'Twas Christmas 2007 and movie goers everywhere had been treated to sequels all year. Some studios, thinking that moviegoers had been particularly good this year, decided to release “threequels”. Top of that list was a giant of a studio called Disney. So generous were they feeling this particular year that they gave us Pirates Of The Caribbean 3: At Worlds End. Little did the unsuspecting viewer know that the naughty studio had done the same, just six months earlier. They had a sneaked a “threequel” into cinemas just before Christmas 2006 called The Santa Clause 3: the Escape Clause. Sit back readers, for it is about that particular movie that this Christmas tale is all about...
Released some twelve years after the original The Santa Clause, this movie sees Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) settled nicely into the role of Santa, which he had taken over after accidentally killing the actual Santa in the original movie. He has moved to the North pole permanently with his wife, Mrs Clause (Elizabeth Mitchell), who is expecting their first child. The baby is due round about December 25th - but Santa has his diary full for that day. Torn between whether to be with his wife at the birth or to make millions of children happy, they decide on a happy medium - they invite Mrs Clause's parents to stay for Christmas. This will enable Santa to deliver the presents and Mrs Clause will have her parents around while he's away... But of course, they don't know that their daughter has married Father Christmas.
At about this time, Santa is summoned to a meeting of The Council Of legendary Figures - which includes The Easter Bunny, Sandman, Cupid, The Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost. At the meeting, cardboard cutouts are produced with Jack Frost on them saying “Merry Frostmas”. It becomes obvious that Frost is trying to muscle in on Santa's manor to the annoyance of the rest of the council. Jack frost (played by Martin Short) convinces the council to sentence him to community service - which he will serve helping Santa get ready for the festive season.
Meanwhile, Santa's secret identity has to be kept from the in-laws. To do this, Frost helps the elves turn the North Pole into Canada - along the way, he uses his powers to wreck the product output for Christmas.
The in-laws arrive - and at the same time, so does Scott's first wife, his children and her new husband. Frost becomes friendly with Lucy, Scott daughter from his first marriage, and it's here that he finds out about the escape clause - the only way that Santa can voluntarily give up the job is to say the words “I wish I had never become Santa at all” whilst holding a magic snow globe. One thing leads to another and we end up with Frost wearing the famous red suit for a time and turning the North Pole into a theme park and cashing in on Christmas.
Will Scott be able to get his red coat back in time to make all those children happy? Will the in-laws be tricked into thinking they are in Canada if everybody says the word “eh” after every sentence? Will studios ever stop producing drivel like this to cash in on previous successes?
I'm not going to give you the answer to the first two questions for fear of spoiling your Christmas movie - however, my answer to the third question is “I hope so”.
Tim Allen plods around mumbling and bumbling and never really looking interested. He seems as miffed as I was why the studio had bothered. Martin Short continues his slide downhill towards C list mediocrity. I really was optimistic for the actor who plays camp better than a row of tents. His turns in The Three Fugitives and Father Of The Bride were real A list stuff. I feel his chance to be taken as a serious actor has been and long gone. Shame.
Director Michael Lembeck (who returns from the second movie) doesn't seem to know in which direction to take his movie. Because of this, the pace slows to a crawl at times. Allen and Short appear to have been reigned in to keep their characters timid. If you make it to the extras section of this review, you'll see what I mean...better still, if you manage to make it to the end of the movie, let the end credits roll to see what chemistry these two could have had had the director been a little more daring...
Like the other recent “threequels” of note, The Escape Clause is the weakest film of the series. Ironic that a film that tries to spread the word that cashing in on Christmas is bad, in a world where we have DVD and HD disc releases a matter of months after the cinema release, this one is held back until Christmas...
However, if you consider that the film is aimed at the younger generation of your household, then it doesn't actually seem a bad proposition at all. Spin it on Christmas day, after the dinner and before the mince pies, let the kids enjoy while you snooze for 90 minutes and it may be the best rental you make all Christmas...
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