Miracle on Avenue 8

Angela Lansbury and David Norona in Mrs. Santa Claus (1996)

The first time I heard about "Mrs. Santa Claus" I had high expectations, a Christmas musical featuring Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Claus sounded great. And to be honest there is much which is great about this made for TV movie, it is a big production with great sets, great music and a great cast lead by Angela Lansbury .... but. That but is the actual story because it left me gutted, this is not some chirpy little wholesome Christmas movie but a movie about women's rights. Yes you did read that right, this movie features a storyline about women making a stand, be it Mrs. Claus feeling neglected or a young woman called Sadie leading a suffragette movement. That's not to say the message being delivered isn't a noble one but it is certainly not what you expect from a movie featuring Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Santa Claus.

Another Christmas has arrived and Mrs. Santa Claus (Angela Lansbury - The Lady Vanishes) is feeling a little neglected as whilst she has organized the elves and the making of the toys Mr. Claus (Charles Durning - Spy Hard) is so busy sifting through every letter that he fails to pay her enough attention. In need of a new challenge Mrs. Claus decides to take the reindeer and sleigh for a spin a few days before Christmas Eve but a run in with bad weather leaves her stuck in Avenue 8, New York where she meets many wonderful people from young Nora Kilkenny (Lynsey Bartilson) to women's rights campaigner Sadie (Debra Wiseman).

Charles Durning as Santa in Mrs. Santa Claus (1996)

So I'm going to get my gripe out of the way with first as whilst I am not belittling the women's rights message which is delivered in "Mrs. Santa Claus" I am saying that it doesn't fit in with the look of the movie. From the minute you see Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Claus and we have watched the elves making toys it feels and looks like a traditional Christmas movie. But then when she is forced to land and stay in Avenue 8 that Christmassy element goes missing because it becomes all about Mrs. Claus helping out the people of the Avenue. She helps 'soapbox' Sadie with her women's rights march, she helps young Nora deal with the tyrannical Augustus Tavish at his Toy factory and she helps Mrs. Lowenstein who fears being deported. The message is a good one but for a Christmas movie it makes it less about Christmas and whether or not Mrs. Claus will return to the North Pole in time for Santa to make his deliveries.

And that is a shame because everything else about "Mrs. Santa Claus" is great and for a TV movie it has the look, style and casting of a big screen movie. The whole recreation of 1910 is fantastic and the sets are staggering as are the costumes, although a certain red number which Lansbury wears makes her look a bit too much like a Spanish Senorita. Add to that the musical aspect and every song is wonderful as are the dances and considering Lansbury was in her 70s when she made "Mrs. Santa Claus" her singing and dancing is brilliant. Even the special effects of the reindeer flying whilst not the best is still better than you would expect for a TV movie.

Then there is the cast and whilst Angela Lansbury is the star of "Mrs. Santa Claus" and delivers a performance so good that you forget she is in her 70s the rest of the cast are just as good. Charles Durning whilst not having a great deal to do looks the part of Santa and in his few scenes delivers the aspect of a tired old man missing his wife. And whilst Terrence Mann as Augustus P. Tavish is basically giving us a performance which seems to imitate Tim Curry's musical exploits in "Annie" he does it brilliantly playing the comically nasty toy manufacturer.

What this all boils down to is that "Mrs. Santa Claus" looks the part, sounds the part and has a wonderful cast but unfortunately the storyline is a disappointment. For a movie which looks so Christmassy what gets served up ends distinctly un-christmassy and that is sadly a shame as whilst still a worthy storyline it is just not in keeping with the look of the movie.

Tags: TV Christmas Movies, Santa Claus, Christmas Movies