(On TV, December 2018) Every Santa Clause movie in the series gets markedly worse, and if The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is not quite terrible, it’s certainly heading in that direction. “Was there anything else to do with the premise?” is the question that producers should have examined more closely before embarking on a third instalment, as what they resort to is a highly unpleasant back-to-the-beginning parallel reality and an active antagonist in the persona of Jack Frost. Martin Short isn’t to be blamed for playing Frost—he gives it everything he’s got, and his madcap performance does hold some interest. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is often painful to go through. As is often the case in film series, baby makes three—or at least becomes an important plot point of the third film. Much of the creative juice of the series has run dry, and running off fumes barely gets the instalment past the finishing line. Tim Allen is blander than bland in a role for which he was picked because he was bland, and that’s saying something. The Escape Clause is the kind of movie they throw alongside the previous ones to make for a series collection DVD 3-pack, but it’s not a given that everyone will get to it.
(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 TV, December 2018) Amazingly enough, I managed to avoid watching The Santa Clause for nearly twenty-five years. But that ended today, on Christmas Day, as I took advantage of a recorded movie marathon for the entire trilogy. Part of why I waited so long was the conviction that I didn’t really need to see it: the premise was clear, the trailers had enough of the main jokes and with Tim Allen in the lead, I wasn’t really worth expecting more than the obvious. I still believe these things after watching the movie, but there’s really no substitute for actually watching the thing. As almost everybody knows, this is the movie where Tim Allen kills Santa and becomes cursed to become his replacement, complete with weight gain and management responsibilities over the entire North Pole toymaking complex. Beyond the premise of an ordinary man becoming Santa, the chief appeal of The Santa Clause is in trying to justify and expand on the Santa myths with semi-realistic explanations. Even when it just doesn’t make sense (you’d think that the first people to notice Santa Claus’ existence would be the parents themselves — “Hey, where did these gifts come from?”) it works hard at making sense, and you almost have to like the movie for making so much effort in justifying its fantasy. Tim Allen, despite my lack of affinity for the actor, does make a credible everyday man, and helps ground the film even further. I’m not that happy with the rather obvious divorced-parents subplot, but the rest of the film is undemanding and successful at it. Is it as bland as I thought it would be? Yes. Did I have a reasonably good time watching it? Also yes. I suspect that Christmas cheer got the better of me.