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Michael Lembeck
Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, David Krumholtz, Eric Lloyd, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Spencer Breslin, Liliana Mumy, Danielle Woodman
Writing Credits:
Leonardo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick, Don Rhymer, Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Ed Decter, John J. Strauss

What's Christmas fun without some Reindeer Games?

Tim Allen reappears in the sequel to everybody's holiday favorite. Scott Calving has been Santa Claus for the past eight years, and his loyal elves consider him the best one ever. But Santa's world is turned upside down when his son, Charlie, lands on this year's "naughty" list, and Scott finds out if he doesn't marry by Christmas Eve - just a month away - he'll stop being Santa forever.

Box Office:
$60 million.
Opening Weekend
$29.008 million on 3350 screens.
Domestic Gross
$139.225 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 11/18/2003

• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Lembeck
• 7 Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel
• “Operation Toy Box” Set-Top Game
• “Inside the North Pole with Curtis” Featurette
• “True Confessions of Legendary Figures” Interviews
• “Director’s Tour of Elfsberg” Featurette
• Sneak Peeks
• THX Optimizer
• DVD-ROM Features

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 3, 2003)

After an eight-year break, we catch up with the adventures of modern St. Nick Scott Calvin in 2002’s The Santa Clause. The film launches at the North Pole as we get reacquainted with Calvin/Santa as well as his head elf Bernard (David Krumholtz). We also meet number two elf Curtis (Spencer Breslin) – “the keeper of the Santa handbook” - who apparently has some unpleasant news to spring on Santa.

The movie then shifts to Calvin’s teen son Charlie (Eric Lloyd). The focal point of the prior movie, Charlie has turned into a minor juvenile delinquent; in his first scene, he breaks into his school’s gym to paint graffiti on its walls. Unfortunately for him, Principal Newman (Elizabeth Mitchell) catches the boy in the act.

Back at the North Pole, Santa gets the negative news: Charlie earned a place on the “Naughty” list. Curtis also tells Santa that another clause exists. Calvin needs to get married ASAP or he suffers through the “de-Santafication” process and loses his job. This has already started, as the tubby Calvin begins to shed poundage. If Calvin doesn’t get a wife within 28 days – by Christmas Eve – then he gets the boot.

Calvin needs to take care of three things at once. He must tend to the pre-Christmas business at the North Pole as well as straighten out Charlie and find a new wife. Curtis invents a computer-generated toy clone to handle matters with the elves while the real Santa heads home.

Once he gets back there, Calvin meets up with ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson) and her husband Neal (Judge Reinhold) to work on the Charlie issue. We see that Calvin can’t stand Principal Newman, and she feels the same way about him. Calvin tells Laura, Neal and Charlie about his need for a wife, and the group try to tackle the issue.

From there we follow the various escapades. We watch as Calvin attempts to find and woo a wife, and we also check out the ways in which elves Bernard and Curtis keep up the façade with Toy Santa. Inevitably, complications ensue on both ends that create wackiness.

The original film enjoyed a great concept but provided only moderately and inconsistently engaging entertainment. Santa Clause 2 doesn’t even boast a clever idea behind it, and the execution of its minor plot does little to engage the viewer.

Much of the problem stems from the film’s lackadaisical pacing. It seems to take forever to get anywhere, and even as it moves along the plot, it does so in a ponderous manner. We get far too many cuts from Calvin’s attempts at romance to watch matters back at the North Pole. It seems obvious where these will go, as the Robot Santa concept appear to exist just to create future dilemmas for the real Claus, and the film fills too much of its time with them. A little of Allen’s loud and annoying performance as Robot Santa would have gone a long way, so the excessive number of those scenes becomes grating.

Not that the scenes with Calvin present a lot of life or charm. From minute one, it seems abundantly clear what path his romantic endeavors will take; not a single surprise occurs in that domain, though we know the film will inevitably toss out some artificial complications. (See the references to Robot Santa.)

Allen provided the best elements of the original movie. It tended toward sappiness, but he occasionally managed to help it demonstrate some cleverness and spark. Unfortunately, he almost totally misfires in the sequel. As noted, his work as Robot Santa just seems annoying and overblown, whereas his performance as the real one feels flat and lifeless. Maybe acting as Robot Santa wore him out and he lacked the energy to bring more flair to Santa/Calvin.

Whatever the case, The Santa Clause 2 feels like little more than a weak attempt by Allen to reclaim prior glories. He was a major star back in 1994 when the first flick appeared, but he’s not managed much success since the mid-Nineties. Clause 2 helped him on the box office charts; to my surprise, its $139 million nearly equaled the $144 million take of its predecessor. Unfortunately, Clause 2 didn’t do anything to improve on the mediocre original movie, and indeed seems even less entertaining.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

The Santa Clause 2 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture looked consistently pretty solid, though it fell short of greatness.

Sharpness mostly appeared positive. The occasional wide shot seemed slightly soft, but those examples occurred sporadically. Most of the movie seemed distinct and well defined. No issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects showed up, but some mild edge enhancement seemed apparent. Print flaws caused no concerns; some slight grain appeared during low-light shots, but otherwise the film was clean.

Given the movie’s Christmas milieu, I expected a varied and vivid palette, and the DVD produced excellent colors. The hues favored the reds and greens of the season and presented them quite well. The tones were consistently dynamic and bold and showed no problems. Black levels seemed tight and deep, and low-light shots generally were accurate. A few of those shots looked a bit thick, but most of the shadows were reasonably well defined. The image of Santa Clause 2 won’t win any awards, but it seemed satisfying nonetheless.

In the same vein, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Santa Clause 2 was consistently pleasing but not up to reference levels. Much of the soundfield stayed fairly anchored in the front channels. Music showed nice stereo imaging, and effects on the sides created a good sense of environment. Much of the time, the surrounds emphasized reinforcement of the front, but they came to life well when necessary. Some North Pole shots demonstrated a fine feeling of activity, as we heard toy making pop up from all around us. The scene in which Curtis created the Robot Santa also used the rear speakers well, and a few other “action” bits presented positive surround material.

Audio quality was fine. A few of Allen’s shouted lines demonstrated minor edginess, but otherwise speech sounded distinct and natural. Effects consistently appeared clean and accurate, and the occasional louder piece presented good dynamics. Music offered the strongest elements of the soundtrack. The score consistently sounded lively and bold, with crisp highs and deep, resonant bass. Ultimately, not much about the soundtrack dazzled me, but enough solid segments occurred to boost my grade to a “B+”.

We get a passable but somewhat irritating set of extras on this DVD of The Santa Clause 2. We open with an audio commentary from director Michael Lembeck, who provides a running, screen-specific discussion. From very early in the track, it becomes obvious that Lembeck plans to keep the illusion alive as he treats all of the movie’s characters and situations as real. That means he doesn’t talk about Spencer Breslin as Curtis; he tells us that Curtis the elf played himself, and that they shot at the North Pole in Santa’s Workshop. This gets old very quickly and goes absolutely nowhere.

If just to make the commentary even more bizarre, Lembeck occasionally tosses out specific technical notes about the making of the movie. He will relate information connected to cameras and lenses and other such topics. The fantasy tone dominates, and if the DVD’s producers wanted a commentary meant for the kids, that’s fine. I don’t know if any would be interested in such a chat, but if that were the case, at least I’d respect it for such an attempt. However, the inclusion of the technical information makes the conversation rather odd and schizophrenic. It doesn’t help that Lembeck seems to find it hard to find things to discuss, and the commentary includes quite a few short gaps. Ultimately, I thought the chat was dull, uninformative, and tough to take. It was very difficult for me to sit through all 104 minutes of this nonsense.

Next we find seven deleted scenes. Including introductions by the director, these fill a total of 11 minutes and 50 seconds. Given that the movie itself isn’t very entertaining, I didn’t anticipate anything interesting here, and the scenes lived up – or down – to my expectations. They pad the film but don’t really add anything. Lembeck’s comments nicely set up the segments. He tells us a little about them and lets us know why they got the boot.

In addition to this cut sequences, we find a gag reel. In this four-minute and 16-second presentation, we get the standard display of flubs and goofiness. Though I don’t normally care for bloopers, I must admit the bit in which the puppet forgets his line is moderately funny. The rest is pretty dull.

What would a Disney DVD be without a game? Here we find Operation Toy Box: Save Santa, a contest to stop the Robot Santa. We work through some simple trivia questions about the movie, a basic Dragon’s Lair-style “action” romp, and another arcade game in which you shoot Silly String at toy soldiers. It ends with a memory game in which you replicate strings of musical tones. Not a lot of fun appears here, and you’ll get no real reward for your efforts. It’s also surprisingly unforgiving for a kiddie game.

After this we get a “making of” featurette called Inside the North Pole with Curtis. It runs nine minutes and 46 seconds and comes hosted by Spencer Breslin as the number two elf as he takes us on a tour of the shoot. He keeps in character the whole time, which quickly becomes pretty lame ala the commentary. We get some passable looks at the production and the set, but don’t expect to learn much from this cutesy featurette.

Another featurette shows up with the Director’s Tour of Elfsburg, a four-minute and 15-second look at the set. Lembeck introduces the piece with a silly tale of how “actual hostilities” broke out between the elves and the toy soldiers and then leads us through the location. We get closer looks at some parts of it as well as quick chats with a few elves and “Carol Newman”. I was happy to see the lovely Elizabeth Mitchell again, but otherwise this was a pretty pointless little featurette.

Up next we encounter a piece called True Confessions of the Legendary Figures that lasts three and a half minutes. During the film, we get some cameos from fabulous characters like Mother Nature, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Cupid. It’s cute and mildly amusing but not too special, even though some talents like Kevin Pollak and Peter Boyle work as the personalities.

The disc includes the usual complement of ads at the start of the disc. When you pop the platter in your player, you’ll find promos for Freaky Friday, The Lion King 1 1/2, and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. In addition, the Sneak Peeks domain features all of those trailers as well as additional ads for According to Jim, Lilo & Stitch’s Island of Adventures DVD Game and Toys for Tots.

We also get the THX Optimizer. This purports to help you set up your home theater to best present the movie on the disc in question. Apparently the Optimizer is unique for each DVD on which it’s included; unlike programs such as Video Essentials, the Optimizer should tweak your set-up differently every time. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with my already-established calibration and I’m afraid to muck with it, so I’ve never tried the Optimizer. If you lack calibration from Video Essentials or a similar program, or if you’re just more adventurous than I, the Optimizer could be a helpful addition.

Finally, we get some DVD-ROM materials. “Santa Libs” has you select a number of words from a menu that you use to describe Santa; the results end up as a personal ad for St. Nick. “Holiday Rush” gives us a decent little strategy game in which you deleted touching squares to clear a screen. “Reindeer Games” is another challenging contest that requires some thought and consideration. Lastly, the “Coloring Book” allows kids to tint any of four different pictures with hues right on the computer. None of these extras seems great, but they’re fairly good compared to most other DVD-ROM materials.

I’ve seen Christmas films that seem less entertaining than The Santa Clause 2, but this effort nonetheless comes across as tedious and uninspired. It suffers from weak pacing, a dopey plot, and less than engaging performances across the board. The DVD presents pretty positive picture and audio along with a moderately long but generally disappointing selection of supplements. This DVD seems like a good piece of work, but the movie itself remains bland and generally pointless.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 24
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