Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (The)
R1 - America - Disney / Buena Vista
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (23rd December 2007).
The Film

For better or for worse, Tim Allen movies should be more or less synonymous with the holidays. Starting with 1994's 'The Santa Clause', his resume is peppered with movies that were released during the holidays. He has no less than 9 films released in time for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, such as 'Toy Story' and 'Christmas with the Cranks'. The level of success varies from movie to movie, but Mr. Allenís always been there to try to cheer people up when the snow starts to fall. It should then be no surprise that after the huge success that was 'The Santa Clause' and its sequel that a third part would be coming out, bringing Mr. Allen to the franchise that brought him big screen success.

For those who haven't seen either parts one or two, the basic plot is this: mild-mannered Scott Calvin inadvertently became Santa Claus after Mr. Claus fell off his roof and disappeared. The second part, for the purposes of this review, isn't really important. What's important is that in the third installment, Scott Calvin (Mr. Allen), after twelve years, knows what he has to do. His life at the North Pole is now normal. This time for Christmas, he invites his in-laws (Ann-Margret and Alan Arkin) to be with his pregnant wife. At the same time, the diabolical Jack Frost (Martin Short) finds a way to get Scott out of the Santa-Clausing business (via The Escape Clause), so he can take over and have all the fun. At the same time, in all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, Mr. Calvin seemed to have forgotten about the true meaning of the holidays.

So, you may well guess what happens in this movie: Jack Frost will cause trouble and Scott Calvin will learn stuff. The trouble Jack Frost causes is silly and somehow nobody notices what he's doing. Scott, on his side of things, has a lot of things to deal with, and at first can't seem to handle everything. In the end, this being a children's movie, you can guess how things turn out.

The movie is actually quite short on plot. Nothing much happens and whatever doesn't happen, doesn't happen very quickly. Oddly enough, there's so much movement and mayhem that the film never drags or appears to be slowing down. This, however, makes the main conflict appear pretty easily solved. There's lots of slapstick, though, and lots of movement and colours, so I suppose that makes everything fun.

The movie is overall pretty enjoyable. However, the slight fantasy tone of the first movie has now been completely blown out of proportion and there isn't really one realistic scene in the movie (as opposed to the first movie, where there was some sort of realism to be had). Tim Allen and Martin Short are great comedians, and it's a shame their talents aren't put to better use. They're spreading Christmas joy to everybody (or at least attempting to), so I suppose they should be commended for that.

Video

1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full screen. Given that this film is encoded twice, the picture isn't as clear as it could be. It's a little bit soft, but on the bright side, that's about the only thing wrong with it. Otherwise, it's pretty good. The colours are very bright and the contrast is good enough. There's a little bit of noise in the backgrounds, but it's nothing very distracting. There's also no edge enhancement. The print is clear of any specks and scratches, making this a very nice transfer. Note that if the Disney FastPlay is activated, the movie automatically selects the full screen presentation.

Audio

The widescreen version has English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround tracks, while the Fullscreen version adds in a Spanish Dolby 2.0 surround track. The 5.1 track, given the movie is recent, is nice and clear. Dialogue is centered and never muffled or drowned out by other sounds. There's some nice ambiance, but it mostly comes from the front speakers. The rears are either pretty much forgotten or the volume is too low. During the effects-heavy sequences, the rears do act up a little more, helping bring some realism to the movie. Positions and separation are also very well done, with the subwoofer kicking in when appropriate. It's a very nice mixing job, except, in my opinion, the rears could be used a bit more.

English (HoH), French and Spanish subtitles are present.

Extras

The first and best extra on this set is an Commentary by director Michael Lembeck. Mr. Lembeck enjoys this movie, but his commentary isn't the liveliest. It's adequate and he talks about various effects shots, practical effects and other technical aspects of the sort. He goes on and on about how Tim Allen and Martin Short goofed off on set, which seemed to be a lot of fun to watch. Improv shots are pointed out and script changes are mentioned here and there. He also gives a lot of praise to the younger actors. One nice thing is that, this is more of a kids' movie, so Mr. Lembeck keeps that in mind and explains terms and processes that younger viewers might not be familiar with.

The rest of the disc is sectioned off into three parts: Blooper Reel, Music and More, Backstage Disney

As mentioned, the Blooper Reel is the first thing. This 3-minute reel is funny enough but considering one scene, the director says in his commentary, had half an hour of goofing off, this reel seems kind of small. Most of this, by the way, is Tim Allen and Martin Short doing schtick.

The Music and More Section section contains the Christmas Carol-oke. This totals just under 6 ¬Ĺ minutes and is karaoke of some famous Christmas songs set to scenes from the three 'Santa Clause' movies. It's cute and fun, and parents and their kids might enjoy singing these together. The songs are 'Jingle Bells' (1:15), 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' (0:50), 'Joy to the World' (0:34), 'O Come All Ye Faithful' (0:58), 'Silent Night' (0:58), 'Deck the Halls' (0:50) and 'The First Noel' (0:56). The other extra here is the Greatest Time of the Year - Music Video with Aly & AJ (3:17). This sounds exactly like any Disney singer might sound. The video is appropriately colourful and pop-y, and is what you might expect from Disney singers.

The Backstage Disney section is where you'll find the better extras. To start off with, there's an Alternate Opening (3:13), which basically gives out more information for people who haven't seen the first two movies. It's basically a synopsis of those two movies, bringing you up to speed for the start of the third one.

Jack Frost and Mrs. Claus: A Very Different Look (4:02) talk about the transformations of these characters in pre-production. Jack Frost's original look was something out of Ziggy Stardust. They obviously changed the look, and this is how they went about doing that, while explaining why they did that. They also talk about how and why they changed the plumper Mrs. Clause from the very end of 'Santa Claus 2' to the Mrs. Clause you see in this movie.

The New Comedians: On Set with Tim & Marty (2:59) has the two leads doing schtick on set. Various crew members talk about how Tim Allen and Martin Short acted on set.

Creating Movie Magic (4:03) is the last featurette on the set, and it's also the most informatve. The director tells you about visual effects and how they achieved some of the effects in the movie. The featurette shows you what Mr. Lembeck is explaining. This kind of stuff always fascinates me, so I found this pretty interesting.

There are also some Sneak Peeks for 'Tinkerbell' (1:05), 'Return to Neverland' (1:02), 'High School Musical 2' (1:31) and 'My Friends Tigger and Pooh: Super Sleuth Movie' (0:37), which are also start-up trailers. In addition, there are sneak peeks at 'Enchanted Tales' (1:20) and a Disney Movie Rewards ad (0:41).

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


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