ZERO STARS/**** Image A Sound A- Extras D+
starring Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, Eric Lloyd, David Krumholtz
screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul and Steve Rudnick and Ed Decter & John J. Strauss
directed by Michael Lembeck
by Walter Chaw There is a scene about midway through Tim Allen's latest genuinely bad movie in which Allen and his screen family gather for dinner wielding McDonald's food in perfect bags, held in such a way so as not to obscure the golden arches for the duration of the shot. A 90-second commercial embedded in what passes for entertainment too often nowadays, it's driven home by the disconcerting realization that this picture's animatronic reindeer talk like The Hamburglar. (Warble blarble warble.) In addition to being misogynistic, racist, and apparently trying to plumb the humour of fascist regimes, The Santa Clause 2, then, is also home to one of the most sinister marketing ploys since Pokémon.
Scott Calvin (Allen) has been Santa since killing the previous Santa in the first movie--the king of a perverse cult of international cattle-call children in a set too gaudy for Toys, who themselves are micro-managed by an uncommonly tall Jewish elf (David Krumholtz). That a Jew is "number one" to one of the most pervasive symbols of the most pernicious Christian holiday is one of those things that would be astonishing if it weren't so very sad. "Number two" this time around--and the irony of the appellation doesn't escape me--is played by the Gary Coleman-stricken Spencer Breslin, who, once so horribly annoying as a little Bruce Willis in The Kid, proves himself, at the very least, consistent.
Scott, it seems, is getting "de-Santaficated" because he missed the second "Santa Clause" (the plays on language in this abomination verge on the sacrilege visited on conjugation by The Smurfs)--the one that says that Santa needs to have a bride. Luckily Scott's insipid son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) is an Afterschool Special delinquent requiring of some tender paternal attention and, of course, dad's attendance at a meeting with the lovely but frosty principal Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell), who's just begging to be thawed with some of Allen's rough charm. A reindeer farts after much effort, a Tooth Fairy (Art LaFleur) proves that homophobia isn't reserved for non-imaginary beings, Mother Nature (Aisha Tyler) mentions that she's moody because of her hormones, and, gasp, everything turns out all right.
But because there are approximately half-a-dozen writers on this stillbirth, there are still more plot points to describe. Santa makes a plastic toy clone of himself (also, sadly, played by Allen) who, besides frightening all of the small children in the audience, becomes an epaulet-wearing despot intent on giving the kids of the world coal in their stockings (which, funnily enough, would be a boon for many children in the world). There's also something about a rookie reindeer named "Chet" who gets to prove himself while producing the kind of noise that needs to be punished, and something else about a special baby doll that makes it all okay when, post-nuptials, Santa turns into a ruddy disgusting slob stinking of livestock as the new Mrs. Clause remains a comely young thing. There's something to discuss here in the overtness of that Hollywood double-standard (old fat guy gets the hot chick; and wouldn't it be right for Mrs. Clause to also get fat and ruddy?), but I fear that launching into a discussion of sociology and politics would get in the way of my flat hatred of The Santa Clause 2.
The picture is lifeless and completely free of imagination and wonder, a death march of flat jokes and failed slapstick lacking in direction to the extent that even in the midst of juggling something like thirty storylines, it finds time for not one, but two slow-motion pick-up football games. Having wasted so much of its grotesquely distended time, its last ten minutes are dedicated to feverishly tying up all the plot strings in as expedient a way as possible. Already a shockingly careless film (watch for boom microphones and mismatched shots), the finale decides to dispense entirely with transitional scenes, shuttling Santa and his henchmen from situation to situation in a flutter of an eye with nary an explanation for how one thing led to another. Jettisoning one bad sitcom director (John Pasquin) for a different bad sitcom director (Michael Lembeck), Allen betrays his own small-time ambitions and tunnel vision and simultaneously raises the question once again of why, in our society, movies are the only arena in which "it's for children" means that the product is demonstrably worse.
by Bill Chambers For as bad as The Santa Clause 2 is, I say it's preferable to its predecessor; if the clueless filmmakers had a notion of the subversive images they were putting forward, this could've been a minor classic of the genre, no foolin'. Sold separately on DVD in THX-certified, 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and fullscreen presentations (we received the former for review), The Santa Clause 2 was shot by Adam Greenberg, who can't seem to light the North Pole sets so that they look more glamorous than the backdrop for a Christmas pageant. Nevertheless, the transfer itself is exemplary, and the accompanying 5.1 Dolby Digital mix opens up the scenery with fairly active rear discretes and a tight, involving LFE channel.
Director Michael Lembeck pretends in his feature-length yakker that he's made a pseudo-documentary about Santa Claus--a joke that would probably go over better if any child anywhere had ever expressed interested in listening to a commentary track (though I'm sure W.D. Richter will get something out of it). Mouth-breathing child star Spencer Breslin picks up Lembeck's torch with a tongue-in-cheek tour of the North Pole ("Inside the North Pole with Curtis the Elf" (10 mins.)), where David Krumholtz goes by Bernard the Elf but the bewitching Elizabeth Mitchell (left) is still Elizabeth Mitchell*, although when Lembeck takes us on a peace-keeping mission through Elfsburg ("Director's Tour of Elfsburg" (4 mins.)), Mitchell--wearing the same form-hugging sweater as in the previous featurette (Lembeck makes a point of calling her "shapely")--is suddenly known as "Carol."
Aisha Tyler (what is she doing in a kid's movie?), Art LaFleur, Kevin Pollak, Michael Dorn, and Peter Boyle are addressed as Mother Nature, The Tooth Fairy, Cupid, The Sandman, and Father Time, respectively, in "True Confessions of the Legendary Figures," a 3-minute blunder hosted by Lembeck--these videos have the adverse effect of increasing your respect for Tim Allen, who bowed out of the supplementary material completely. (With the exception, of course, of B-roll appearances.) Lembeck individually introduces seven ho-hum deleted scenes and justifies each elision succinctly (it's nice to hear something other than drivel coming out of his mouth), while a 4-minute gag reel, an ergonomically challenging "Operation Toybox: Save Santa" set-top game, trailers for Freaky Friday, The Lion King 1.5, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, "According to Jim", Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventures (a really cool package), and Toys for Tots, and ROM-based activities ("Santa's Libs," "Holiday Rush," "Reindeer Games," "Coloring Book") round out the dreadfully ill-conceived bonus material. Originally published: November 18, 2003.
*If I Ran Hollywood... Why cast the expensive and unfunny Nicole Kidman as Samantha in the big-screen Bewitched when you could have the playful yet graceful, gamine yet pixie-like Elizabeth Mitchell for peanuts and get credit for creating a star out of the bargain?