Directed by: Luc Vinciguerra
Written by:Alexandre Reverend
Starring: Shane Jacobson, Deltra Goodrem, Max Cullen, Magda Szubanski, Georgie Parker, Hugh Sheridan
Released: November 10, 2011
Grade: C+

Not a single “Christmas themed” film was released during the festival season in Australia last year.  The gaping hole has quickly been filled in 2011 with two movies being released over the space of a fortnight – Santa’s Apprentice and Arthur Christmas.

Santa’s Apprentice is a unique animated film in the sense that it’s been financed by companies in both Australia and France.  Between them, they’ve tried to come up with a movie that could appeal to audiences in both countries.

There are actually two versions of the film in existence – one with French voices and one with Australian voices.  It makes sense given the movie is targeted squarely at young children.  Subtitles would not have worked.  Voices you’ll recognise in this Australian version include Shane Jacobson, Delta Goodrem, Georgie Parker, Hugh Sheridan and the always distinctive Magda Szubanski.

I often find myself hesitating when it comes to reviewing kid’s films.  I need to find my “inner child” and try to see the movie from a younger perspective.  If I were taking an 8 year old to see Santa’s Apprentice, would they enjoy it?

The answer I’ve come up with is… no.  The story is tricky to follow and there are hardly any laughs (for both adults and kids).  It revolves around an ageing Santa Claus who has been told it’s time to retire and hand over the reigns to someone new.  You’d think he’d be ready for a break after more than a century in the role but it turns out that this Santa is a control freak.  He even tries to sabotage the process of finding his successor.

I’m not sure why Santa is portrayed as such as a schmuck early on and this is part of the reason why I think kids will be sitting there with a blank stare on their face.  Anyway, Santa is finally forced to take on an apprentice.  He finds a young orphan named Nicholas and arranges for his trusty elf to “steal” Nicholas from the orphanage and bring him to the North Pole.  It kicks off a silly subplot where the police come in to investigate his disappearance.

Nicholas is a shy boy with a few self esteem issues.  He doesn’t think he’ll be up to the challenge of being Santa and distributing gifts to millions of kids around the world.  He has a full year to prepare however and as the time passes, he slowly starts learning the ropes.

I’m yet to see this year’s other Christmas release, Arthur Christmas, but it looks more interesting.  The characters appear to be cuter and the plot seems to have a lot more substance.  My impression has come solely from the trailer (and so I could be wrong) but if you can hold out for another two weeks, you may find Arthur Christmas offers something more entertaining for your kids.