THE SANTA CLAUSE 3: THE ESCAPE CLAUSE
**1/2 (out of 5)
November 3, 2006
Tim Allen as SANTA CLAUS/SCOTT CALVIN
Elizabeth Mitchell as MRS. CLAUS
Eric Lloyd as CHARLIE CALVIN
Judge Reinhold as NIEL MILLER
Wendy Crewson as LAURA MILLER
Spencer Breslin as CURTIS
Martin Short as JACK FROST
Directed by: Michael Lembeck
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
By now, you should know what you’re getting into when Christmas rolls around and Tim Allen is top billing a movie. You’re either in for another “Christmas with the Kranks,” or it’s time for another “Santa Clause.”
If you liked the first two “Santa Clause” movies, you’ll probably really enjoy “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.” It’s much more similar to the second film than the first, featuring an uber-cheesy North Pole set, flatulent reindeer and a cast of kids dressed as elves. At least Martin Short shakes things up a bit.
Other bright lights in this saccharinely sweet Christmas overload is Elizabeth Mitchell as Mrs. Claus. Sure, I prefer her as the dubious fertility doctor on the hit series “Lost,” but I’ll take her however I can. I’ve always liked Mitchell ever since I first saw her in “Frequency,” and she’s nice to see in this film.
Also likable is Spencer Breslin, who has been in the other two films. Breslin is suffering a bit from overexposure right now, as well as a nasty bout with puberty. Still, he pulls off the lead elf character well with minimal cheesiness on his part.
“The Santa Clause 3” is an enigma in itself. It blows the ultimate hot and cold. On one hand, Martin Short is the best thing that could happen to this fledgling franchise. His portrayal of Jack Frost is crisp and fresh while the other characters (including the really creepy Easter Bunny and a disturbing image of Kevin Pollack in a diaper as Cupid) continued to annoy me. On the other hand, I found myself groaning at the obligatory “let’s have Martin do a show tunes number because he’s just so darned good at that” scene.
There’s also a weird, confusing moment of the film where the story lambastes the over-commercialization of Christmas. It’s not that this is a strange statement to make, but it does seem strange coming from under the Disney banner. I have nothing against Disney, but for a company that offers a five-night vacation for a family of four to one of its theme parks for the bargain basement price of $2000, it does seem a little hypocritical.
I’ve seen all three of these films now, and it’s no big surprise that the first one was the best. Not only was Tim Allen much quicker with his wit in those days, but it was a unique concept at the time. The second film was just too goofy and sticky sweet. However, I was able to choke it all down for most of the film because I knew it was a kids’ film, and I had to consider the target market.
Then I got to the end. I swear, I haven’t seen this much cheese squirted all over the ending of a movie since “The Fifth Element” or the TV movie-of-the-week “V: The Final Battle.” The film goes to an inexcusable level of schmaltziness, and I guess it depends on the kind of person you are whether you’ll appreciate it. This movie is either going to warm the coldest cockles of your heart, or you’re going to throw up all over yourself before slipping into a diabetic coma.
The real test of how bad this movie could be is if, on the forthcoming DVD, director Michael Lembeck (who took over the reigns as director in part 2) goes on and on with the charade that Tim Allen is really Santa Clause, Spencer Breslin is really the lead elf Curtis and that chintzy North Pole set is the real deal where Kris Kringle let a Disney film crew film for several weeks.
I was actually quite kind to this film in terms of my rating. I gave it two-and-a-half stars out of five, and that’s more than I really felt like giving it. However, I do realize that most people who are going to see this will want the cheesy storyline and the schmaltzy ending. If you’ve got even the least bit of Scrooge in you, you’ll want to run away as fast as you can. But, if you can endure the overabundance of holiday charm and swallow the cotton candy G-rated plot, you’ll enjoy another trip to Tim Allen and Michael Lembeck’s North Pole.