This sappy and terribly dubbed German Christmas fable is aimed squarely at the very young or the very easily pleased.
A flask of scotch, Donkey Kong Game & Watch (sound off), a large-type copy of a PD James novel, some worry beads, a jumbo wordsearch annual, learn Spanish while you sleep audioguide, some yarn for Cat's Cradle, a piece of velvet. These are just a few ideas for things that parents should consider smuggling into the cinema to pass the time if planning to take their wee ones to see When Santa Fell To Earth, a film so epically sappy, it makes primetime CBeebies looks like Salò.
This German production based on a novel by Cornelia Funke plays the Christmas myth as a kind of bargain bin-Henson spectacular shot in super-saturated soft focus and with director Oliver Dieckmann cobbling together a bunch of random elements which seek to offer eccentric alternative meanings to anything you might see as a Yuletide staple.
We follow the Schuster clan as they roll into some rustic berg, with father Fred having lost his job, perma-smiling mother Lena looking to set up a bakery shop and son Ben rapidly having the spirit of Christmas sapped from his predictably weasley bones.
So what luck that Niklas Goodfellow and his Christmas Caravan (sic), duly replete with elves and fairies, crash lands nearby in order to help quell young Ben's Christmas woes. But oh no, it seems Old Nick is on the lam from the Christmas Council who are trying to eradicate him with the help of some giant-sized toy soldiers which look to have been hastily co-opted from a Macy's Day Parade (or local equivalent) circa 1983.
So there's running, shouting, screaming, wonderment, teachings, mild peril and, ultimately unilateral understanding about why Christmas must exist for the good of society, tradition and capitalism. The action is disjointed and is peppered with abysmal, whining Europop, while the special effects budget seems to have been given over entirely to render the yapping CG elves.
But the main problem is – and, considering the audiences, it's totally understandably why they've chosen this route – the chronically bad dub job, where the children appear to have been dubbed with adults doing squeaky voices, and the women appear to have been dubbed by men doing squeaky voices. The basic information comes across, but technically it's just a major nalls up. You can even hear the echo of the seed barn they clearly recorded it all in.
So not one for adults, then. But there is a funny bit where the local bully refers to Ben scornfully as 'Ginger Baker'. He's obviously not a Cream fan…
A German genre film being released in the UK? This must be good...
Oh dear... This could become the Rosetta Stone for how not to dub a movie.
Drab Xmas filler for those desperate to submerge themselves in seasonal cheer.