(On TV, December 2018) The only thing surprising about The Santa Clause 2 is that it actually took eight years for a sequel to be completed. While the script does show some ingenuity in milking the premise even further, the innovations stop at the end of the first act, and the rest is a mechanical exercise in completing the arcs outlined early on. This film adds romance, as the protagonist must find a Mrs. Claus before long. (I choose not to ask what happened to the previous Mrs. Claus.) Alas, the film also adds an antagonist of sort under the guise of a Robot-Claus who (as they usually do) turns evil and must be stopped from ruining Christmas, in keeping with the other two or three things that could also ruin Christmas. At least the romance is cute (featuring Elizabeth Mitchell) and the imagined fantasy world of the series is expanded to include other mythical creatures. (I wonder how much of it was an inspiration for a similar group of characters in Rise of the Guardians.) It does still work, although we’re a clear step down from the original film. Best seen as close to Christmas as possible, as the film doesn’t have much else than Christmas cheer to rely on.
(On Cable TV, April 2017) Every successive film in The Purge series has done better justice to the concept of its premise. Unfortunately, every successive film’s impact has also been blunted by our familiarity with the series, to the point where The Purge: Election Year almost does justice to the enduringly dumb premise, but it still feels like a re-hash given that we’ve seen the first two films anyway. While it flirts with heavier political ideas than the previous film, it undercuts its own material by bringing in quasi-religious snippets that feel tired and cartoonish. Still, the emphasis here remains on the heroes living through the night, blending high and low society in-between a presidential candidate, a shopkeeper and a notorious EMT whose backstory remains blessedly obscure. Frank Grillo’s character returns, but the links between this and the previous installment remain tenuous. Elizabeth Mitchell and Betty Gabriel both make good impressions, but this remains a premise-centric show with a horror film’s fondness for gruesome set-pieces. Exactly the kind of movie that’s dulled by too-frequent repetition. I’m neither too enthusiastic nor too critical of The Purge: Election Year, but it’s a good thing I didn’t watch all three films back-to-back-to-back, otherwise I’m not sure I’d like it as much. This being said, mark me down a nominally interested in a remake ten years from now, but only on the condition that it actually explores some of the ideas of The Purge in greater details and consistency than what we’ve seen so far.