Does the world really need another movie about Santa Claus? Well, probably not.
But as Santa Claus movies go, you could do a lot worse than The Santa Clause
. It's a garish red and green stocking stuffed with well-worn chestnuts like
toy workshops, giant tin soldiers, elfin children (and elves played by elfin children),
snow, sleigh rides, and lessons about keeping the true spirit of Christmas. But
if you're the type of person who's going to be a BahHumBugger about it, then what
are you doing watching this movie in the first place?
I didn't see the first The Santa Clause, way back in 1994. As I recall,
there was an attempt at a holiday extended-Myers-family trip to the movies that
ended up with those over 40 opting for The Santa Clause, while those under
40 went to Star Trek: Generations. And I had no urge to see the sequel.
But I've got this person in my life who bounces up and down and says "Christmas!
Christmas!" just as Cindy-Lou-Whoish as you please, every time she so much as
sees a holiday-themed commercial, or, frankly, anything that has to do with snow,
because, being from California, she doesn't realize that snow is not a commodity
that belongs solely to December 25th. And so, at her request, I took this person
(she's my age, and I like to get her under the mistletoe) to see The Santa
And I enjoyed it. From the pitch-perfect silent-running submarine gag at the beginning
to the dancing Santa bit that runs with the credits.
Tim Allen plays this average Joe named Scott, who, eight years, ago, through some
bit of holly jolly legalese mumbo jumbo called The Santa Clause, wound up inheriting
the mantle (and beard, and bowl full of jelly belly) of Kris Kringle. Now he finds
out that there's a bit of fine print called The Mrs. Clause, which states that,
if he doesn't get married, he'll lose his Santa powers.
The romance rings surprisingly sweet and true, given the genre, and the whole
"you have 30 days to get married" set-up. And there's a scene in which Santa teaches
a bunch of mirthless grown-ups the sheer joy of regressing that had me grinning
like a kid on Christmas morning. But wisely, the movie alternates some of the
"Spirit of Christmas" stuff with scenes that focus on the wacky happenings up
North (No, not Canada - the arctic spot with a big barber-striped pole sticking
out of it), the details of which I'll not spoil for those good little boys and
girls who know that rooting around in your parents' closet in late December is
just not kosher.
And unlike some wacky holiday movies, The Santa Clause 2 is actually funny.
Not squirt-milk-and-cookies-out-your-nose funny, but walk-out-of-the-theater-with-a-smile-on-your-face
funny, maybe even in the "Bring on the yule tide, dude, 'cause I feel like-surfin"
way. It's also cute, which is a word I usually use like a swear, but most of it
works -- from the massive "We gave PCP to the guy who makes those expensive limited
edition Christmas houses and then turned him loose" Santa's Workshop sets, to
the very muppety reindeer, the slightly creepy (but funny) cherubic elf Curtis,
the slightly creepy (but funny) grown-up elf Bernard, and the pixie-ish little
elf who brings Santa his hot cocoa (there's a lot of cocoa drinking in this movie,
and, really, who doesn't like cocoa?).
Though most of the sweet in The Santa Clause 2 is light and airy like a
frosted cookie, there are some moments that set my teeth on edge, but the taste
was usually washed away by the spiced apple cider of a well-timed visual gag or
a wise-ass remark. Even cartoony bits that could have been nauseating were often
saved by good players or smart writing. The meeting that Santa has with Mother
Earth, Father Time (Peter Boyle), the Easter Bunny, Cupid (Kevin Pollak), the
Sandman (Star Trek:TNG's Michael Dorn), and a tooth fairy who'd rather
be called "The Tooth Guy" was a lot of fun, though it could have so easily been
an excruciating experience (imagine the same scenario, but with Whoopi Goldberg,
Carrot Top, Delta Burke, Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, and Little Richard).
I have some of the usual complaints. Lots of pretty predictable stuff mixed in
with the pleasant surprises. Also, Scott's family, though obviously not the main
focus, were as flat and stale as a batch of month-old gingerbread men. And I don't
care that Molly Shannon is trying to be annoying on purpose. Please, for the love
of God, make her stop!
Overall, though, thumbs up. Not the best present you'll find under the tree this
year, but not an itchy sweater or pack of tidy whities either.