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Blu-ray Reviews

The Santa Clause: The Complete 3-Movie Collection Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 7 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 14 2012 - 11:27 AM

The concept behind Disney’s The Santa Clause is an inspired one, and the original film can genuinely take its place with A Christmas Story as one of the few modern-day Christmas movie classics. Typically for sequels, follow-up films to the original found it hard to capture the same magic of discovery. In any event, all three films have now been transferred to Blu-ray and have been collected in this box set just in time for the holidays.


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The Santa Clause: The Complete 3-Movie Collection (Blu-ray)
Directed by John Pasquin, Michael Lembeck

Studio: Disney
Year: 1994-2006
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 97/104/92 minutes
Rating: PG/G
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French, others
Subtitles:  SDH, French, Spanish


Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 49.99



Release Date: October 16, 2012

Review Date: October 14, 2012




The Films


The Santa Clause – 4/5


When divorced toy advertising executive Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) startles Santa Claus on his rooftop on Christmas Eve causing him to fall to his death, he notices a card that falls out of Santa’s suit claiming that the wearer of the suit can trust the reindeer to know what to do in the event of an emergency. When Scott dons the suit, he immediately inherits the powers of Santa and finishes his Christmas Eve responsibilities upon which time he and his son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) who had tagged along for the ride are whisked to the North Pole where he finds out the job is permanent and that he has eleven months to tidy up his old life before embarking on a new one. Charlie is enchanted by the notion, but Scott laughs it off until he begins gaining weight and a white beard begins growing in. By this time, Scott’s ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson) begins wondering if Scott is such a healthy influence on her son and takes steps to end his custody visitation privileges.


The Leo Benvenuti-Steve Rudnick screenplay contains a nice balance of reality and fantasy, and director John Pasquin never lets the magic overwhelm the story. The film may vex adults a bit more than children with Scott’s ridiculous intransigence to continue disbelieving what’s happening to him despite all the evidence to the contrary, and Scott’s ex-wife and her new boy friend psychiatrist Neal Miller (Judge Reinhold) are snottier than they need to be. Still, the North Pole scenes are magical and lots of fun with children playing elderly elves without old-age make-up, and David Krumholtz as the head elf is delightfully matter of fact and no nonsense. Tim Allen does a wonderful job altering his inner wise guy to fit more snugly within the Santa persona as the film runs, and the make-up effects with his graying hair and weight gain are skillfully accomplished and not overdone for comedic overemphasis. There’s a real sense of magic and joy as the film winds up, exactly what one wants in a holiday movie.


The Santa Clause 2 – 2.5/5


After several successful years as the new Santa Claus, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) learns that his time as Santa will come to an end in less than a month unless he marries, another element of his original contract known as the “Marriage Clause.” Needing to go back home anyway to deal with unruly son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) who’s on the verge of getting kicked out of school by an obstreperous principal (Elizabeth Mitchell), Scott plans to use the time to take care of both problems. In his place, second-in-command elf Curtis (Spencer Breslin) has concocted a clone machine that spits out a toy Santa (also Tim Allen) who in the absence of the real Santa becomes power crazy and decides to give every child a lump of coal for Christmas. With time running out and every effort at attracting a mate going down in flames, Scott’s time as Santa looks as good as over.


With seven names attached to the film for its story and screenplay, is there any wonder the film turned out such a ragged mess? There are far too many plots going and none of them is sufficiently developed to achieve anything close to a satisfactory effect. The effects are more dazzling this time around (the reindeer Comet has been given a complete makeover), and everyone seems to be trying extra hard to make something fun out of the calamity of the too-many-cooks screenplay, but most of it falls flat. Tim Allen’s sincerity and warmth remain in place, and he is the film’s best element (the sequence where he magically produces longed for presents for Mitchell's depressed faculty members is very effective), but it’s hard to believe in him and Elizabeth Mitchell as a couple with such a shaky and brief road to matrimony. The North Pole sequences in this film are the polar opposites of the charming, magical ones in the first film; with Allen acting the martinet toy Santa, those scenes are always a bummer to return to and not helped by director Michael Lembeck’s always too-frenzied frame. The script even manages to work in a retinue of legendary figures played by some wonderful actors (Art Lafleur as the Tooth Fairy, Aisha Tyler as Mother Nature, Kevin Pollak as Cupid, Jay Thomas as the Easter Bunny, Michael Dorn as the Sandman) but apart from the Tooth Fairy, their sequence just seems like another added layer to a cake that’s already piled too high.


The Santa Clause 3 – 3/5


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 (Tim Allen) 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 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. The various children who play the elves get a few bright lines here and there though some aren‘t very convincing actors. Director Michael Lembeck needed to infuse the proceedings with some really madcap sight gags and set-ups, and they just aren’t there (but you can count on a couple of reindeer farts). The film is a moderately pleasing trifle stuffed with bright color and lots of Christmas music, but look elsewhere if you want big laughs.



Video Quality


The Santa Clause – 4.5/5


This film and the others are presented at their theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the first two are offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. The transfer here offers a very natural-looking picture with excellent sharpness and vivid color saturation levels that never bleed despite all those reds. Flesh tones are usually quite natural though in a couple of shots they appear rosier than elsewhere. Black levels are good but not always consistently inky. The film has been divided into 17 chapters.


The Santa Clause 2 – 4.5/5


This transfer has a very warm, appealing image that is usually quite sharp apart from a few scenes where softness seems inconsistent with what comes before and after. Color is rich and handled without issue, and flesh tones seem natural except when they’re meant to be exaggerated for effect. Black levels are about the same as in the previous movie. This film has been divided into 20 chapters.


The Santa Clause 3 – 4.5/5


This is the original release of this film on Blu-ray from about five years ago, so the codec used for the 1080p transfer is VC-1. The color is bright and deeply saturated, and close-ups are sharp with mostly accurate flesh tones which only occasionally go a little too pink. Contrast is consistently applied, and black levels are the best of the three films. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.



Audio Quality


The Santa Clause – 4/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix gives the widest spread in the mix to the music with an abundance of Christmas carols and Michael Convertino’s sprightly background score. There is some ambience at a Christmas party and in other spots in the film but not a lot. Dialogue has been nicely recorded and is rooted to the center channel.


The Santa Clause 2 – 4/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix contains some directionalized dialogue in several spots of the movie making for a slightly more sophisticated sound design. Otherwise, the mix is strong music-wise with the steady stream of carols and George S. Clinton’s background score being given an immersive surround presence. There is some ambience also with effects in the fronts and rears, but this isn’t exploited for maximum advantage.


The Santa Clause 3 – 4.5/5


The PCM (6.9 Mbps) 5.1 track is by far the best of the three films. Ambient sounds are frequent and well placed in the soundfield (a favorite moment is when the Sandman and the two in-laws are snoring with their individual snores coming from three different channels in the mix). Dialogue has been expertly recorded, and there is a fair amount of well placed directionalized dialogue. Music also gets a strong surround treatment with George S. Clinton’s background score and the traditional and updated takes on various Christmas tunes well spread throughout.



Special Features


The Santa Clause – 2.5/5


All of the bonuses are presented in 480i apart from the promo trailers.


“So You Want to Be an Elf?” is a fun little behind-the-scenes glimpse at the making of the movie with David Krumholtz in character as Bernard putting new elf candidates through their training regimen. This runs 6 ½ minutes.


The Night Before Christmas is the 1938 Silly Symphony short than runs 8 minutes.


“Making Santa Snacks” features world famous chef Wolfgang Puck offering three cooking featurettes on typical holiday snacks. The pizza demonstration runs 7 ¼ minutes, the Christmas cookie lesson is 4 ¾ minutes long, and the cocoa lesson runs 3 ¾ minutes. These are followed by text page recipes offering ingredients and instructions for preparing.


There are promo trailers for The Odd Life of Timothy Green and Wreck-It Ralph.



The Santa Clause 2 – 3.5/5


Director Michael Lembeck contributes the audio commentary in a too-cutsey way of narrating in a tongue-in-cheek style pretending that’s we’re seeing is partly real (the characters) and partly a movie set. He does include much specific information about filming particular scenes with certain lenses or multiple cameras, and there is no doubt that he loves the film and the people he worked with in making it.


All bonuses are in 480i.


There are seven deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or in one 11 ¾-minute group. There is also director introductions and commentary.


The film’s gag reel runs 4 ¼ minutes.


“Inside the North Pole” is a behind-the-scenes featurette with actor Spencer Breslin as elf Curtis hosting the tour of the make-up trailer, the Noth Pole sets, and interviewing crew members and co-stars Elizabeth Mitchell, David Krumholtz, and director Michael Lembeck. It runs 9 ¾ minutes.


“True Confessions of the Legendary Figures” has director Michael Lembeck briefly interviewing Art Lafleur as the Tooth Fairy, Aisha Tyler as Mother Nature, Kevin Pollak as Cupid, Jay Thomas as the Easter Bunny, and Michael Dorn as the Sandman. It runs 3 ½ minutes.


Director Michael Lembeck tours Elfsberg in this behind-the-scenes featurette as the battle between the elves and the wooden soldiers is about to take place. It runs 4 ¼ minutes.


The Santa Clause 3 – 4/5


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.


The bonus features are in 1080i unless otherwise noted.


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.


A 3½-minute alternate opening sequence features Elizabeth Mitchell narrating clips from the original The Santa Clause.


“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 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.


“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.


“Christmas Carol-oke” serves up seven traditional Christmas carols with karaoke lyrics (a bouncing ornament points them out) and clips from the movie in the background.


“The Greatest Time of the Year” is a 3-minute music video of a song sung over the closing credits by Aly and AJ.


There is a 1080p virtual tour of Elfsburg available for viewing.


There is a “Deck the Halls” virtual holiday decorator in 1080p.


There are promo trailers for Ratatouille and Meet the Robinsons.



In Conclusion

3.5/5 (not an average)


Though the two sequels to The Santa Clause aren’t in the same league as the original, this three-movie box set may be the economical way to go if children in the family want all three films. The transfers are beautiful and most of the bonus features have been ported over to the Blu-ray editions.




Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC



#2 of 7 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted October 14 2012 - 01:10 PM

Scores of 2.5 and 3 for the last two films in the series is way too generous, Matt!  Posted Image


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#3 of 7 OFFLINE   Rick Thompson

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Posted October 14 2012 - 02:02 PM

Second film was all right, though not a patch on the first. The third film is waaaay too nasty and generally disagreeable. I'll never watch it again; once was (more than) enough!

#4 of 7 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 14 2012 - 02:05 PM

Scores of 2.5 and 3 for the last two films in the series is way too generous, Matt!  :laugh:

What can I say? Just say I was showing the spirit of generosity in honor of Christmas!

#5 of 7 OFFLINE   Chuck Anstey

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Posted October 15 2012 - 03:04 AM

It's funny because my rankings put the 2nd one at the top and I enjoy it very much. The first one is not very family friendly with little ones and that hurts it in my eyes. It is also the cynic's view of Christmas for about 85% of the movie. The third one is even worse. Sure the second one's plot is weaker but it has the most heart.

#6 of 7 OFFLINE   Jay Taylor

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Posted October 15 2012 - 06:49 AM

I also like the second one but not nearly as much as the first.  The third one irritated me so much I haven't seen it since its original release.  I'll watch the 3rd one again in December with expectations of disaster just to see if it's really as bad as I thought.


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#7 of 7 OFFLINE   jim_falconer

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Posted October 15 2012 - 11:35 AM

Thanks for the review Matt.  Unlike you, I enjoyed the second movie almost as much as the first.  The third was terrible on initial viewing, but grew a little on me with the second viewing.  Looking forward to picking up the trilogy!







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