'Santa Claus 3' a good movie to escape from

Tuesday, November 7, 2006 | by: Mat DeKinder

Christmas is just around the corner. Don't believe me? Just take a trip down to your local movie-plex and watch the poorly conceived, poorly executed Christmas movies roll into town looking to turn a quick buck on the public's need for prepackaged holiday cheer.

The first such offender, rolling into theaters a full three weeks before Thanksgiving, is "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," starring Tim Allen in his third go-around as an everyman who stumbled into the role of Santa Claus.

Were this a terrible movie, that would have at least meant that is was something. It would have elicited some emotional response and maybe fired off a few synapses in the ol' cerebral cortex as I recoiled in horror. But after getting up and walking out of the theater, I realized I felt the same as I would had I just sat and stared at the side of a building for two hours — absolutely nothing.

The movie was like an entertainment void: a black hole where stimulation and provocation go to die.

"The Santa Clause 3" finds Santa getting ready for Christmas while his wife Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell) is insanely pregnant with their first child. But Carol is blue because living at the North Pole requires she be cut off from all her friends and family. So Santa agrees to go pick up his in-laws (Alan Arkin and Ann Margret!?) who have no idea he is really jolly old St. Nick.

So he knocks them out with a little help from the Sandman (don't ask) and flies them to the North Pole which, as not to give away his secret, is passed off as Canada ( I think this is supposed to be funny, but I'm not sure). Also, all of the elves are played by children, which puts off a really creepy sweatshop vibe. Instead of making toys, I sort of expected them to be making jogging suits for Kathie Lee Gifford.

In addition to family troubles, Santa has to deal with Jack Frost (Martin Short collecting a paycheck), who is tired of being upstaged and wants to become Santa himself. After an overly long series of sabotages and trickery, Jack finally dupes Santa into giving up his position, teleporting him to a world where he's just regular old Scott Calvin and Jack Frost had become Santa instead. Frank Capra spins in his grave at yet another "It's a Wonderful Life" ripoff.

Naturally Jack Frost has horribly exploited his role as Santa, turning the North Pole into a resort; with rowdy, shoving customers throwing around cash in a scene that eerily resembles a West County mall on Christmas Eve. This is supposed to be the film's commentary on the over-commercialization of Christmas, which is ironic because A.) what bigger symbol of the corruption of the holiday from one of charity and good will to "gimme-gimme" is there than Santa Claus; and B.) the whole reason this movie even exists in the first place is to make money off of Christmas.

So, of course, Scott really does want to be Santa and now must trick Jack to reclaim his beard and red suit. Rah-rah.

There is absolutely nothing original, fresh or funny about "The Santa Clause 3;" it's like that fruitcake that gets passed around year after year with everyone wondering why it was even made in the first place.

Even the outtakes that run over the credits barely raised a chuckle from the audience, but it was refreshing to see that at least the cast had occasional moments of enjoyment associated with this movie.

I officially proclaim the Christmas movie to be dead. This very narrow genre hasn't seen its best days since the 1940s, with all the joy and wonder being squeezed out of it long ago. Every new entry by Hollywood is just as futile as flogging a dead reindeer. "The Santa Clause 3" is simply another slap on the carcass.

"The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause" is rated G.

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