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Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 December 2007

Image Tim Allen is back in the third installment of the Santa Clause saga, over 12 years after the original. Direct-to-video, this film didn't make a whole lot of waves with its release. While not a complete disaster, the film only proved to be mediocre.

This installment picks up where "Santa Clause 2" left off. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is in his twelfth year as Father Christmas and is loved by all at the North Pole. He and Mrs. Claus [Carol Calvin] (Elizabeth Mitchell), along with everyone at the North Pole, are eagerly expecting the arrival of their first baby.

Mrs. Claus is feeling a bit neglected as Scott is constantly busy running the toy factory and checking the list, not once but twice. Scott's brilliant idea is to bring the in-laws to help Carol relax as the baby is about ready to be born. With the help of The Sandman (Michael Dorn), Santa is able to whisk Carol's parents, Sylvia and Bud Newman (Ann-Margret and Alan Arkin) off to the North Pole. However, a quick stop to see his son first, leads to a few extra passengers on the way back to the Pole. Scott's ex-wife, Laura Miller (Wendy Crewson) and current husband (Judge Reinhold) persuade Scott to take them and their daughter Lucy (Liliana Mumy) back to the North Pole.

To keep the secret of Santa Claus hidden from the in-laws, Scott has the elves transform the entire North Pole into Canada (as that is where the in-laws are under the impression that he works). Everyone even goes as far as to put an "Eh?" at the end of sentences. The only thing here that the filmmakers didn't really know how to handle was why everyone in the village was a tiny person. Their explanation is that Canadians are naturally tiny. That doesn't really hold water, as it defies logic and commonsense, and the actors convey that puzzlement onscreen. The in-laws continue to question everything around them, and blame Scott for taking their daughter away from them. To make matters worse, Jack Frost (Martin Short) is up to no good at the North Pole.

Having tried to create "Merry Frostmas", the Council of Legendary Figures, which includes Mother Nature, Father Time, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Cupid, attempt to suspend Jack from the Council. However, Jack weasels his way out of the suspension in exchange for doing community service in the village. Santa agrees, and this leaves Jack Frost free to create chaos. Tired of being in the shadow of Santa, Jack discovers the "Escape Clause" and wreaks havoc on the toy factory in order to get Scott to wish he had never been Santa. While Jack is creating one disaster after another around the toy factory, no one comes forward to mention the role that Jack Frost played in allowing the disaster to happen. Not an oversight, but rather a necessity in order for the plot to work as the writers intended.

The film is full of those moments where you tell yourself, "If only they would have done this instead, the movie would be over." That is one of the main things that keep this movie from shining. For example, the writers use the hackneyed "reverse psychology" routine. Curtis (Spencer Breslin) allows Jack Frost to coax him into revealing the secrets behind the "Escape Clause" and the Hall of Snow Globes. Audiences are well aware of this tactic, and its use here was way too apparent.

There is some good acting and some not so good acting. While Tim Allen was classic in the first two films and in television's "Home Improvement", his performance in "Santa Clause 3" was lackluster. Even Elizabeth Mitchell, who I loved in "Santa Clause 2", "Frequency" and "Gia", was only so-so in this film. This is in part because her character was not very developed or given enough screen time. Spencer Breslin was the biggest change from the second to the third movies. He grew up far too much between 2002 and 2006. He just wasn't believable as the head elf anymore. Physically he grew too tall and his voice completely changed. It was a bit jarring considering everyone else stayed the same, especially the elves. Martin Short was memorable. It felt like the villainous Jack Frost was built around Martin. A couple underrated stars of this film are the voices of the reindeer. They were a great joy in the second film, especially Chet, and I wish there was more of them in this film. David Krumoholtz, who played Bernard, is the only major character not to return in the third film. The shining star of this film is Liliana Mumy, best known probably for her role as Jessica Baker in the two "Cheaper By The Dozen" films. She is also a returning cast member from "Santa Clause 2". She has a magic hug in the movie and a magical personality that leaps off the screen.

Video wise, on the whole, this is a surprising decent transfer. Taking place almost entirely at the North Pole, I paid close attention to the balance of the whites and the color saturation. The whites were not overly bright, however, there was a lack of depth. For example, if you look at Santa's beard and hair, which is all white, there is no shadow in or around it, which makes it looks flat. The colors were heavily saturated, almost to the point of overly saturated. If closely examined, some blocking does appear in the reds, which is slightly problematic as it is one of the hallmark colors of Christmas. The CGI and sets looked great with a lot of depth, although the CGI was at times a bit cheesy. The Hall of Snow Globes is a great visual effects scene.

The audio quality was slightly disappointing, but is presented in an uncompressed PCM 5.1 format. The biggest issue is with the dialogue track. It is very thin and bright giving it a hollow sound. The sound effects however, are very well done. When discreet effects are used in the surrounds it is a great treat. Composer George S. Clinton's instrumental score wonderfully utilizes the entire soundscape.

There isn't much in the way of exclusive HD bonus features, but there rarely ever are. The "Deck the Halls" feature allows you to custom decorate a virtual room. However, it is super slow to load and to make changes that it is hardly worth it. There is also an audio commentary with director Michael Lembeck. Lastly there is a "Tour of Elfsburg", which just turns the menu 360 degrees, with a few zoom-ins here and there.

As for the rest of the features, they are in standard definition. There is a "Blooper Reel" which may interest those hardcore Tim Allen and Martin Short fans, as will the segment, "The New Comedians: On Set With Tim and Martin". The Alternate Opening is a neat recap of the first two films. "Jack Frost and Mrs. Claus: A Very Different Look" takes you through the stages of evolution for the look of these two characters. "Creating Movie Magic" covers the visual effects of the film. The "Christmas Carol-oke" feature allows you to choose from a handful of favorite Christmas tunes and display them like a karaoke screen. While the ball bounces over the words, video clips from all three films play in the background. Finally, there is the Disney music video of Aly & AJ's, "Greatest Time Of Year".

Much like the second film, the credits roll with outtakes playing underneath. Hilary Duff's, "Santa Clause Lane" is replaced with the sister team of Aly and AJ, which should be well liked by the children.

"Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause" falls short of being more than just a well produced, Made-For-TV movie. Most of the performances are lacking, and the plot is somewhat less than fully developed. The story moves in spurts, but nothing really exciting happens until about one hour into the film. The first hour will be a little slow for the younglings and probably not deep enough for the older viewers. However, the visuals are stunning and Christmas cheer is everywhere, which makes this a good family Christmas movie. I would love to see "The Santa Clause" and "Santa Clause 2" be released on Blu-ray. I would say this is a must have release had it been the trilogy. The third film however, can most likely just be a rental.

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