Directed by Michael Lembeck
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic (1.33:1 also on disc)
Running Time: 92 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French; Spanish (only on 1.33:1 version)
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date: November 20, 2007
Review Date: November 15, 2007
Tim Allen returns to his role as the replacement Santa Claus in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. It’s a familiar adventure with many of the regular cast from previous installments along with a few new additions. As a family film, you’re on very safe ground (the naughtiest the film gets is a couple of reindeer fart jokes), but if you’re looking for a really funny comedy for the holiday season, this film won’t be it. It’s mildly pleasant and passes quickly, but there really isn’t much substance here.
Santa Claus’ wife Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell) is pregnant with their first child, and while they’re both excited about the upcoming event, her delivery date is dangerously close to Christmas Eve when Papa Claus will be occupied elsewhere. Feeling apprehensive and a bit homesick, Carol convinces Scott/Santa to allow her parents (Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret) to come for a visit. Of course, they don’t know anything about Scott’s new life, so elaborate preparations must be made to keep his new identity secret from them. Also at the North Pole is the very frustrated Jack Frost (Martin Short), disgusted that all the other legendary figures present (Cupid, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Mother Nature, Father Time) have either holidays or celebrations of some kind surrounding their activities. He connives to get the Santa gig for himself which can only happen if Scott/Santa invokes “the escape clause”; hence the subtitle of the movie.
Martin Short really works hard to make something out of the flimsy material furnished by screenwriters Ed Decter and John J. Strauss. He makes faces, does impressions, and generally weasels his way around the North Pole looking for an opportunity to do his dirty work. But it just never takes off. Tim Allen and Elizabeth Mitchell are okay leads and genuinely agreeable folks while the cameo appearances by the likes of Aisha Tyler, Kevin Pollak, Jay Thomas, Peter Boyle (his last film), and Michael Dorn are nice but not substantial. Alan Arkin looks like he’d rather be anywhere rather than making the film, and Ann-Margret seems to be along for the ride but not much more.
I did enjoy Short’s Liza Minnelli impression to a reworked version of “New York, New York,” (and he did win a Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award for Little Me so he can pull off this kind of over-the-top musical moment with aplomb) and the various children who play the elves get a few bright lines here and there though some aren‘t very convincing actors. I was looking for director Michael Lembeck to infuse the proceedings with some really madcap sight gags and set-ups, and they just aren’t there. The film is a moderately pleasing trifle stuffed with bright color and lots of Christmas music, but look elsewhere if you want big laughs.
The film is offered in both full frame and 1.78:1 anamorphic formats on the same side of the disc. Naturally, I chose the anamorphic transfer to review. The color is bright and deeply saturated, and close-ups are sharp with accurate flesh tones. Medium and long shots lose some sharpness while smearing some of the colors. Blacks are solid, and there is good shadow detail. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack spreads the generous assortment of Christmas music throughout the sound field. Elsewhere, the surrounds aren’t used for as many sound effects as one would expect for the busy toy-building and minor action scenes. Still, it gets the job done with dialogue that’s always discernable and music that’s holiday-specific.
Director Michael Lembeck contributes an audio commentary that covers everything you’d want to know about the filming of the picture, down to the exact number of the various toys used on the soundstages. It’s an upbeat track (he obviously loved everyone working on the picture) with almost no pauses.
A 3-minute blooper reel goes along with some bloopers which play over the closing credits (some are repeated). Most feature actors breaking up or losing lines while the camera rolls. They are presented in anamorphic video.
A 3½-minute alternate opening sequence features Elizabeth Mitchell narrating clips from the original The Santa Clause. This sequence is in anamorphic widescreen but is clearly inferior to the version used in the theatrical release.
“Jack Frost and Mrs. Claus” is a 4½ minute discussion of the original looks for these two characters in the film and why the director ultimately chose another look for each. We get to see anamorphic outtakes of both original looks along with the way they eventually look in the movie.
“The New Comedians: On the Set with Tim and Marty” is a disappointing 3½ minute look at Tim Allen and Martin Short cutting up on the set, narrated by director Michael Lembeck. It is in anamorphic video.
“Creating Movie Magic” is an entirely too brief (4 minutes) look at the special effects used in the film focusing particularly on the Snow Globe Room and Santa’s Fireplace. It’s also presented in anamorphic widescreen.
“Christmas Carol-oke” serves up seven traditional Christmas carols with karaoke lyrics (a bouncing ornament points them out) and anamorphic clips from the movie in the background.
“The Greatest Time of the Year” is a 3-minute nonanamorphic music video of a song sung over the closing credits by Aly and AJ.
Trailers for upcoming Disney DVD releases such as Return to Never Land, Tinker Bell, and High School Musical 2 are included on the disc. The trailer for The Santa Clause 3 is not included here but is present on many recent Buena Vista releases.
The Santa Clause 3 is an innocuous holiday picture which the family can safely watch in preparation for the upcoming holiday season. Neither great nor terrible, the DVD release offers both full frame and anamorphic widescreen presentations and a varied if underwhelming series of extras.