WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 23

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 23rd WWW:

1) The Santa Clause:
Tim Allen does what other actors warn against, and works with both children and animals in a holiday family film that spawned a trilogy(more on that shortly). I probably caught more than half of this movie on television years ago, but only recently was in the right mood and frame of mind to sit through it properly from beginning to end. And in such a mood and frame of mind, it's not that bad. Allen plays Scott Calvin, a single dad juggling his career with the marketing division of a toy company and making time to see his son, who lives with his ex-wife and her new husband, played by Judge Reinhold. While watching the boy on Christmas Eve, a disturbance on the roof causes him to run outside and investigate, where he startles Santa Claus, startling the jolly fat man and causing him to plunge to his death. “You killed him!” whines the little boy, in a scenario that could have been a lot more gruesome if this weren't a Disney movie. But since it is, the body conveniently disappears when they aren't looking, leaving only the red suit and a business card which conceals the titular clause. Calvin dons the suit, finds reindeer on his roof with a sleigh, and is soon out delivering presents with his son before landing at the North Pole, where the head elf Bernard(David Krumholz) points out the clause and explains that this is now Calvin's new gig. It was one of the earliest roles I remember seeing Krumholz in, and it was strange that the next time I recognized him he was stabbing the hell out of some of my favorite doctors in the nightmarish ending to an episode of ER. Here, his role seems to be in more of a dream sequence, and when Calvin wakes up in his own bed the next morning, it seems to support the fantasy. The only problems are the monogrammed red silk pajama's with the initials “S.C.”(also his own) and the fact that his son remembers everything and has a snow globe that Bernard gave him. This causes problems down the line at school and with his mom and stepfather, and while everyone including Calvin is concerned for the boy's mental state, Calvin has to question his own reality when he starts facing radical physical changes. He gains weight rapidly. His beard grows back as quickly as he shaves it. And his hair starts turning white. When he receives a massive list of all the boys and girls he has to deliver presents to, he begins to realize that it wasn't a dream. It still sounds insane to everyone else of course, and convincing people while facing the loss of visitation rights with his son proves to be the central dilemma of the film. Will magic win out in the “real” world where adults have long ago stopped believing in it? It's the sort of corny feel-good stuff that only works this time of year. What happened to the previous Santa? Was he the original? Was there one before him? Is there always a succession? These questions aren't answered here, and perhaps are not important. With a ride like this, all you can do is embrace your own inner child, and go with it. And if your inner child can beat the game on the special edition DVD, he or she might get treated to a cartoon classic.

2) The Santa Clause 2:
In some ways, the sequel loses some of the magic of the original, but still manages to be a lot of fun. Allen has really grown into the role of Santa by this point and genuinely looks the part, but the real fun arises when he also gets to play his plastic toy doppelganger, a stand-in while he goes off to find a wife. He's rapidly changing back into Scott Calvin, because some actors have to be recognizable as themselves in a movie(see Batman Returns, Spider-Man and its sequels, etc. and you'll get what I mean). The reason for the change given in the plot however is the previously unmentioned “Mrs. Clause” that states Santa must take a wife, for some reason before the 8th or so Christmas he's been on the job. If not, he loses his magic, and the world loses Christmas. So the movie splits in two, with Allen as his misguided twin providing the most entertainment as power corrupts. It wasn't a great plan and shouldn't have fooled the elves, but it made things entertaining. Back in the real world, we see that Calvin has become good friends with his ex-wife and her husband now, and their daughter even calls him “Uncle Scott”. Eric Lloyd, now grown, reprises his role as Calvin's son Charlie, and as a hormonal high school boy he keeps getting in trouble as he spreads graffiti to both protest the absence of Christmas in the school and impress a girl. This gets him in trouble with the tyrannical principal, played by Elizabeth Mitchell(Lost, V), and she clashes with Calvin. Of course, as is the formula, the initial not getting along phase leads to bonding and romance, and it soon becomes apparent that she will be his choice for Mrs. Clause, if he can win her over. This is all complicated by the fact that he keeps spending his finite magic in trying to win her over, and his double has decreed all children naughty, using an army of toy soldiers to enforce the distribution of coal. When the two plots finally come back together, the main plot is overshadowed by the subplot, and the movie suffers a little. My only other criticism is in the addition of Spencer Breslin as the elf Curtis. Krumholtz is still around as Bernard, but he has to share most of his scenes with this annoying new character. There's also the introduction of an entire council of mythical figures like Santa, who distract from the core cast to some degree but also set the stage for the next chapter in the series....

3) The Santa Clause 3:
Anybody else noticing a pattern with this week's reviews? In any event, Allen is fully comfortable as Santa now and, SPOILER, Mitchell as his bride is expecting their first child. Almost the entire cast from the prior films returns, although Charlie plays a much smaller role with his kid stepsister being the central child character. Most glaringly is the absence of David Krumholtz as Bernard, with almost no reference to his character other than Spencer Breslin's Curtis describing himself as the “NEW head-elf.” So what happened to Bernard? He was always older(and taller) than the other elves, so did he die off-screen? Did Curtis bump him off to get the job? We may never know. Santa has a lot on his plate as the arrival of his child seems dangerously close to coinciding with his Christmas duties, and as he struggles to give equal attention to work and family, he has the bright idea of bringing his in-laws to the North Pole, and telling them that it's Canada to protect his secret. Because these people (Ann-Margret and Alan Arkin) are apparently COMPLETE idiots, they fall for fake signs and elves in hats ending every sentence with “eh”. A G-movie aimed at children should still have some logic, no? Calvin ends up bringing his whole family(sans Charlie, who goes skiing with his girlfriend) up North, but instead of giving him more time to focus they all provide more distractions. The council of legendary figures is back, this time trying to discipline Jack Frost, played by Martin Short. If they needed another villain, they would have been better off bringing back Allen as the evil Toy Santa. Short isn't terrible, but his over-the-top ham routine makes him a scene-stealer and a distraction. My real problem is that this short film(about an hour-and-a-half) is mostly spent setting up Frost's plan to usurp Santa, by tricking him into invoking an “Escape Clause” using a magic snowglobe. There's a lot of potential in reworking the timeline so Calvin never became Santa, and revisiting key scenes from the first movie as actors interact with older footage. But, after an hour setting up this alternate timeline in which Frost puts on the coat and Scott Calvin still looks like Tim Allen(again, see previous movie, Batman Returns, etc.), the whole thing is resolved in about 10 minutes. I also had a problem with the way the in-laws react when they learn a certain secret; some seriously bad acting from two veteran performers. Is the sequel entertaining? Is it fun? Yes, but it's so inferior to the first two as to be a big disappointment. Jokes like flatulent reindeer that never should have been in the second movie are recycled, and ultimately it's clear that everyone involved was just milking the concept to squeeze out another paycheck. Ho, ho, horrid. Eh?

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Blogger Lorna said...

Man, how could you?

12/27/2009 1:41 AM  

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