There are a couple of fairly brief scenes in "The Santa Clause 3: Escape Clause" that put to use scenes from the first film. These scenes are subtitled, "12 Years Earlier", leading me to think, "Geez, has this franchise really been around that long?" It also makes one wonder if Tim Allen has any escape clause in this contract for doing these films.
The third entry in the series isn't a total loss, but it's painfully predictable and more than a little bland. This time around, Santa (Allen) is awaiting a new child with Carol Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell, outstanding in TV's "Lost", not so great here), who's gotten a bit homesick. So, despite the fact that it kind of breaks the rules, he brings her parents Sylvia (Ann-Margaret) and Bud (Alan Arkin) up to the North Pole, and badly tries to disguise it as Canada (Canadians be warned: there are several "eh?" jokes in the film.) Also dragged along for the trip are his ex-wife, Laura (Wendy Crewson), her husband, Neil (Judge Reinhold), and their daughter, Lucy (Liliana Mumy).
Meanwhile, Jack Frost (Martin Short) has plans of his own: if he can get Santa to hold a snowglobe from the secret room of globes and say that he doesn't want the job anymore, Jack can steal it away. However, this element of the movie takes a long time to get started, and nearly the first hour is spent on the repetitive plot of Santa and his main elf (Spencer Breslin) trying to keep Santa's workshop together as Frost sabotages it. Meanwhile, Carol and her parents are becoming upset that Santa is spending too much time at work.
"Santa Clause 3" suffers from a handful of issues, starting with the script, which takes too much time to get going and relies on a few too many bathroom gags (yes, the reindeer fart.) The performances seem almost disinterested, aside from Short, who does everything he can to give some flair to a generic villain role. Additionally, the movie looks as if it was made on the cheap, as some of the effects look almost unfinished and sets from the second film appear to have been carried over.
The first two films were passably entertaining fluff, but quality continues to diminish each time out, and the third film has worn out the welcome. Hopefully Allen will be hanging up the suit after this one.
VIDEO: "Santa Clause 3" is presented by Disney in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation looked just fine, as sharpness and detail remained above average throughout the show. The picture remained free of edge enhancement and print flaws, but some slight artifacting appeared in a few scenes. Colors looked appropriately bright and festive, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Aside from a minor effect here-and-there, the film's soundtrack remained largely a "comedy" mix, with the majority of the audio spread across the front speakers. Audio quality was fine enough, as sound effects seemed crisp and well-recorded, while dialogue sounded natural.
EXTRAS: We get a moderately funny blooper reel, "The New Comedians: on the Set with Tim and Marty" (not sure how either can be described as "new", but the featurette is a decent look at how these two worked together), "Creating Movie Magic" is a look at the visual effects and "Jack Frost and Mrs. Claus: A Very Different Look" is an honestly rather interesting look at the disasterous original "look" for Frost's character that was filmed, then rethought (very wisely) after filming started. The featurette also talks about how the idea of how the look of Mitchell's character (an equally disasterous idea visually) was completely changed after filming started. Finally, an alternate opening, music video, interactive "Christmas Carol-oke" feature and audio commentary for the film by director Michael Lembeck are also included.
Final Thoughts: The first two "Santa Clause" films were fluffy entertainment, but the third entry in the series sees the franchise running out of steam, with Short's supporting performance being the main highlight of an otherwise forgettable film. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a nice set of supplements.
The Film C-