For the past eight years, since the release of the original “The Santa Clause,” Tim Allen has been doing a hell of a job as Santa Claus. He plays football with the elves, drinks lots of hot chocolate and has even encouraged the development of static-free tinsel. Very impressive, especially since he must have had to take a break from his busy schedule of getting arrested for drunk driving to fit all of this in. Michael Lembeck’s “Santa Clause 2” avoids the obvious end-of-December release date, attempting to deliver some Christmas charm in these not-so-festive November days.
This Christmas, Santa, known outside of the North Pole as Scott Calvin, has a whole new set of problems. His son Charlie (Eric Lloyd), now a teenager, is on the naughty list. Charlie hates his Scrooge-like principal (Elizabeth Mitchell), and in order to show his discontent with the establishment breaks into the school gym with a can of spray-paint. To make matters worse, Santa discovers a clause in his contract (the “Mrs.” clause) demanding that he get hitched before Christmas Eve. With only 28 days to go, the process of “deSantafication” has already begun; Santa’s beard begins to disappear and his gut shrinks back to its normal size, despite the fact that he still eats lots and lots of cookies.
So Scott does what any decent Santa would do: He moves back in with his ex-wife and her new husband. His absence from the North Pole has disastrous effects, when the substitute Santa (also played by Allen) turns out to be a psychotic dictator intent on filling every stocking with lumps of coal. In between games of Go Fish with his ex-wife’s new daughter Lucy and episodes of binge eating by everyone’s favorite reindeer Comet, Santa still manages to fall in love and spread Christmas cheer all over the world.
The original film was fun because it made Santa Claus a plausible reality. Although this is the angle many Christmas films take, “The Santa Clause” was especially fun because Tim Allen was our surrogate. Just a normal guy who suddenly began to order a deluge of food at staff meetings, gained 50 pounds and ended up in a fairyland known as the North Pole. All our looming questions about the machinations of the Santa myth were fantastically explained away.
But eight years later, this delight has dimmed; our thirst for explanations was sated with the first film, and all we are left with is a trite, unbelievable plot, jam-packed with bathroom humor and many references to rear ends and flatulence that are sure to make even children cringe.
Maybe we’re just older now, but without rose-colored glasses “The Santa Clause 2” is downright shoddy. The costumes look like they came from the sale rack at Halloween USA, the backdrops at the North Pole look like the painted backdrops from a high school play and not one line in the entire script elicits even a chuckle. All this aside, however, the movie’s concept is still mildly entertaining. Allen looks like he is having fun reprising his role, and adding to it the role of the spastic substitute who gets some of the movie’s best scenes.
Those audience members who are willing to leave their intelligence, taste and eye-rolling muscles at the door will find themselves at least mildly entertained and, at best, recharged for yet another holiday season.