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Alain Chabat as a green, immature and clumsy Santa Claus

Alain Chabat as a green, immature and clumsy Santa Claus

France 2 – Sunday, December 25 At 9:10 p.m. – Film

Harry Baur (The Assassination of Santa Claus, 1941), Edmund Gwenn (Miracle on the 34e street, 1947), David Huddleston (Santa Claus, the Movie, 1985), Tim Allen (Great Christmas, 1994), Edward Asner (Elf, 2003), Billy Bob Thornton (bad santa, 2003): with each approach of the frost, it suffices to give a kick in the tree planted in front of the cinema so that it falls Santas by the thousands (or almost).

In this year 2017, the toy deliverer was called Alain Chabat. He may be French-speaking, but his name is not Noël, but Santa, because its creator and interpreter has been obsessed since his beginnings with “American class”. It is therefore to the American version of the myth (elves, toy factory, reindeer, etc.) that the director of On the Marsupilami’s trail resorted.

In addition to being green, Chabat’s Santa is also clumsy, which does not help him cope with the industrial accident that occurs a few days before Christmas: his thousands of elves (all embodied by Bruno Sanches and Louise Chabat, digitally cloned) fall into catalepsy. Madame Santa (Audrey Tautou) must use all her authority to force her husband to go on a sleigh to the real world, in order to find the vitamins that would bring the elves back to life.

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The exchanges between Mr. and Mrs. strike the right balance between the caricature of the old couple (counting the time in windows that are opened on the calendar) and absurd fantasy. The wife would almost be embittered if she didn’t have such a good heart, her husband redeems – not quite – her immaturity and her laziness with his imagination and his faculty of wonder.

And it takes some, when Santa’s sleigh runs aground boulevard de Clichy, on the roof of the Moulin-Rouge. In Paris, we wait for the snow without really believing it anymore, dozens of colleagues, mercenaries with hydrophilic cotton beards, dressed in red, beat the pavement (joyous and fleeting appearance of Jean-Pierre Bacri), and Santa does not distinguish himself from the all-comers only by his flying reindeer, his polyglotism and his exhaustive knowledge of the first names of all the children.

For adults, the charm of the film is largely due to the casual assurance with which Alain Chabat plays the jokes on serious subjects: global warming, distrust (to be polite) of foreigners, the he omnipresence of the police in town… A line, a shot, perhaps a short sequence, the satire is administered in homeopathic doses.

The important thing for the director is elsewhere: to tick the boxes on his Christmas list. There will therefore be an ordinary family touched by grace (dad Pio Marmaï, mum Golshifteh Farahani), misunderstandings that will allow an obtuse policeman (Grégoire Ludig) to reconnect with the child within him, and a final pursuit under the bridges of Paris and above the Champs-Elysées.

Santa & Co., by and with Alain Chabat. With Golshifteh Farahani, Pio Marmaï, Audrey Tautou (Fr., 2017, 95 min).

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