When I saw Alec Baldwin's barrel-chested, tattooed, sword-swinging, Russian-accented Santa Claus in "Rise of the Guardians," I thought to myself (because I can't really think to anyone else), "Wow, that may be the greatest Santa Claus ever."
That is, except for the real Santa Claus -- and now is not the time to offend him.
"Rise of the Guardians" initially reminded me of the opening sequence of the vastly underrated holiday classic "Scrooged," during which Santa's workshop comes under attack by gun-wielding assailants, and just as the elves are breaking out the assault rifles, up pulls Lee Majors on a snowmobile to save the day.
With so many versions of Santa in the world of film and television,
I'll need at least a couple more viewings of "Rise of the Guardians" to officially determine where Baldwin ranks in the pantheon of Kriss Kringles.
Cream of the crop
For now, the standard for movie Santas should rightfully be the one with an Oscar in his sleigh. Edmund
At No. 2 -- and this is a surprise for me -- is Tim Allen's Santa in the "The Santa Clause" movies, which I didn't care much for the first time around but, thanks to the wonder of cable television's hypnotic effect on 4-year-olds, I've watched no fewer than seven times already this year. He really is a likable Santa.
Rounding out my top five would be the Mickey Rooney playing a young, red-haired, fighting-the-power Santa in "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"; the Santa who saves the day and stops Karen from crying (when you're the father of four girls, you can't stand little girls crying) in the animated "Frosty the Snowman"; and Billy Bob Thornton's thieving Santa in "Bad Santa." I know, you'd think he would top the worst Santa list. But I thought a dark and drunken St. Nick who didn't make me want to gag because he eats fish through his beard was kind of refreshing.
The bottom feeders
Now for the real bad Santas. Topping my list is the Santa from the stop-motion animation "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." I know it's a classic and whatnot, but that cranky little egghead runs around insulting elves and making snap judgments about people -- OK, reindeer -- based solely on their appearance.
Next comes Tom Hanks in "Polar Express." "What ... ?!" you say. "That's TOM HANKS. He's America's thespian treasure!" Look, I really liked the movie, and I liked him in it, because I like Tom Hanks. But that was the problem. He was Tom Hanks. And it was kind of creepy.
Rounding out the bad Santa list are Ed Asner in "Elf," because, no matter what Asner does, I always hear him yelling at someone in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"; Paul Giamatti in "Fred Claus" because I hated "Sideways," (this is my list, and I'll use my criteria); and David Huddleston's Santa Claus from "Santa Claus: The Movie," because no movie should take Santa that seriously while having such an awful title.