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The Santa Clause Movies on DVD: The Santa Clause: Special EditionThe Santa Clause 2The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

The Santa Clause 2 DVD Review

The Santa Clause 2 movie poster - click to buy The Santa Clause 2

Theatrical Release: November 1, 2002 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Michael Lembeck

Cast: Tim Allen (Scott Calvin/Santa Claus/Toy Santa), Elizabeth Mitchell (Principal Carol Newman), David Krumholtz (Bernard), Eric Lloyd (Charlie Calvin), Judge Reinhold (Dr. Neil Miller), Wendy Crewson (Laura Miller), Spencer Breslin (Curtis), Liliana Mumy (Lucy Miller), Danielle Woodman (Abby), Art LaFleur (Tooth Fairy), Aisha Tyler (Mother Nature), Kevin Pollak (Cupid), Peter Boyle (Father Time), Jay Thomas (Easter Bunny), Michael Dorn (Sandman), Molly Shannon (Tracy)

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By Aaron Wallace

There's no shortage of Christmas movies in the annals of film and given the season's fondness for nostalgia and the saccharine, many of them can now be considered industry classics. The 1990s introduced two films that would not only instantly join the company of said classics, but even move towards the head of the pack. Released in 1990, Home Alone was the first and most successful and it was followed by Disney's Tim Allen comedy, The Santa Clause, four years later. Both are holiday traditions for many today, despite their relative infancy, and in accordance with their popularity, both were revived in the form of a sequel (Home Alone actually has three to date, but we'll pretend
those last two never happened). While Macaulay Culkin waited only two years before being left alone again in the world of box office success, Disney waited nearly a decade to issue The Santa Clause 2, which became 2002's holiday hit, grossing over $172 million worldwide.

The first Santa Clause chronicled the passing of one Santa and the training of his successor: an unassuming and doubt-filled marketer named Scott Calvin (Tim Allen). You'll recall that the added "e" in the film's title refers to a stipulation that obligated the reluctant Calvin to Santa's role after the last one fell off his roof. The North Pole surprise wasn't Calvin's only problem, though; he had to convince his ex-wife, Laura (Wendy Crewson), and her new husband, Dr. Neil Miller (Judge Reinhold) that his aging appearance were truly the result of his conversion to the bona-fide Santa rather than an attempt to mislead their son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd).

The Santa Clause 2 falls short of its predecessor but still hits the mark, thanks in large part to the return of the entire original cast. It picks up inside a different and unfortunately inferior North Pole set at a time when the Millers know the truth of Scott Calvin's Santa-dom and work with him on raising Charlie, now a trouble-making high schooler. The narrative is again built upon a combination of internal and external conflicts. Another clause -- the Mrs. Clause (considered as a subtitle for the film while in production) -- poses a problem for Scott, who learns that he must find a wife by Christmas Eve or he will cease to be Santa. In attempting to solve that problem, he creates another for himself when he takes the advice of his head-elf Bernard (David Krumholtz) and another Polar advisor, Curtis (newcomer Spencer Breslin) and creates a toy-ish clone of himself to tend to North Pole operations while he returns to America to mentor his son and search for a yuletide bride. A fondness for regulation leads the impostor Santa to declare a state of martial law in the workshop and judge every youngster to be more naughty than nice. Scott must overcome both obstacles before the big night if he wants to keep his spot on the top of the world and save Christmas.

Santa's checking his list for the second time. Scott, Neil, and Laura head into school to meet the notorious Ms. Newman.

Much of the original Santa Clause's festive appeal came from the sense of wonder conveyed in Scott and Charlie's discovery of the North Pole, which is naturally diluted by the time the sequel rolls around and the existence of Santa's domain is old news. A little of that magic is regained, however, in the introduction of Charlie's school principal, Carol Newman (Elizabeth Mitchell), a hardened believer in the tough love approach to discipline and the target of Scott's marital aspirations, who slowly comes to see that Scott Calvin is a man more complex than she had originally assumed, and in more ways than one. Mitchell works well with Allen and is a welcome addition to the cast.

The other key component to the original's success was its humor, aided by the comedic touch of Tim Allen. Calvin may be a kinder soul in this film, but his biting sarcastic edge hasn't been lost, nor have the agitated quips exchanged between he and Neil. The first film never faltered in this department, but this one does more than once when it tries to package jokes or gags specifically for a younger audience while peppering the same scenes with something packaged specifically for adults. For example, the council meeting between Santa, the Tooth Fairy (Art LaFleur), Cupid (Kevin Pollak), and various other legendary creatures presents a section of intentionally dumbed-down script and cartoonish visuals while at the same time having Mother Nature (Aisha Tyler) refer to herself as being "Pre-El Niño." Fortunately, these unflattering sequences are short-lived and infrequent and some of them (like the Tooth Fairy role) even pay off in the end. It does score points for a cameo by the always-funny Molly Shannon. In all, it's a film capable of delivering its fair share of laughs and even more smiles. It's also adventuresome, and the duo of adventure and humor always makes for fun.

The cast all deliver capably, from the seasoned adults to the child actors, though Eric Lloyd has a little trouble pulling off an overly dramatic scene that details his personal angst, but the problem lies more with a weakness in the screenplay. The fact that this film succeeds in the end and that its cast will again return to theaters together next year holds promise for The Santa Clause 3.

Buy The Santa Clause 2 (Widescreen Edition) from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen Sold Separately
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Release Date: November 18, 2003
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 (Reduced from $29.99)
THX-Certified with Optimizer tests
White Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

The anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is a pretty good one. The biggest problem is that the picture looks a little softer than would be preferable, particularly on larger screens. It's a very colorful movie, though those colors sometimes seem subdued, which whether intentional or not, works inside the North Pole to give it that cottage feel. The transfer is largely satisfying and gets a stamp of approval. For those with a fondness for inferiority, the disc is sold separately in the "fullscreen" format.

Audio comes by way of a THX-certified Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track and it's a wholly commendable one. The sound is crisp and clear, audio levels are set appropriately, dialogue is always audible, and the score comes out quite nicely. Channel separation is most pleasing and the surround sound is enveloping, letting each channel thrive amidst the bustle of the North Pole. No complaints here.

Curtis gives a behind-the-scenes North Pole tour. The director chats with Mrs. Calvin/Clause to convince Disney that all is well inside the North Pole. Carol adds to the Christmas rescue effort in the final deleted scene.

BONUS FEATURES

The audio commentary begins with director Michael Lembeck discussing how he and his crew secured permission to borrow Santa and his elves for a film and shoot on location in the North Pole. That sounds like a fun way to start a commentary track, but after ten minutes or so, it becomes clear that Lembeck intends on discussing this film as if it's entirely authentic for the entire duration. Now, it isn't the intention of this review to dispute the existence of Santa Claus, but only to say that Tim Allen isn't truly him. The track quickly grows tiresome and shies away from any insightful observations in favor of needless repetition and pandering towards children, most of whom won't bother with this feature anyways (and those who do will likely be confused when they find that Santa Claus used to play on "Home Improvement" and films like Christmas with the Kranks.) Interested viewers are advised to check out only select scenes on the commentary track (allow me to suggest chapters 1, 10, 11, 16, and 19) and save their time on the rest.

The remainder of the disc's bonus features go to great length to maintain this same illusion as well, though it's much more likable in these, which don't run nearly as long. Still, more serious discussions of the filmmaking process would have been far preferable. Curtis, the #2 elf, gives a tour of the North Pole (9:42) and all the cast and crew who are making a movie (playing themselves) inside it. This translates to a behind-the-scenes featurette, though it's much more make-believe than making-of. The same can be said for "True Confessions of the Legendary Figures" (3:30), which interviews Mother Nature, Cupid, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny (Jay Thomas), Father Time (Peter Boyle), and Sandman (Star Trek's Michael Dorn) on their roles as legendary figures. The third segment keeps the same tone: "Director's Tour of Elfsburg" (4:15) is a status report videotape that Lembeck supposedly made to send to Disney to quiet their fears over the elves quarreling inside the North Pole and it plays out in much the same way as Curtis' North Pole tour. All three of these are quite funny, as they highlight tensions between various North Pole characters, like the power struggle between Curtis and Bernard and the arguments between the legendary figures. It's hard to say whether the comments are scripted or off-the-cuff, but are fun to watch either way. Spencer Breslin is especially amusing here.

The most worthwhile features are the fairly standard gag reel (4:16) and a collection of seven deleted scenes (play them individually or all at once). Each scene is essentially a repeat of a scene that made the cut into the film and so none of them introduce any new context, and Lembeck's chapter-skippable introductions before each one concede as much. Still, it's nice to have them available, as some of them -- especially "The Dating Game" -- are amusing and slightly more edgy than their in-film counterparts. Together, along with Lembeck's introductions, they total just under 12 minutes.

Any one of the blinking radar lights leads to a mini-game in the disc's frustratingly slow virtual game. "Reindeer Games" is one of four diverting activities that comprise the disc's DVD-ROM offerings. The wintery animated main menu screen.

The final bonus feature is "Operation Toybox: Save Santa Game," which provides a radar screen from which players can choose from several mini-games all aimed at foiling the cloned and maniacal Santa from ruining Christmas. The game is fairly
simple but is very slow to load and frequently hangs up. You'd be better off bypassing it. If you want a few more games and activities, you can try your hand at the four that are offered as DVD-ROM extras by putting the disc in your computer. "Santa's Libs" creates a personal ad for Santa with multiple-choice fill-in-the-blanks. "Coloring Book" offers four virtually-colorable images that you can print out or simply digitally enjoy. "Reinder Games" requires (gasp) thought as you try to put four reindeer with different-colored noses into their proper stalls by trying different combinations from the six choices. "Holiday Rush" is like JT's Blocks on Yahoo! Games, only the blocks feature secular holiday imagery like snowflakes and red-and-green drums. None of these four activities are worth putting the disc in your computer if you're not a fan of games, but the DVD-ROM content here is certainly above average. Preferred to the lone DVD-Video counterpart, it should please the computer-savvy.

The disc also includes previews for The Lion King 1½, Lindsay Lohan's version of Freaky Friday, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, the ABC sitcom "According to Jim", Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventures DVD Game, and a Santa Clause 2-themed Disney Hand promo for the Toys for Tots program. The first three of those play automatically when the disc starts up and all of them are accessible from the "Sneak Peeks" menu.

The animated 16x9 main menu screen uses the exterior of the North Pole (yes, the actual pole) along with some lights, snow, low-flying aviation, and a section of the score. The bonus features can be accessed from there and selecting that sub-menu drops you below the surface to the workshop below, where music plays but there's no animation. All the other menu screens are still as well, though they're all nicely decorated. To return to the main menu from any other screen, just find the not-all-that-hidden object in the bottom corner that will take you there. The Bonus Features menu also contains an "Easter Egg" which merely allows you to try out the machine seen in the film which can shrink, enlarge, or duplicate an item.

I, Santa Santa works his magic with the ladies.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

While The Santa Clause can be considered a recent holiday classic, its sequel can not. The Santa Clause 2 scaled down from a PG rating to G and decided to focus a few efforts on kids only, rather than the family as a whole, which often spells disaster for family films when mishandled. Fortunately, those occurrences are rare in this film and it succeeds overall as a magical film worth making part of an annual viewing tradition. The DVD makes the same mistake that the film sometimes does but to a larger degree as it robs bonus features of informative value, but many of them are still fun enough to be worthwhile. Besides, for a DVD that isn't even labeled as a "Special Edition" of any sort, there's a surprising amount of extras included (deleted scenes, a gag reel, behind-the-scenes footage) and a solid audio/video transfer too. All that adds up to a recommendation for this disc, though it comes with a suggestion of caution: remember that The Santa Clause 3 is on its way to theaters in under a year and it just might bring with it some sort of re-release for the first two films in time for Christmas 2006 or 2007.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006) | The Santa Clause: Special Edition (1994)
The Christmas Star (1986) | One Magic Christmas (1985) | The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas (2004) | I'll Be Home for Christmas (1998) | National Treasure (2004)
The Rookie (2002) | Jungle 2 Jungle (1997) | Lilo & Stitch (2002) | The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) | Disney Channel Holiday | The Pacifier (2005)
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 9 - Classic Holiday Stories | Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 8 - Holiday Celebration with Mickey & Pals

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Reviews | Upcoming DVDs: Disney / All Studios | Recent Live Action Disney Films | Disney's Christmas Films | Search UD

Reviewed December 31, 2005.