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Michael Lembeck
Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Spencer Breslin, Liliana Mumy, Martin Short, Alan Arkin
Writing Credits:
Leonardo Benvenuti (characters), Steve Rudnick (characters), Ed Decter, John J. Strauss

His time at the North Pole is about to go South.

Holiday magic mixes with comical chaos at the North Pole in The Santa Clause 3. Tim Allen reprises his role as Scott Calvin - AKA Santa - as he juggles a full house of family and the mischievous Jack Frost (Martin Short), who is trying to take over the "big guy's" holiday. At the risk of giving away the secret location of the North Pole, Scott invites his in-laws (Ann-Margret and Alan Arkin) to share in the holiday festivities, and upcoming birth of baby Claus with expectant wife, Carol - AKA Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell). Along for the adventure are Scott's extended family, son Charlie (Eric Lloyd), ex-wife Laura Miller (Wendy Crewson), her husband, Neil Miller (Judge Reinhold) and their daughter, Lucy (Liliana Mumy) who together with head elf Curtis (Spencer Breslin), foil Jack Frost's crafty scheme to control the North Pole.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$19.504 million on 3458 screens.
Domestic Gross
$84.497 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0 (Fullscreen Version Only)
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 11/20/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Lembeck
• Blooper Reel
• “Christmas Carol-Oke”
• “Greatest Time of Year” Music Video
• Alternate Opening
• “Jack Frost and Mrs. Claus: A Very Different Look” Featurette
• “The New Comedians: On the Set with Tim and Marty” Featurette
• “Creating Movie Magic” Featurette
• Sneak Peeks


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 3: The Escape Clause (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 9, 2007)

With 2006’s The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, we get the third chapter in what may become a never-ending franchise. In the first Clause, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) fell into the job as Santa Claus. During the second flick, Scott had to take a wife (Elizabeth Mitchell) or lose the gig. Escape shows us that Mrs. Claus is heavily pregnant at the worst time, as she’s ready to pop right near Christmas.

For some support, Santa’s in-laws (Alan Arkin and Ann-Margret) come to the North Pole. This causes concerns since the in-laws don’t know Scott’s identity as Santa, a fact that means some tricky business to keep the secret. Scott’s ex-wife (Wendy Crewson), her husband Neil (Judge Reinhold) and their daughter Lucy (Liliana Mumy) also wrangle invitations, so the North Pole becomes awfully crowded with outsiders.

Along with these issues and the usual pressures of Christmas, Santa encounters another problem: Jack Frost (Martin Short). The self-promoting legendary figure wants his own holiday and gets into trouble. This leads him to probation at the North Pole, though he can’t keep himself from mischief. This gets worse when Jack learns of “The Escape Clause”, a method by which Santa can renounce his title. Jack focuses on this since he figures that if Scott abandons the post, he can take over as the new Santa. The movie follows all these various threads and complications.

As I mentioned at the start, the Santa Clause franchise looks like it might keep going forever – or as long as Tim Allen’s career sags and he needs a paycheck, which is probably the same as “forever”. Actually, the Clause series sags here as well, at least in terms of box office. While the first two flicks – 1994’s original and 2002’s Santa Clause 2 - took in around $140 million each, Escape sputtered to a relatively mediocre $84 million. That’s not a bad take, especially since I’m sure the flick will do well on home video, but it marks a pretty considerable financial decline.

Does Escape display a dive in terms of film quality as well? No, but that’s mostly because the first two weren’t very good. The first flick offered sporadic entertainment, while the second was mostly a dud. It’s not hard to live up to the standards set by such forgettable efforts.

Actually, I probably like Escape more than Clause 2, mostly because of Martin Short. Escape actually fields a pretty good supporting cast of new-to-the-franchise performers, as we get legends like Ann-Margret and Alan Arkin along with the usually entertaining Short. The two older performers bring little to the effort – Arkin generally looks embarrassed to be there – but Short does his best to entertain us.

Indeed, Short may well be the only actor here who doesn’t simply go through the motions. Allen looked bored back in Clause 2, and he seems no more invigorated for the third chapter. From all the others, we get performances with “paycheck” written all over them – except perhaps for the relentless overacting from young Mumy. None of these actors do anything to elevate the material.

But darned if Short doesn’t almost make Escape entertaining. Sure, he brings out some of his usual moves – you’ll see elements of Ed Grimley and other characters throughout the film – but Short manages to turn a series of lame gags into… well, into something nearly enjoyable.

Nearly. But this is a horseshoes and hand grenades situation, and close isn’t enough to make Escape enjoyable. The film takes a pretty lame premise and fails to do much with it. Actually, storytelling isn’t this flick’s forte, as the tale tends to sputter and meander. We know that at some point Scott will take the George Bailey route to negate his Santa-hood. It takes a long time to get there and fails to make us feel Scott’s pain along the way – or to care about the various issues. It’s a poorly-told effort without much coherence.

Escape also suffers from a generally cheap feel. It sports some of the worst computer effects I’ve seen in quite some time – at least from a major studio effort. The crummy quality of the CG visuals becomes an embarrassment early in the film and never improves.

Really, there’s not much magic on display here at all. The first Santa Clause at least boasted an intriguing idea, but the two sequels have simply existed to capitalize on its success. Escape occasionally entertains due to the presence of Martin Short, but too much of the time it simply bores us.

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

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed edition was viewed for this article. The transfer seemed fine but not exceptional.

Most of my complaints related to sharpness. While most of the film came across as concise and accurate, some shots appeared a bit ill-defined. The softness wasn’t a serious problem, but it caused mild distractions at times. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and only a little edge enhancement materialized. Source flaws seemed absent here.

As with the first two Clause flicks, this one went with a rich, lush palette. The usual Christmas tones dominated and formed a warm sense of colors. Blacks appeared deep and dark, while shadows were clear and appropriately opaque. The softness issues left this one as a “B”, but it satisfied most of the time.

No surprises came from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Escape, as it presented a pretty limited soundfield. The scenes of work at the North Pole created the most involving parts of the mix. They opened up the room to a decent degree, as the various mechanical elements emerged from all around the spectrum. The occasional action piece also contributed to the sense of atmosphere. We didn’t get a lot of these, though, so the track stayed rather subdued most of the time.

Audio quality seemed positive. Bass response was quite good, as the effects and music showed strong low-end. They also demonstrated clean, concise highs and showed solid reproduction throughout the film. Speech sounded natural and distinctive as well. Though the mix never really excelled, it worked fine.

As we shift to the extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Michael Lembeck, who provides a running, screen-specific discussion. Lembeck’s chat for Clause 2 was a disaster. He treated the characters as real. For instance, he wouldn’t discuss Spencer Breslin’s performance as Curtis; instead, he acted like “Curtis the Elf” played himself. This cutesy tone got old very quickly and made the commentary a waste of time.

To my pleasant surprise, Lembeck gives us an actual discussion of the film here. He chats about locations and set design, costumes and makeup, effects, camerawork and editing, cast and performances, and various logistical issues. Lembeck can too heavily emphasize the bigness of the production, as he seems more interested in telling us about the expansive elements more than anything else. Still, he provides some fun notes, and I like his willingness to point out different goofs. This is a pretty enjoyable track.

The requisite Blooper Reel runs two minutes, 58 seconds. We get minor amusement from a few fleet moments of Allen and Short as they riff together, but most of the reel provides the usual goofiness. Note that the movie’s end credits also include bloopers, and some of them repeat here.

Two elements appear under “Music & More”. Christmas Carol-Oke This lets you croon along with seven different Christmas classics. Clips from the various Clause movies accompany these pieces, though the tunes bear no real connection to the action on-screen. Someone might like this feature, but it does nothing for me.

We find a music video for “Greatest Time of Year” by Aly and AJ. This combines the usual mix of lip-synch performances and movie shots. Aly and AJ are reasonably attractive girls, but the song is the standard bland Disneyfied rock. It’s a dull tune and a forgettable video.

When we look inside “Backstage Disney”, we open with an Alternate Opening. This three-minute and 34-second clip acts as a recap of the first movie’s events. Since I figure 99 percent of this flick’s viewers already saw the original movie, it seems like a waste of time, so it was a wise choice of the filmmakers to cut it.

Three featurettes follow. Jack Frost and Mrs. Claus: A Very Different Look goes for four minutes and two seconds as it includes movie clips, shots from the production, and interviews. We get comments from Lembeck, producer Brian Reilly, costume designer Ingrid Ferrin, and actors Martin Short and Elizabeth Mitchell. The show views at abandoned concepts for the Frost and Mrs. Claus characters’ looks. The highlights come from early shots that let us see how the roles could have been portrayed. We would’ve had a fat Mrs. Clause and a Frost who looks suspiciously like David Bowie circa 2004. Despite its brevity, this is a useful piece.

The New Comedians: On the Set with Tim and Marty fills two minutes, 59 seconds with Lembeck, Short, director of photography Robbie Greenberg, and actors Judge Reinhold and Tim Allen. We learn how Allen and Short worked together on the film. Some interesting shots from the set emerge, but mostly the piece just tells us how much fun the pair were when together.

Finally, Creating Movie Magic runs four minutes, three seconds. It includes remarks from Lembeck, Greenberg, Furious FX executive producer Scott Dougherty, Furious FX executive visual effects supervisor David Lingenfelser, Furious FX CG supervisor Mark Shoaf, and production designer Richard J. Holland. As expected, the show looks at the movie’s visual effects, with a particular focus on the snow globe room and the magical fireplace. I’d a like a longer look at these topics, but “Magic” satisfies for what it is.

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 Tinkerbell, Return to Neverland, High School Musical 2 and My Friends Tigger and Pooh: Super Sleuth Christmas Movie. In addition, the Sneak Peeks domain features all of those trailers as well as an additional ad for Disney Princesses: Enchanted Tales.

Slow, plodding and generally unfunny, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause presents a tired excuse for holiday entertainment. The talents of Martin Short create sporadic amusement, but most of the time the film fails to engage or charm. The DVD presents reasonably good picture and audio as well as a small allotment of usually interesting extras. This is a decent release for a weak movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7333 Stars Number of Votes: 15
0 3:
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