a critiQal film review The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)

Plot: As Christmas nears, Scott Calvin (Allen) invites his in-laws to join the festivities at the North Pole. But the holidays take a chaotic turn when Scott discovers a way out of his "Santa Clause" and the mischievous Jack Frost (Short) puts the big freeze on Christmas's big cheese! Now, unless Scott can get his job back in the St. Nick of time, it's going to be a very glacial "Frostmas" all around the world!

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  • ...despite obviously learning from the faults of the second film, this third entry is lessened by it's more kid-friendly (rather than family-friendly) aim.

With a successful sequel already in the bag (as it were), it seems Disney would have called it quits in The Santa Clause (1994) series. After all, what other story was there to tell? Even so, pushing their luck, they released The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause in 2006.

Unlike the first two films, we had never actually gotten around to seeing this one. So, this Holiday season, as part of our Christmas Movie Marathon, we finally sat down to see if The Santa Clause 3 would be worth our time. Did they really have another story to tell? Could they recapture the magic of the original? And what does Jack Frost have to do with any of it?

Tim Allen returns as Santa, and by now, he seems to know what he did wrong in The Santa Clause 2 (2002). This time around, he takes his role much more seriously, and tries to bring back some of that earnestness that made the first film so fun. Unfortunately, while he does a better job this time, the film itself is aiming for a younger audience than ever, and his efforts are diluted by the shenanigans around him.

Thankfully, most of the cast returns for The Santa Clause 3 (with David Krumholtz being the only notable absentee). While Eric Lloyd (who is much more grown up now) doesn’t have too much to do this time around, Wendy Crewson and Judge Reinhold seem to be having more fun than ever as their characters finally get to visit the North Pole. While Martin Short is expected to be the comic relief, it’s these two acting like little kids (at least for a few brief moments) that really bring the biggest laughs. Elizabeth Mitchell returns as well, and while she’s the catalyst for inviting the in-laws, the looming pregnancy, etc., her role seems to be delegated more to the second tier.

The newcomers to the series will receive mixed reactions from the viewers in The Santa Clause 3. Martin Short, as Jack Frost, seems at his best when trying to ruin Christmas, although he plays Jack Frost as a bit too sleazy for the kid-friendly atmosphere of the film. Ann-Margret seems spot on as Mrs. Claus’ mother, as does Alan Arkin – but a few sequences have Alan cartoonishly aping his way through them, which seems a bit ridiculous, and hurts the viewer’s opinion of the character.

Thankfully, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause introduces a clause, that, unlike the contrived one from The Santa Clause 2 (2002), actually seems to make sense. Since it’s a way for Santa to give up being Santa – and presumably Scott didn’t know about it until at least the end of the first film (when he was already wholeheartedly into being Santa), there’s a reason it’s never been invoked. It ties in much better with the previous films, as this wouldn’t have been mentioned since he never actually had to invoke it – in fact, he doesn’t want to.

In an interesting twist – that is surprisingly reminiscent of the film It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) (which we just reviewed on Thursday) – Scott gets to see what life what would be like if he had never become Santa. While this part of the film is brief, it does bring up some interesting clues about how things would have changed for him and the people around him. It’s a smart idea – unfortunately, the kid-friendly jokes prior to that may have caused viewers to already lose some of their interest in The Santa Clause 3.

While the reindeer don’t talk any language at all in The Santa Clause 3, this time they are the start of the fart jokes (you know, the path that Scooby-Doo (2002) went down that no one into double digits thought was funny?) – and the film keeps that mentality going off and on throughout the film. It continues with some Alan Arkin cartoonish aping, a just there for laughs Easter Bunny and Cupid, and concludes with a super cheesy group hug. Unfortunately, that kind of kid humor seems a mistake in The Santa Clause 3, and really brings down the film as a whole.

While The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause seems to have learned a lot from THE SANTA CLAUSE 2, it’s too kid friendly attitude really drains a lot of the magic from the film. If they had managed to run the fine line between kid-friendly and adult-tolerable, this would have been a much better sequel, as the storyline seems to have actually been more thought out, and the cast is trying (once again) to actually do a decent jobs in their roles. Unfortunately, just like in Scooby-Doo (2002), that too kid-friendly humor drags the film down, and not even the IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE twist can wholly save it.

While The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause has a lot going for it, it’s brought down by trying to cater too much to children (and leaving the adults completely out of it) that it can’t quite bring the family fun and magic that The Santa Clause (1994) managed to capture – although it’s still a bit better than the second one.

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