Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Film Review: The Santa Clause 3

"The Santa Clause 3:The Escape Clause"  ** (out of ****)

The "Santa Clause" trilogy comes to a chilly end in "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause" (2007).

I was not much of a fan of the original "The Santa Clause" (1994) starring Tim Allen as an ordinary Joe who one Christmas Eve becomes Santa Claus, after the previous Santa Claus falls off his roof. I like "The Santa Clause 3" even less.

If the first "Santa Clause" borrowed a bit from "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947) than "The Santa Clause 3" borrows a lot from "It's A Wonderful Life" (1947).

The original "Santa Clause" I felt lacked a holiday cheer. It was more about the effects of divorce on a child and the bond between father and son and how only after becoming Santa Claus a father strengthens his bond with his son. That message doesn't warm my heart and doesn't seem like a "Christmas movie" to me. "The Santa Clause 3" is standard rom-com material. It has nothing to do with Santa Claus, the spirit of Christmas or goodwill towards your fellow man.

"The Santa Clause 3" shows Santa as a married man whose wife, Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell) is expecting a baby. There is a possibility Mrs. Claus will go into labor on Christmas Eve as Santa is on his sleigh delivering toys to all the good boys and girls. This causes great stress to Santa who has an obligation to the children of the world as well as an obligation to his wife to be there and support her.

But the pressures are building up. The Council of Legendary Figures (which includes the Tooth Fairy, Cupid, Father Time and Mother Nature) have called a special meeting. It seems Jack Frost (Martin Short) is trying to undercut Santa and create his own holiday in which Jack Frost is celebrated. The problem is Jack Frost feels left out and unappreciated. He feels he gets no attention and all the love goes to Santa, who gets songs written about him and movies made about him. The Council wants to suspend him but agrees to change their mind when Jack Frost agrees to reform his ways and as a penance will help Santa in his workshop.

Now Santa must keep everything running smoothly in his workshop, take care of his wife and keep an eye on Jack Frost. It all proves to be too much for Santa, who then gets the idea, why not invite Mrs. Claus's parents (Alan Arkin and Ann Margret) to visit her. The problem is the parents don't know Scott Calvin (Allen) is really Santa Claus. They think he is a Canadian toy maker. So, Santa decides to pretend the North Pole is really Canada. As you can imagine, keeping that lie going is going to be difficult.

Fairly early in "The Santa Clause 3" the viewer learns of the "escape clause". This is a special fine print in the Santa Clause agreement which releases the individual from being Santa Claus and allows them to travel back in time, to the day they became Santa, and change their fate by never accepting the responsibility.

This intrigues Jack Frost, who has not changed his ways at all. He wants to become Santa Claus and decided if he can add to Santa burden, both at the workshop and at home with the in-laws and Mrs. Claus, maybe Santa will relinquish his duties.

This sound all sound somewhat familiar to you if you've ever seen "It's A Wonderful Life". That movie was the story of a man, facing great difficulties in life, who wishes he had never been born. An angel appears to show the man what the world would be like if he was never born and all the lives he has affected.

Unfortunately, not enough time is spent showing the alternate world of what Scott Calvin's life would be like if he hadn't become Santa Claus and the full impact that decision wold have had on those around him. This would allow for more sentimentally and make the movie more human instead of relying so heavily on laughs.

The twist in "The Santa Clause 3" is the character is Santa. It is supposed to be funny seeing Santa having in-laws. It is supposed to be funny seeing Santa have the same disagreements with his in-laws we all face with in-laws. It is supposed to be funny seeing Santa acting as a worried husband over his wife's pregnancy. The problem is it is all supposed to be funny but it isn't. If this wasn't Santa Clause, what would make it fun and / or original? The movie is comprised of nothing more than cliches and sit-com material. A simple idea, that could have wrapped itself up in 20 minutes but is expanded to a 90 minute movie.

This all leads me to go a bit off focus and ask two questions. Number one, why doesn't Hollywood make good Christmas movies anymore? They seem to have given up. The "Santa Clause Trilogy" is really the last Christmas concept Hollywood invested in. Nowadays movies will be made about dysfunctional families during the holidays, this year "Love the Coopers" (2015) was released.

Question two. What is wrong with people? Why do we, as a society, need to humanize or in any shape alter the image of Santa Claus and what he represents? Why do we need to see Santa Claus as a married man, fighting with his in-laws, as we do in "Santa Clause 3"? Why do we need movies like "Bad Santa" (2003), "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (1964), "A Christmas Horror Story" (2015), "Christmas Evil" (1980), "Silent Night, Deadly Night" (1984) and "Black Christmas" (1974) and its 2006 remake? On some level I get the idea. You take something innocent and pure and reverse the public's perception of it. You take something sweet, which people wouldn't associate as being scary and turn it into horror or make fun of it. But why? Why do we need to twist things? What does that say about society?

What do we learn watching "The Santa Clause 3"? There is a very thin message which hints at the importance of family, though I don't see how Santa's predicament has changed from the beginning of the movie until the end. And that's it. It would be difficult for me to believe children would like this movie more than the first one. It would be difficult for me to believes families have added this movie as part of their Christmas traditions. It is difficult for me to believe parents would get any pleasure from this movie.

In the end I would suggest families skip "The Santa Clause 3" and instead watch the classic, stop-motion animated movie "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (1970) or even "The Year Without Santa Claus" (1974). Both movies go over similar ideas presented in the "Santa Clause Trilogy" and do so with much more charm and good nature.