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The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2007)

Disney DVD
DVD Released: 11/20/2007

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/24/2007

Once a movie franchise begins to reach numbers higher than 2, it can be difficult to maintain star power. Typically, the big stars from earlier films will leave the series and the sequels will either replace them or move in a new direction. (And then we get "sequels" without the original cast such as Stir of Echoes 2.) The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is an example of a film which goes in the opposite direction. Not only does it maintain the original cast from the first two films in the series, but it brings in another famous comedic face to help round out the action.

The Santa Clause 3 picks up some time (apparently about 9 months) after the events of The Santa Clause 2. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is doing fine as Santa Claus and he has the North Pole humming along as Christmas approaches. His wife, Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell), is busy teaching school to the elf children and she's also very pregnant. While she's happy with Scott, she doesn't like that he's so busy and that, despite the presence of the elves, she's essentially alone at the North Pole. To rectify this, Scott brings Carol's parents, Bud (Alan Arkin) and Sylvia (Ann-Margret), to visit the North Pole...by telling them that Scott is simply a toymaker and that they are visiting his factory-town in Canada. Scott also invites his ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson), her husband Neil (Judge Reinhold), and their daughter Lucy (Lilianan Mumy) to visit.

Meanwhile, an emergency meeting of The Council of Legendary Figures has been called due to the fact that Jack Frost (Martin Short) has been misbehaving, attempting to position himself as the face of Christmas. As punishment, Jack volunteers to help out around Santa's workshop, but it's all just a scheme to take Christmas for himself. When he sees that Scott's plan to have the in-laws visit isn't working out very well, Jack hatches a plan to play on Scott's guilt and take over the role of Santa Claus.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause may be one of the most well-made oddly benign movies that I've ever seen. The movie is like a expertly made plate of spaghetti or meatloaf -- it's something which is familiar and satisfying for the moment, and yet, it's nothing spectacular and something which is easily forgettable.

The weird thing is that I can't really point out anything which is overtly wrong with the movie. As noted above, the main cast from the other films in the series return for this one, and they do just as well in their roles. Tim Allen is still delightful as a Santa Claus who has had to grow (literally) into his role as St. Nick and is now really enjoying what he does. Elizabeth Mithcell, who has recently shown her acting chops on Lost, is good as Carol. The film gets an interesting boost from Alan Arkin and Ann-Marget playing Carol's parents, and there are some great moments when characters hit on Ann-Margret (younger viewers probably won't understand those scenes, but I thought that they were hilarious).

Perhaps the problem lies in Martin Short's character. Don't get me wrong, I love Martin Short and usually find him hysterical, but I don't think I liked him playing the villain. Jack Frost is a very "cool" character and Short is never really allowed to cut loose in the role. Sure, he says some funny things and has a lot of energy, but I also felt that he was keeping himself in check and thus, we weren't seeing Short's full potential.

Again, on the surface, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is a perfectly serviceable film and a good family movie. The elaborate sets are impressive and the story never gets too convoluted, although some younger viewers may have some difficulty following a time-travel sequence. The movie features some nice themes about family and loyalty, and with Tim Allen and Martin Short, there are some funny moments. But, perhaps I expected more funny moments. This film isn't as good as the second film in the series, but is light-years ahead of the depressing first one. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause may not be the perfect Christmas present, but it will suffice as a stocking stuffer.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause tops the nice list on DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The DVD contains both the full-frame and widescreen versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the picture is very sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain in the shots which are dominated by a snowy, white background. The colors look very good, most notably the reds and blues. There was no overt video noise or distortion. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track sounds fine, as it provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and the surround sound effects really stand out during the crowded scenes in Santa's workshop.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause DVD contains several bonus features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY by director Michael Lembeck. He provides a good amount of scene specific comments and as with The Santa Clause 2 DVD, Lembeck's chat is both very technical, but he also respects the fact that younger viewers may be listening, so he takes the time to describe the various aspects of making this effects laden film. On the downside, he doesn't say much about the story. There is a 3 minute "Blooper Reel", as well as an "Alternate Opening" (3 1/2 minutes) which is a recap of the first two films. Not sure why they cut this out, as it would have helped those who hadn't seen those movies in a while. Oddly, there's a good 12 kids in that class and only Abigail Breslin gets to talk. "Jack Frost and Mrs. Claus: A Very Different Look" (4 minutes) shows how Jack Frost had a different look when shooting began -- a more elfin look -- but was changed when it wasn't working. And Elizabeth Mitchell originally had a chubby look, but that was changed. In "The New Comedians: On Set with Tim & Marty" (3 minutes) Lembeck and other actors describe what it's like to work with Allen and Short. "Creating Movie Magic" (4 minutes) Scott Dougherty, FX Producer, examines how CGI was used to enhance sets. "Christmas Carol-oke" is exactly what it sounds like, as it has on-screen lyrics for many classic Christmas songs. The final extra is a MUSIC VIDEO for "Greatest Time of Year" by Aly & AJ.

Disney has also released The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause on Blu-ray Disc. The disc has a 1080p HD VC-1 transfer which averages 35-40 Mbps, and the film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. I was really surprised to find that this is the best look Blu-ray that I've seen thus far. The image is incredibly clear, showing no blemishes whatsoever -- no grain or defects from the source material. But, it's the colors which are the most striking thing here. The colors simply leap off of the screen. Elfsburg is a very colorful place and the color palette here really brings the sets too life. Honestly, the colors are so realistic that it sort of hurt my eyes. The image has a nice amount of depth and the framing looks good. The Blu-ray has a Linear PCM 5.1 uncompressed audio track which runs at 48 kHz and 6.9 Mbps and provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While the audio isn't as impressive as the video here, it's still good. The stereo effects are highly detailed and the track takes any opportunity to use surround sound effects, thus enveloping the viewer. Subwoofer effects aren't as plentiful, but there occurrences add to the film. The extra features here are identical to those found on the DVD, with the addition of three others. With the "Tour Elfsburg" option, the "camera" on the menu simply rotates 360-degrees allowing us to see the whole town, but it isn't interactive. The "Deck the Halls Virtual Holiday Decorator" allows the viewer to create a stocking, decorate a tree, and other things in a virtual world. "Movie Showcase" skips to "The Filmmaker's Most Cinematic Moments".

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long