Film review: Get Santa - the winter heart warmer filmed in Leeds

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After the nightmare before Christmas of Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!, it seemed like we were in for tidings of discomfort and joylessness. It’s also worth remembering most of this film was shot right here in Leeds.

Thankfully, Christopher Smith’s festive fable lifts the gloom with a predictable yet magical tale of a fractured family, which is reunited by the power of the season.



The writer-director is evidently a huge fan of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, crafting an uplifting resolution that is strongly reminiscent of Spielberg’s classic, including a swollen orchestral crescendo that should perhaps be entitled An Unabashed Ode To John Williams.

Get Santa might not scale the dizzy heights of the 1982 film it hopes to emulate, but what Smith’s script lacks in subtlety and sophistication, it makes up for in heart-warming sentiment and an abundance of wholesome cheer, plus a herd of flatulent reindeer guaranteed to have tykes giggling with glee.

Admittedly, there are moments when the tone becomes sickly sweet and threatens to send the audience into sugar shock but what is Christmas without garish excess?

Getaway driver Steve Anderson (Rafe Spall) is released from prison and heads straight to a meeting with his parole officer, Ruth Morbury (Joanna Scanlan), who insists that he checks at in 5pm every day except for December 25.

“Miss an appointment and I’ll presume you’re stealing,” she growls.

His release coincides with the mysterious appearance of reindeer on Tower Bridge, which sparks a media circus.

It transpires that Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) has crash-landed and needs help to get his sleigh airborne.

Steve’s nine-year-old son Tom (Kit Connor), who lives with his mother Alison (Jodie Whittaker) and her new partner (Joshua McGuire), discovers the figurehead of Christmas asleep in the garage and the boy telephones his old man for help.

Having waited two years, one month and three days to be reunited with his boy, Steve races to Tom’s aid and they embark on a madcap quest to save Christmas, defying Steve’s parole in the process.

Meanwhile, Santa finds himself behind bars with some of Steve’s old block mates including The Barber (Stephen Graham), Knuckles (Nonso Anozie) and Sally (Warwick Davis).

Get Santa rests largely on the shoulders of newcomer Connor and he’s a natural, sparking lovely on-screen rapport with Spall. Broadbent, who previously voiced Santa in the computer-animated jaunt Arthur Christmas, brings warmth and gravitas to his role.

Whittaker is shamefully underused, but Scanlan savours her limited screen time, channelling the villainous spirit of Pam Ferris in Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

Lapland sequences, which were shot in Yorkshire, benefit from splendid production design and some nifty digital effects to bring to life a glittering wonderland populated by Santa’s little helpers, who apparently cannot take flight because, “If we fly over 1,000 feet, we explode.”

An act of elf-destruction - you learn something new every day.