However, one of these plot holes takes things even further, because it actually proves that the film’s protagonist isn’t entirely considerate of children at Christmas time – which, correct us if we’re wrong, sort of makes him the worst possible choice to become Santa Claus.

Scott Calvin lives in a world where Santa Claus flies around the world delivering presents every Christmas Eve. Yet, for some reason, Scott doesn’t believe that Santa is real? Even after meeting multiple elves and drinking hot chocolate at the North Pole, Scott is a skeptic. He shows no real consideration for his young son, who is rightfully enthralled by the magic of Christmas, and continually blows it all off as nonsense. These are certainly not qualities becoming of a good Santa Claus, and that majorly undermines The Santa Clause‘s ability to deliver a magical Christmas story. After all, the main character doesn’t even believe in himself (to begin with, at least) and that’s not an easy thing to explain to the younger members of the audience.

The Santa Clause Takes All Of The Mystery Out Of Christmas

Tim Allen and Judge Reinhold in The Santa Clause

Maybe the vaguest, but certainly the most substantial reason that The Santa Clause is a bad Christmas movie: it takes all of the magical mystery out of the season. All in the space of just 97 minutes, The Santa Clause begins dispelling the myth of Santa by literally killing him off, then replacing him with an obnoxiously cynical man (who also happens to be a pretty neglectful father). The rest of the movie follows Scott Calvin as he truly becomes Santa Claus, and in the process reveals every one of the jolly big man’s magical secrets.

Making Santa out to be an ordinary man who lives an ordinary life during the rest of the year is one thing, but showing the ins and outs of his dysfunctional (if festive) family life is another. There’s no aspect of Scott Calvin’s life that doesn’t change, and there’s no aspect of Santa’s magic that doesn’t go under the microscope. This is topped off by Scott repeatedly dismissing the magic of Christmas (even as it’s physically transforming him), which makes The Santa Clause feel more like a character assassination of Santa himself rather than a bona fide Christmas movie.

It’s a classic for a reason, and it’s a fun family flick, but it really doesn’t deserve the reverence it’s often shown. In many ways, The Santa Clause delivers a handful of bad Christmas movie messages to its audience, with characters acting unpleasantly or irresponsibly in one way or another. The Santa Clause may undeniably be a Christmas movie, but subtle quirks of storytelling actually make it a bad one rather than the classic it’s considered to be.