So, yesterday’s Arthur Christmas was the first film in my Countdown to deal with Santa Claus since The Nightmare Before Christmas on the opening day. The explanation of how Santa manages to get around the world in one night really is brilliantly done. That film is also the jumping off point for my run of Santa films, as I start a series of films focusing on Father Christmas himself.
And today it’s…
19th November, Day 20
The Santa Clause (John Pasquin, 1994)
The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs Clause (Michael Lembeck, 2002)
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (Michael Lembeck, 2006)
Tim Allen is Scott Calvin, an advertising executive, who spends Christmas Eve at a work party instead of picking up his son from his ex-wife. He arrives late to collect Charlie (Eric Lloyd) from Laura and Neil (Wendy Crewson and Judge Reinhold), and when he gets him home, he ends up burning the turkey and ruining the planned meal. This results in Scott and Charlie going to Denny’s on Christmas Eve, a particularly depressing place full of Japanese businessmen and other incompetent Dads. When they get home, Scott reads The Night Before Christmas to Charlie, the first father son moment they have had in a long time.
Later that night, Scott and Charlie hear a noise on the roof, they see a familiar looking figure next to their chimney. The man with a white beard and red suit falls off the roof and then disappears, leaving behind a red jacket and trousers, and a sleigh with eight reindeer. Charlie convinces Scott that he has to replace Santa, and when he puts on the suit he is transported the North Pole, where the head elf tells a disbelieving Scott that by putting on the coat he has activated “The Santa Clause”, which states that he must now replace the man who fell off the roof and become Santa.
The next day, Scott and Charlie finds themselves back at home, with Scott convinced it was all a dream. He soon finds himself gaining weight and growing a beard, and as the Thanksgiving deadline gets closer, he receives a Naughty and Nice list to check twice and starts getting attention from children who recognise him as St Nick. All his acquaintances start to worry about him, but Charlie knows the truth of the matter – but will Scott Calvin be able to deliver on Christmas Eve, and become Santa Claus?
As far as live action Disney Christmas films go, this is one of the good ones. Tim Allen gives a good performance as the inconsiderate materialist career man who has to learn to be a father again – never mind become Father Christmas. The realistic couple of Neil and Laura are well realised by Reinhold and Crewson, who reveal why they no longer believe in Santa. As family films go, it works well.
Overall, I give this
And now we move on to the sequel! After becoming a successful Santa, the man once know as Scott Calvin (the returning Tim Allen) gets two pieces of bad news – firstly, his son Charlie (“Sheen? I thought he’s straightened himself out?” is a line that just gets funny with time) is now on the naughty list. Secondly, there was a second Santa Clause: Santa has to be married by the next Christmas. Otherwise he will stop being Santa and Christmas will cancelled!
Santa decides that he needs to spend more time with his son – and at the same time has to try and find a wife, with just the small matter of also having to deliver presents to all the children in the world! The obvious solution is to create a replica Santa, which results in a plastic robot version taking charge of operations at the North Pole while Scott heads back to his old home. The de-Santafication process has begun, with Scott losing weight and looking more like the star of Home Improvement. It turns out that Charlie has been acting out against his Principal Carol Newman (Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell), who doesn’t believe the school should celebrate Christmas. Can Scott reconnect with his son and straighten him out? Will he be able to find a woman interested in him? And will the Chief Elf Bernard be able to keep things on track with the Replica Santa?
The Santa Clause had a really great concept, but bringing it back was not really necessary. Just having Tim Allen return as Santa would have been fine, but adding another clause wasn’t really needed. Simply Santa being too caught up in his work or just getting lonely would have worked fine. In fact the film kind of forgets about the clause when it comes to the finale, only throwing in the marriage almost as an afterthought. It is really the confrontation between Santa and Replica Santa that the film actually builds towards.
Still, Elizabeth Mitchell always had an enigmatic presence as in Lost, so it is intriguing to see her making this film before that role. She was also in a Rob Lowe led show called Lyon’s Den that I was a fan of, so I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for her, but her journey isn’t as interesting the ones the characters go on in the first film. Plus the Council of Legendary Figures is a fun addition. It made me want to see more of them… although that wasn’t a feeling that made it through the next film.
It does a decent job balancing the two main story strands (Scott dealing with Charlie and the action at the North pole), although both feel like stories they came up with for the sequel but then didn’t quite have enough material to stretch to a full film. The Replica Santa feels a bit short changed, there was more material to be mined from Plastic Tim Allen there.
Overall, I give this
A case of diminished returns – Scott Calvin is a reformed character, so there’s not a journey to go on. Still, an OK family film to pass the time.
Now we get to the end of the trilogy. As Christmas Eve approaches, Santa and Carol (Allen and Mitchell both returning) are expecting their first child, but with Santa being busy, they decide to invite Carol’s parents Bud and Sylvia (Alan Arkin and Ann-Margaret) to be with them for the birth, although this leads to them having to pretend that they live in Canada, rather than the North Pole. They also bring his son Charlie, as well as Neil, Laura, and their daughter Lucy to make it a real family affair.
At the same time, the Council of Legendary Figures are having trouble with Jack Frost (Martin Short), who is getting frustrated by his lack of recognition. He agrees to help out Santa for Christmas, and is sincere at first. But when he finds out about the Escape Clause – that a Santa can relinquish his role – he sets out to try and make Santa’s life so stressful that he will take the way out. With his in-laws in town adnt eh strain of Christmas, Scott Calvin is tricked into saying that he wishes he had never become Santa – and is whisked back to that Christmas Eve when he knocked Santa off the roof. This time, Jack Frost beats him to the suit and puts it on first, totally changing the face of Christmas. Scott Calvin wakes up as an advertising executive again, looking like Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. Charlie has gone totally off the rails, Laura and Neil are no longer married, and Lucy is an unhappy child. Carol has left town completely. Jack Frost has turned Santa’s workshop into a Christmas theme park, totally ruining the magic for the chance to turn a profit. Can Scott Calvin reclaim his role as Santa? And can he save Christmas?
There are many things wrong with this, and the main problem is that the film actually spends too long setting up the Escape Clause before activating it. Shrek Forever After had a similar set up with Shrek being tricked by Rumpelstiltskin, but for all its issues, it didn’t take two thirds of its running time to get to the action. Here, we only actually have about 15 minutes of Jack Frost as Santa, and that part of the film is rushed, when really is should have been the bulk of the story. Instead, there is a full hour of build up, and then not enough time for a proper pay-off before the pregnancy story has to be paid off.
The good points? Alan Arkin.
The film ends with a blooper reel. I think that tells you everything about the quality of the film.
Overall I give this
Just a bad film. Too much set up but a really short pay-off, so when it actually needed a change of scenery, it actually gives you more of the same. Still, Alan Arkinas Father Christmas’s Father-in-Law is alright.
Another trilogy of films like Nativity that starts off fine and deteriorates. I’m not sure why the filmmakers decided that they could build a trilogy of films around legal clauses, as opposed to just saying “hey, Tim Allen as Santa was pretty entertaining, here’s another”. Just naturally have the Scott Calvin character be Santa for the rest of the franchise, rather then decide there are a bunch of rules they have to follow. Anyway, next time it’s the ultimate Father Christmas film, as we go back to 1947 for MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET!
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
PS Here’s my list so far
31st October, Day 1: The Nightmare Before Christmas
1st November, Day 2: Rocky IV
2nd November, Day 3: Edward Scissorhands
3rd November, Day 4: Trading Places
4th November, Day 5: Batman Returns
5th November, Day 6: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
6th November, Day 7: Gremlins
7th November, Day 8: Eyes Wide Shut
8th November, Day 9: Love Actually
9th November, Day 10: Lethal Weapon
10th November, Day 11: Die Hard / Die Hard 2
11th November, Day 12: About A Boy
12th November, Day 13: Trapped In Paradise
13th November, Day 14: Reindeer Games
14th November, Day 15: Joyeux Noel
15th November, Day 16: Nativity / Nativity 2 / Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?
16th November, Day 17: Jack Frost
17th November, Day 18: Jack Frost
18th November, Day 19: Arthur Christmas
19th November, Day 20: The Santa Clause / The Santa Clause 2 / The Santa Clause 3