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 The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause Review

By Shawn McKenzie 11/12/2006

The Synopsis:

One day during elf class, Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell), a.k.a. Mrs. Claus, tells the story of how the son of her and Scott Calvin (Tim Allen), a.k.a. Santa Claus, was born.  A few days before Christmas, Carol is nine months pregnant, and she is longing to talk to some taller people other than just Scott.  She would specifically love it if she could see her in-laws this year while waiting for the baby to arrive.  Scott is nervous at the prospect, because her parents…Sylvia (Ann-Margret) and Bud Newman (Alan Arkin)…think that Scott is a toymaker in Canada and not the actual Santa.  He relents anyway, and he has head elf Curtis (Spencer Breslin) help convert the North Pole into a very stereotyped version of Canada to throw off her parents.  Meanwhile, an emergency council meeting of the Council of Legendary Figures…consisting of Mother Nature (Aisha Tyler), the Easter Bunny (Jay Thomas), Cupid (Kevin Pollak), the Tooth Fairy (Art LaFleur), Sandman (Michael Dorn), and Father Time (Peter Boyle)…is called.  Another Legendary Figure…Jack Frost (Martin Short)…wants his own holiday, and he hasn’t been nice about it.  They want to ban him from the Council, but Scott takes pity on him, and actually has him help with the Canada conversion assignment.  Scott then takes Sandman, whom Scott describes as “Sandy” to the in-laws, to put them under a sleeping spell so that they won’t see the sled flying back to the North Pole.  While back in the real world (where the in-laws live), Lucy (Liliana Mumy), the daughter of Scott’s ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson) and her new age therapist husband Neil (Judge Reinhold), begs him to come along (complete with cute puppy dog eyes), and he gives in.  Laura and Neil come along too, though Scott’s son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) stayed behind.  Back at the North Pole, Jack deceptively learns from Curtis about “the escape clause,” in which the most recent Santa can “escape” from his job for good if he holds his magic snow globe and wishes that he were no longer Santa.  He tricks Lucy into retrieving the globe for him, and he gets Scott to say the phrase.  They end up traveling back in time twelve years ago to the point when Scott first became Santa.  Jack is able to snatch the suit and become Santa, and Scott becomes the regular Scott again.  Scott is able to get back to the North Pole, where Jack has turned it into a gaudy tourist trap.  Scott has to figure out how he can become Santa again, because, even though he was having some tension with Carol lately because of his job, he really loves his wife and being the almighty Claus.

The Review:

I actually consider Tim Allen the reigning king of family comedies, but with The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, I thing that the king may be slipping.

He of course has made a career of making some good family comedies…most of which have been funny enough that adults with or without children could enjoy as well.  His long-running ABC sitcom “Home Improvement” made him a household name, and the first Santa Clause movie 1994 has become a perennial classic.  Except for the occasional adult offering…such as 2001’s Who is Cletis Trout? or 2002’s hilarious Big Trouble…most of his movies have been family comedies.  Heck…Escape Clause is the third one in a row for him in 2006, behind the decent hit remake of The Shaggy Dog and the box-office bomb superhero comedy Zoom (both of which I actually liked.)

This one though is a little bit too sappy and just by-the-numbers average.  The first one was almost a light black comedy (accidentally killing Santa Claus and taking his suit?)  The second one wasn’t as original, but it was very funny anyway.  The third one was bogged down by unfunny dialogue from some good actors.  I will again say that I do not like Breslin.  He was in all three of Allen’s 2006 movies as well as the 2002 Clause sequel.  Why??  He is not funny!!  The sad thing is that his younger sister, Abigail, acts more circles around him in her brief cameo at the beginning and end of the movie than Spencer does throughout the movie (it’s too bad that she doesn’t share any scenes with her Little Miss Sunshine co-star Arkin though.)  I wish that Santa’s original head elf, David Krumholtz, was in this one, but he couldn’t be in it due to contractual issues.

Let’s get to the thing that made it rise above the other elements…Short.  He took the standard sappy story and added a little spice to it…something that Allen normally does himself.  He is basically doing the same shtick he always does, but in a movie that is lacking elsewhere for comedy, he delivered.

One thing that might annoy some people (or some other critics) is that it liberally “borrows” from another Christmas classic…1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life.  I don’t want to spoil the ending, but Scott finds out how good his life is when it taken away from him.  He isn’t exactly channeling George Bailey, but it is a similar performance.  I don’t mind that they are doing the Wonderful story, because I’ve seen it done already many times over with varied degrees of success.  One cool thing that they did was the thing from 1989’s Back to the Future Part II, where they had the characters go back in time and interact with their earlier selves using the footage from the first movie (which, ironically, briefly highlighted when Allen was funnier in this role.)

Overall, I found most of The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause entertaining, but it is a new low in the career of Allen.  He is still capable of making hit family comedies, but I really think that he might want to consider hanging up the Santa suit for good.


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