To this day, 1994’s The Santa Clause remains a pleasant, sweet family Christmas film and a holiday favourite which is held by some in the same league as A Christmas Story andMiracle on 34th Street. It’s certainly a flawed flick, but it beautifully encapsulates the spirit and wonder of Christmas; shining a humorous light on the belief in Santa Claus. It therefore almost goes without saying that the follow-up was burdened with substantial expectations, but alas, 2002’s The Santa Clause 2 falls tragically short of them. Helmed by television vet Michael Lembeck, The Santa Clause 2 is inoffensive and harmless enough for family consumption, but it’s utterly dull, and – like most sequels – it comes across as a pointless cash-in on its predecessor’s name. The 100 minutes one would have to use (waste?) to view this soulless dreck would be better spent doing Christmas shopping.
The Santa Clause 2 picks up eight years after the events of the first film, and Scott Calvin (Allen) is now completely immersed in the role of Santa Claus. However, with less than a month until Christmas, head elf Bernard (Krumholtz) and experimental elf Curtis (Breslin) discover that Scott is in violation of his Santa contract. As it turns out, Scott must find a wife before Christmas Eve or else he will be “de-Santafied”, meaning no more Santa, no more North Pole, and no more Christmas. Leaving a facsimile of himself in charge at the North Pole, Scott heads out to begin searching for his Mrs. Claus. As sparks fly between Scott and repressed school principal Carol Newman (Mitchell), Scott is also forced to deal with his now-teenaged son Charlie (Lloyd; reprising his role from the original) whose name is on the “naughty” list due to troubles at school.
Six writers were credited for the screenplay for The Santa Clause 2, which makes the subpar result all the more baffling. For starters, an enormous plot hole emerges almost immediately: if Scott needs a wife to continue reigning as Santa, why has it taken eight years for the elves to inform him? And why does it take eight years for the clause to take effect? Secondly, it would seem the writers figured that kids might not be too interested in a Santa romance, so they conceived of a couple of terrible additional subplots. The first involves a Santa stand-in who adopts Hitler-style dictatorial tendencies. It’s not funny or interesting, and doesn’t work because it just gives the narrative an unneeded villain. Meanwhile, the film also deals with a formulaic, painfully trite subplot regarding Charlie’s misbehaviour at school – it leads nowhere, and merely exists to give Scott a convenient way to meet his future wife. Even the ending doesn’t work; it’s silly and overly sentimental. As a result of the unnecessary subplots, the movie feels far too padded out at an interminable 100 minutes. There’s simply not enough energy or charm to sustain interest throughout.
Everything within The Santa Clause 2 feels calculated, generic and schmaltzy, to the point that – even though it was produced on a generous $65 million budget – the North Pole feels like a studio soundstage rather than a magical location. Director Michael Lembeck made his feature-film debut here. The lacklustre production values could be attributed to Lembeck who was perhaps unable to make every cent count, or perhaps Disney used most of the budget to pay Tim Allen. The special effects are bad enough to be embarrassing, with painfully obvious digital effects and phoney green-screen work. Making matters worse is the overabundance of cheesy Disney-esque moments, and the fact that the tone is very childish and slapstick (this is a dumbed-down, G-rated sequel to a PG-rated film). While The Santa Clause 2 is inoffensive entertainment, it simply lacks the charm and magic which characterised its predecessor. Granted, there are a few scenes which work and keep things afloat momentarily, but these moments of brilliance are squandered by the tedious, unfunny bullshit surrounding it.
In the role of Scott Calvin/Santa Claus, Tim Allen is at least serviceable. His on-screen charisma has diminished since the first film, but he’s by no means grating or unwatchable. Alongside him, Elizabeth Mitchell ably carried out the simplistic role of Carol Newman. Allen and Mitchell do have chemistry, and their scenes together constitute the best moments that the film has to offer. Also in the cast is Eric Lloyd, who – as the result of eight years of natural aging – looks nothing like he did in the original film. Unfortunately, his acting skills did not improve over the years. Judge Reinhold and Wendy Crewson also returned here, but failed to make much of an impact. Newcomer Spencer Breslin, meanwhile, is absolutely intolerable and overreaching. The only bright spot is Liliana Mumy, who’s adorable and effective as young Lucy. Not to mention, David Krumholtz is amiable as Bernard. Interestingly, Peter Boyle has a small cameo here as Father Time, and Boyle starred in the original film as a completely different character.
The best children’s movies are those which appeal to adults as much as children. 1994’s The Santa Clause was a good example of this, and it was therefore solid Christmastime family entertainment. The Santa Clause 2, on the other hand, may appeal to kids but will prove to be a gruelling slog for anyone older than 12 or 13. To give you an idea of how clever the material is, the one and only laugh is in the first 30 seconds – a man describes noise coming from the North Pole as sounding like “tiny hammers”. It is safe to say that The Santa Clause 2 did not need to be made, and the laughless, joyless, agonising final product only solidifies this notion.