Santa's Apprentice: Film Review

Santas Apprentice Movie Still - H 2011
Alphanim (Gaumont Group)

Santas Apprentice Movie Still - H 2011

A sweet Yuletide treat for the very young.

Australian actors Delta Goodrem and Shane Jacobson lead the cast for director Luc Vinciguerra's holiday film.

The animated French-Australian co-production Santa’s Apprentice is a candy-colored treat teaching very young children about self-belief and kindness and that jolly old Saint Nick has an Aussie accent.

Some well-known Australian actors, including Shane Jacobson (Kenny) as the North Pole’s most famous resident, have lent their voices to the English version of a sweetly old-fashioned Christmas tale initially made in French. The Gallic original, L'apprenti Père Noël, was so successful upon its release in France last year that a sequel reuniting director Luc Vinciguerra and scriptwriter Alexandre Reverendis in the works for Christmas 2012.

Santa’s Apprentice, which has been picked up for distribution in North America, the U.K. and other major territories following its Australian release on Nov. 10, should provide a nice warm-up for parents of 3- to 8-year-olds looking to rev up some Christmas spirit.

Santa is facing retirement anxiety as the time nears for him to start grooming a replacement. If he doesn’t choose a successor by Dec. 24, the magic of Christmas will melt away forever “like a snowflake in spring,” he is warned. The rules state that the new apprentice must be named Nicholas, be an orphan and, importantly, be pure of heart.

He finds just such a boy – and why not? – living in Sydney, where the locals are more likely to be toting surfboards than sleds during the holiday season. Seven-year-old Nicholas (Jack Versace) must overcome a number of obstacles, not least his fear of heights, in his quest to become worthy of donning the furry red costume.

The animation is simple but engaging, and Reverend’s script offers low-key amusements, from a visit to Santa’s workshop and astonishing toy museum to a simulated sleigh ride through snow-capped mountains.

Opens: Thursday, Nov. 10
Production companies: Gaumont-Alphnim, Avrill Stark Entertainment, Cartoon Saloon
Cast: Delta Goodrem, Shane Jacobson, Magda Szubanski, Hugh Sheridan
Director: Luc Vinciguerra
Screenwriter: Alexandre Reverend  
Producers: Clément Calvet, Avrill Stark, Christian Davin, Ross Murray, Paul Young
Animation: Ian Harrowell
Production designer: Richard Despres
Music: Nerida Tyson-Chew
Editor: Céline Kélépikis
Sales: Gaumont SA
No MPAA rating, 80 minutes