THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Santa Clause 2 has to be one of the most unfortunate sequels in movie history. It comes a whopping eight years after the original film, but it wasn't supposed to be that way. A few years back, Walt Disney Pictures had every intention of following up their $144 million grossing Christmas picture. They even went so far as to put together a teaser trailer trumpeting the opening in either 1999 or 2000 (I can no longer remember which, although I distinctly remember seeing that trailer several times). There were problems in the deal-making and the project never even got made. Until now, that is, when the kiddies who lined up for the original in 1994 are now old enough to line up for Jackass: The Movie. Compounding an already bad situation is the fact that The Santa Clause 2 is an unspeakably awful movie - truly the bottom of the barrel in family entertainment.

Tim Allen doesn't generate many ho-ho-hos in the tepid sequel The Santa Clause 2
Tim Allen returns as Scott Calvin, the man who became Santa Claus after putting on the famous red suit. He lives and works full time at the North Pole, overseeing hundreds of elves, all of whom look like children. There's something discomforting about this image, as it brings to mind child labor abuse. But that's another story. Santa's right-hand elves - Bernard (David Krumholtz) and Curtis (Spencer Breslin) - discover a stipulation saying that there must be a Mrs. Claus. In other words, Scott has to get married before Christmas Eve or he can't be Santa anymore. A "de-Santafication" process begins: the weight goes off, the beard disappears, the cheeks get less rosy. This allows Scott to return home in search of a bride. Conveniently, he is required to attend several school meetings about his wayward son. It is at these meetings that Scott meets Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell), the ice queen principal who doesn't believe in Christmas anymore. On the surface, she doesn't seem like potential wife material, but in the confines of this shallow, manipulative plot, she's a sure thing. Scott sets about trying to woo her using the tiny bit of magic he has left.

Meanwhile, Curtis creates a fake "toy Santa" to watch over the North Pole in Scott's absence. The being - made of plastic - turns out to be something of a dictator. His time in power convinces him that all children are misbehaved and should receive lumps of coal in their Christmas stockings. After winning the love of Carol, Scott returns to the North Pole to lead the elves in revolt against the plastic menace.

Those are the two main plot threads in The Santa Clause 2, and here's the problem with the movie: not enough of the former and too much of the latter. Although the romance is predictable, it is much more interesting than the battle with the bad Santa. The movie's one good scene finds Scott rejuvenating a room full of disaffected teachers by magically giving them the toys they most loved as children. One bitter teacher's face lights up at the site of a Toss Across game. Before long, everyone is happy and Carol has been thoroughly charmed. It's a really sweet moment, and the film could have used a lot more of them.

Regrettably, the people who made this movie seem more interested in the good vs. evil thing. The original film worked because it explained things like how Santa fits down chimneys or visits all the world's children in one night. It was about the magic of Santa Claus. The sequel is just another aimless special effects blowout coupled with lame slapstick. I found the whole thing off-putting. The effects are atrociously bad, for starters. Mostly, though, I detested the way the film obliterates its own reason for being. Santa is about love and happiness and joy, not about fighting and destruction. Absolutely nothing here put me in a Christmas mood; it actually put me in a Thanksgiving mood because it's a big old turkey.

The Santa Clause 2 had me looking at my watch and literally squirming in my seat. It's really obvious that the sequel was made only to cash in on the popularity of a much better original. I resent that kind of cynicism, especially in a movie that's supposed to fill me with holiday cheer.

( 1/2 out of four)

The Santa Clause 2 is rated G. The running time is 1 hour and 44 minutes.

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