It's the Mrs. Clause!
Sequels are a risky venture. Very rarely does a sequel top its original, but The Santa Clause 2 surprised me by managing to do just that. After years of syrupy dreck, we finally get a Christmas movie that will become a classic in the future.
Facts of the Case
After spending eight years as Santa Claus, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) has become a better man. He is beloved by his elves and children worldwide. Life seems perfect. However, there is a bump in the road. It turns out that there is another clause in that card that helped change Scott's life. He must marry by Christmas Eve or Santa will cease to exist. To add on top of that, Scott's son Charlie has just been added to the naughty list.
Scott returns to his old stomping grounds in the hopes of finding a solution to both of his problems. He may find the answer in the form of Charlie's principal, Carol Newman (Elizabeth Mitchell). Meanwhile, the clone Santa Scott left behind in charge is developing dictatorial feelings.
Can Scott convince Carol that her future is at the North Pole? Can he reclaim the North Pole from the Idi Amin Santa wannabe? Will Christmas (and Santa) continue to exist? Watch and find out.
The Santa Clause 2 is a wonderful film. I watched the original Santa Clause film a few nights ago and I noticed one disturbing thing: it had a very dark tone for a Yuletide film. The laughs seemed to be forced and the whimsy strained. All those problems are non-existent in the sequel. The lighter tone of the material makes for a more pleasant viewing experience.
The film is just beautiful to watch. The production design team really
outdid themselves here, creating a world of wonder and beauty that is unlike
most Yuletide films. Many other films partially set in Santa's workshop tended
to make them dreary and barnlike. Here, they go the opposite route, loading the
set with lavish colors, decorations, and life.
Despite the fact that five screenwriters were involved (and who knows how many script doctors along the way), this is a very coherent and well-structured script. The laughs come at all the appropriate moments. The sentiment is well earned instead of forced from our souls via bulldozer. It never steers wrong once.
A great part of the success is due to Tim Allen. The first film was his feature debut and in parts, he seemed a bit uncomfortable. Now, with several features under his belt, he is much more relaxed and natural in front of the cameras. The most amazing thing about his performance is that he shows the ability to handle a romantic lead. Most of his previous screen appearances depended a bit too much on the qualities that made him successful in stand-up and on television. Here, with a good script and good instincts, he manages to transcend that persona and create a wholly new one. Note to Hollywood: he's got the stuff to handle romantic roles. He is also surrounded by a good cast and I would like to make special mention of Judge Reinhold. He demonstrates that even in a few scenes, he can still fulfill the promise his early film roles showed. Now if he would only stop making crap like National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Reunion.
The film's director is Michael Lembeck, making his feature directorial debut. He comes from a talented family: his father Harvey is best known to Beach Party fans as Eric Von Zipper and his sister Helaine has appeared on television, most famously in Welcome Back Kotter as the on-again, off-again girlfriend of Vinnie Barbarino. Lembeck has a firm grasp of the technical aspects of filmmaking, showing confidence in every shot. He also understands how to balance both comedy and poignancy, sometimes simultaneously in one scene. It's not easy to do one, but to handle both flawlessly is amazing. Few have done it (Billy Wilder, Paul Mazursky, Woody Allen for example) but he pulls it off. I'm already looking forward to his next picture, the upcoming Connie and Carla.
A 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is almost perfect. The only problem is some edge enhancement during several North Pole scenes. Other than that, this transfer is nearly flawless in quality: no grain, no defects, no "ghosting" or artifacting. But of course none of those things should be present in a year old film. The colors look particularly beautiful and saturated, as a Christmas movie should be.
The sound is excellent as well. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround is the perfect choice for this disc. With the vast amount of dialogue, music, and sound effects, you need the best possible presentation to recreate the full theatrical experience. Disney has delivered nicely here.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Extras are a department Disney still needs to work on. While there are many extras to be found on this disc, quality is always better than quantity. First up is a commentary track by director Lembeck. It's not terrible, but there are two annoying qualities about it. He tends to describe what we're seeing on screen, which isn't necessary, and pretends that the some of the characters on screen are real people. Some swear by the "mockucommentary" (Buckaroo Banzai, for example), but to me, I'd rather listen to the production rather than sit through a façade. Lembeck does give some good information, but I don't know if it's worth sitting through. I'll cut him some slack since this is his maiden voyage behind the camera, and hopefully he'll become more comfortable with recording a commentary in the future.
Next are seven deleted scenes. Some are good and deserved to remain in the final cut. Others deserved to be cut. All are introduced by Lembeck, who seems more at ease here than in the commentary.
A gag reel once again proves that more often than not, bloopers are not funny.
The "Inside the North Pole with Curtis" and "Director's Tour of Elfburg" featurettes are your standard promotional pieces that probably aired on cable during the film's theatrical run. Nothing really new is covered here. You can safely skip these.
The one featurette to check out is "True Confessions of the Legendary Figures." Director Lembeck "interviews" Mother Nature, Father Time, The Tooth Fairy, Cupid, Sandman, and the Easter Bunny. See if you can guess the famous actors portraying these characters.
An interactive game and several DVD-ROM features are for the kids only. Adults will go mad trying to play these.
Oddly enough, there is no theatrical trailer. It is strange considering that this is a recent release.
As is the custom with most Disney discs, The Santa Clause 2 is pricey, with a $29.99 suggested retail price. Many stores are selling this disc for $19.99 (and in some, less than that), so it won't break the wallet. If you're unsure about a purchase, rent it first. I guarantee you will want to own it.
Everyone is free to go, but Disney could do well to take a tutorial on how to make worthwhile extra features. They've done it before and can do it again.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Michael Lembeck
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