Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," dir. Michael Lembeck (Oklahoma Gazette)

Question: What to say about a holiday movie that gives the flatulence joke seemingly required in all commercial-grade children’s movies to one of Santa’s reindeer? Answer: Are you #$*!ing kidding me?

Sadly, an animatronic Comet passing gas may be the freshest moment in “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause,” the repetitively titled and redundantly stale third installment in what is, clearly, an eternal seasonal franchise destined to produce ever less funny chapters in the story of the ordinary man who became Father Christmas in John Pasquin’s 1994 “The Santa Clause.”

While not hilarious, Pasquin’s film had its amusing moments in both concept and execution. Michael Lembeck, a television director who helmed “The Santa Clause 2” and is now responsible for “Santa Clause 3,” produces no such moments in the third film. On my Christmas list for 2002 was “Not to see ‘The Santa Clause 2’; St. Nick gave me what I asked for, so I can’t speak to the first sequel’s value. A check of, however, shows critics on that site gave the 1994 film a 75 percent positive rating and the 2002 outing 55 percent. FYI, at press time, they had given the third 11 percent.

The most recent film, from which many in the audience will want to escape, begins as Carol Calvin/Mrs. Clause (Elizabeth Miller), the second, much younger wife of Scott Calvin/Santa Clause (Tim Allen), is about to give birth to their child.

All is not nice at the North Pole, however. Carol misses the family she has had to all but give up to maintain the SOS — Secret of Santa. In addition, she’s feeling a bit deserted by her really red-faced and chubby hubby: Santa baby is busy making toys and handling a problem in The Council of Legendary Figures, a kind of goofy guild that includes Santa, Mother Nature, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and a bunch of other major characters in a child’s universe. It seems Jack Frost (Martin Short) has grown tired of being just an opening act for the big Christian holiday. He’s campaigning (and scheming) to turn Christmas into Frostmas, although he says he’d be happy with Frostgiving or even the Frost of July.

To make things better for his beloved, Santa enlists the Sandman’s help in putting Carol’s parents (Alan Arkin and Ann-Margaret) to sleep long enough to transport them trickily to his workshop in the North Pole, which he and the elves have disguised as a toy factory in Canada. Along for the sleigh ride are Scott’s ex-wife (Wendy Crewson), her smarmy therapist husband (Judge Reinhold) and their daughter, Lucy. In that role, Liliana Mumy provides the only halfway appealing and/or believable performance. The starring adults are silly. Cameos by — among other lesser-knowns playing Legendary Figures — Kevin Pollak as Cupid, Jay Thomas as the Easter Bunny and Peter Boyle as Father Time are, by and large, pointless and/or embarrassing.

This film is ho, ho, horrible. Sending your children to it is the equivalent of giving them a lump of coal; taking them to this carbon copy is the equivalent of forcing yourself to eat a lump of fossil fuel.


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