Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
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The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

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In many ways you have to cut a holiday films more slack than you would with movies intended for viewing the other eleven months of the year. Christmas flicks are usually meant to be flights of fantasy perhaps even hokey. If you attempt to over analyze any Christmas flick the chances are it will not be on any lists of top films. There are exceptions such as ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ but they are now time honored classics. The last few years Buena Vista has been building their holiday tradition with their ‘Santa Clause’ films. The third installment of the series is now available on DVD to hopefully complete the trilogy. While the corny plot and silly premise can be excused under the ‘holiday clause’ mentioned above the movie is part of a series and as such it is fair game to compare this one to the previous films. This is where the current click falls down. The first ‘Santa Clause’ film was a delightful and endearing film. It worked equally for the parents and the kids as a solid form of Christmas entertainment. There the plot was a regular guy with problems of his own winds up as Santa Claus because of a ‘Santa Clause’. In the second film the Mrs. Clause was invoked to provide a loving wife for our jolly seasonal hero. Now in the third film the whole fantasy world is not only brought into the picture but there are apparently combative factions in it. Clause number three is in a difficult position. If it wasn’t for the previous two films nobody would care about the characters. On the on the other hand after seeing the first two movies it is obvious that this is the weakest of the three. the film is rated ‘G’ but some of the younger, more sensitive viewers may be put off by the villain of the film and what happens to their beloved Saint Nick. Over all the film is good to keep the kids busy while the adults sneak off for 90 minutes to wrap some presents. Parents just a little tip, have a few eggnogs first, it will help a lot.

As the flick starts out the North Pole is about to go into an uproar. Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell), otherwise known as Carol Calvin, is at work teaching a class of the elf children. Unlike her grandmotherly appearance at the end of the second flick she once again looks young. The elves in her class ask her if it was strange giving up her old life to move to the North Pole. She relies yes and relates the story of when she was expecting, in fact about to deliver. The scene shifts to Santa (Tim Allen), also know as Scott Calvin, frantically pushing his very pregnant wife in a wheel barrow while the throng of elves dash out of the way. It was just another false alarm but Carol is afraid that she will have to deliver on the one night a year that her husband has his deliveries. Santa finds out from Curtis the Head Elf (Spencer Breslin) that the Council of Legendary Figures has called an emergency meeting. Because of it’s the busy time of year for Santa they came to him. The council is presided over my Mother Nature (Aisha Tyler) and Father Time (Peter Boyle) and contains such notable members as the Sandman (Michael Dorn), The Easter Bunny (Jay Thomas), the Tooth Fairy (Art LaFleur) and Cupid (Kevin Pollak). It seems that Jack Frost (Martin Short) has been leaving cardboard cutouts of himself saying ‘Merry Frostmas’ all over the world. The meeting is necessary for immediate discipline measures. It seems that Jack wants his own holiday. Cupid suggests the ‘escape clause’ but Santa wants no part of it. Jack, seeing a chance with this clause, offers to do community service helping Santa meet his deadline. On the job he does everything he can to sabotage the work. As if Santa doesn’t have enough problems he has to bring Carol’s family up to the Pole for a visit to cheer her up. The catch is they can’t know the secret and have to be told that they are in a remote toy factory in Canada. Frost tricks Scott into invoking the clause so he can take over the job as Santa. They are taken twelve years into the past when Scott first became Santa. Just as the Scott of the past is about to put on the Santa coat and become St. Nick Frost hits him with a shovel and becomes Santa. Scot is unhappy in the alternate life and returns to the North Pole where the elves are enslaved by Frost as Santa. He has to get his old job and life back and save Christmas.

It is not that this is a bad flick for the Christmas genre it is just that it could have been better. Actually, the direction by sit-com actor turned director, Michael Lembeck is tighter here than in the second film. The pacing is well done but there is less character development than the previous two installments of the series. For example the core of the other two films was the relationship of Scott with his first family. Here they are reduced to just about walk on parts. They also lost David Krumholtz as the head elf. He added a lot to the energy of the films but apparently left for a TV series of his own, ‘Numb3rs’ a wise move by any account. There is a lot of padding the scenes with shots of the busy elves working. It looks like every child with a SAG card was employed for this movie. The special effects and costumes are not up to the usual standards set by this series but considering the target audience is young children they won’t notice.

Once again Tim Allen gives it is best considering the script. He is a natural in the role and helps even the adults to believe in Santa Claus. There are some signs of him getting a little tired of the same role but he manages to provide a good measure of fun. Elizabeth Mitchell shows that she has some range as an actress. For you ‘Lost’ fans out there you will remember her from her featured role in the last season. Here she camps it up as the lonely, worried Mrs. Claus. I wonder if Santa and the elves ever saw her performance opposite Angelina Jolie in ‘Gia’. When you think of a villain for a Christmas movie you have to go over the top. Martin Short delivers with Frost. He is brash, obnoxious and out of control; everything you need in this type of a role. He also has a great chemistry playing opposite Allen. It is also amazing the high end actors that they got here as the Council. Each is well known and excellent as actors.

Buena Vista/Disney certain knows how to release a kid’s movie to DVD. Here this is shown right from the start with both the Pan & Scan and widescreen versions available on one disc. Parents teach your children to appreciate the correct aspect ratio while they are young and select widescreen. There are also plenty of extras geared to the whole family. There is an alternate opening and a funny blooper reel to enjoy. Next they have a featurette with Frost and Mrs. Claus in a very different light than usual. The director has a commentary track where he gets too technical for the kids but the adults may have some interest. Another featurette looks at the on set antics between Allen and Short. There is a featurette that focuses on the special effects. Rounding things off is a karaoke segment with Mrs. Claus. This is good to bring out once a year for the kids.

Posted 11/13/07

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