Released in 1994, The Santa Clause is one of the few Christmas movies that could be a modern classic. For the last several years, it’s been one of those films that get watched at least once in my house in the month leading up to Christmas. Like most sequels, Santa Clause 2 and Santa Claus 3: The Escape Clause tries to recapture the magic of the original but never quite reach the bar.
The Santa Clause
Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a busy toy executive who doesn’t have any time to spend with his son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd). Divorced, Scott is rushing home to meet his ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson), so he can spend Christmas Eve with Charlie. At 6, Charlie is beginning to doubt the existence of Santa Claus; a doubt not discouraged by his mother and her second husband, Neal (Judge Reinhold), a psychiatrist. In contrast, Scott loves Christmas and its tradition. He does everything he can to dismiss any doubts Charlie has about Santa. That night, the guys hear a “clatter” on the rooftop. Thinking it’s a burglar trying to get into the house Scott goes outside to investigate. Upon see the fellow, he screams so loud that the man startles, falls off the roof and dies.
“You killed Santa!” Charlie cries when he joins his dad outside.
As it turns out, that’s not a problem. Santa magically disappears, but he is destined to live on. The rest of the movie revolves around The Santa Clause: in the event of Santa’s death, whoever takes the card and the suit becomes Santa. As such, the rest of the film follows Scott’s initially reluctant transformation into Santa. Naturally, there are all kinds of misunderstandings, fun and magic as Scott and his son spend the rest of the evening delivering gifts in a reindeer driven sleigh. Whatever reservations Scott had, dissipate as he begins to fully transform into Santa, white beard, belly and all. Unfortunately for Scott, Charlie’s tales of his Christmas Eve adventures cause Laura to wonder whether Scott is a fit father…can his elves help prove him sane?
The Santa Clause 2
Released eight years after the original, The Santa Clause 2 finds Scott (Allen) has grown into a very content and happy man in his role as Santa. However, as he prepares for this year’s Christmas Eve rounds, two problems loom large: his now teenage son, Charlie (Lloyd), is on the “naughty” list, and his head elf, Bernard (David Krumholtz), has informed him, that, in order to keep the job of Santa, he has to find a Mrs. Claus. He only has four weeks to find a wife; if he hasn’t found one by the time Christmas Eve arrives, he will have lost his “Santa” features/abilities and the children of the world will be left without toy delivery. With the help of and gadget-minded Elf #2 Curtis (Spencer Breslin), a duplicate “robot” Santa is created. This allows Scott to return home and attempt to find a wife. While he’s there though he finds that his son has turned into a juvenile delinquent. Meanwhile, Scott finds himself falling for his son’s principal (Elizabeth Mitchell). Even so, Scott is slowly losing his Santa characteristics as the deadline grows closer. While Mitchell gives the film a much needed shot of realism, the whole thing feels like a fantasy gone awry. You have a domineering robotic Santa, his army and a “real” Santa morphing. The whole thing is just plain zany.
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
The third time isn’t the charm—The Santa Clause 3 is forgettable. In The Escape Clause, Santa is being harassed by Jack Frost (Martin Short) a hyper troublemaker who is jealous he doesn’t have his own holiday. Jack Frost sets out to sabotage Santa’s Christmas preparations in hopes that he will exercise contract’s escape clause and leave the door open for Jack to take over.
Scott has already has his hands full. His wife, Carol (Mitchell), is due to give any day now, and her parents (Ann-Margret, Alan Arkin) have been nagging her to let them come visit. They have no idea that their son in-law is Santa Claus; they’ve always been told he’s a toymaker in Canada. Scott has an idea: he’ll decorate the North Pole to look like Canada! And just when you thought this premise couldn’t get any worse, it does. Scott’s ex-wife (Crewson), husband (Reinhold) and their daughter (Abigail Breslin) beg to be brought to the North Pole so the little girl won’t feel left out and scarred for life. Of course, this makes little sense, since she’s not related to Santa/Scott in any way.
As a side note, Peter Boyle played Father Time in The Santa Clause 3, which turned out to be his last role. A truly great comedian, he deserved to go out on a better note. Then again, audiences deserved better than this. The Santa Clause is a modern Christmas classic; young children might get a few laughs out of The Santa Clause 2, but Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is probably best avoided.
All three films, presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, look great on Blu-ray, with just the first one showing some noise on white surfaces. That’s easy to overlook considering the wonderful detail offered when it comes to the hairs of Santa’s beard, etc. The detail is strong throughout each film, with colors, remaining vivid and blacks inky. No complaints here.
All three films come with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio options, while the third film also includes an English 5.1 Uncompressed 44kHz/24-bit option. The main soundtracks serve the film well, providing strong dialogue throughout and enhancing the sound effects when necessary.
The special features are fairly standard fare. The Santa Clause features a six-minute So You Want to Be an Elf in-character bit, Making Santa Snacks with Wolfgang (as in Wolfgang Puck showing how to make pizza, cookies, and hot cocoa), and The Night Before Christmas Silly Symphonies short.
The Santa Clause 2 has seven deleted scenes, a gag reel, Inside the North Pole with Curtis making-of featurette, a True Confessions of the Legendary Figures featurette in which director Michael Lembeck interviews these in-character characters, and a brief tour of the elf world, with Lembeck.
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause includes a blooper reel, an alternate opening, a three-minute ad-libbed The New Comedians: On the Set with Tim and Marty, a seven-song “Christmas Carol-oke” with film-clips, a Jack Frost and Mrs. Claus: A Very Different Look four-minute feature, a Creating Movie Magic visual effects four-minute feature and a Deck the Halls: Virtual Holiday Decorator.
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