The Santa Clause 2 **1/2
One Liner Review:
A pretty decent follow-up to the original, this one gets creative in a number of interesting ways, but still can’t measure up to the concepts that were put in place by the first movie.
This is an okay sequel. It’s not bad, but it’s not particularly memorable either. The movie knows that it can’t do the same story all over again, the way many sequels do, and so it comes up with three different stories to tell all at once. There’s the story of Scott Calvin (Santa’s) kid, Charlie, and how he keeps getting into trouble at school. Then there’s the story of the bad robot-like Santa up in the North Pole who Scott gets to replace him while he’s away, before realizing that this plastic version is actually evil. And then there’s the story of how Scott needs to fall in love to fulfill the new “Santa Clause – Santa Contract,” which says he needs to get married. Each of these stories is fine on its own, but squished together into this movie, none of them is really given the time to explore or make them feel right. Charlie’s story doesn’t get any follow-through, the romantic story has some nice scenes to it, but ends up falling apart in terms of logic, when you realize that the woman he’s dating should believe Scott about who he is, after everything she has seen him do. And then there’s the Bad Santa story. it’s the most interesting of the bunch, but even this one falls apart when Santa brings in his army of giant toy soldiers who don’t actually do anything. There are some fun ideas here, like the council of holiday characters, but the humor and originality that made the first movie work, are definitely missing this time around.
The Santa Clause 2 isn’t bad. In fact, it’s better than one might expect. You see, most sequels tend to copy exactly what the first movie did and just make the actual events slightly different, while keeping the beats all the same. So it’s always like, “here’s the sequel’s version of that scene from the original movie.” This is especially true of kids’ movies. Just look at Home Alone 2 as an example, and how nearly everything that happens is a take on what happened in the first movie, including the black and white gangster movie joke and the pigeon lady being a take on the shoveling man. But the Santa Clause 2 is one of those rare sequels that actually goes in some very different directions. The movie features three different storylines, and all of them are somewhat creative. And yet the movie still can’t compete with the original film, just because the overall concept is no longer fresh. There’s something to be said about original films, and how the only sequels that are actually better (Terminator 2, Aliens,) are radically different than the first movie’s, up the ante in major ways, and make significant improvements in terms of excitement.
The three storylines going on here in the Santa Clause 2 are all just okay. Yes, they are unusual and somewhat creative, but no, none of them is handled quite right. Storyline one is about Charlie (Scott Calvin – Tim Allen’s son,) and how he keeps getting into trouble at school. Storyline two is about Scott (Santa,) needing to find a wife And storyline three is about a bad Santa in the north pole is like a plastic clone that has some very different ideas about Christmas. Of these three stories, the one that actually works the best is the villainous Santa story, probably because that’s the one that is the most extreme and different. And that plastic Santa look is just fantastic.
That’s also the story that this movie gets to last. Which is understandable, considering it is so out there, the movie wants to start by building up to the wacky ideas with some realism first. That’s why it begins with Charlie breaking into a school. He uses a rope to swing down into the gymnasium at night, like he’s a rock climber and then spray paints a giant mural that says “Newman,” and has a picture of a Christmas tree crossed out. A little dialogue to put this picture in context beforehand would have gone a long way. Charlie was with the girl he liked, up on the roof before swinging in, and maybe they could have discussed for a brief moment what he was about to draw. This is important for two reasons. First, we don’t know who Newman is at the moment we see his picture. And secondly, why is he crossing out a Christmas tree? One can assume, based on who is father is, that this means he is against Christmas spirit – kind of rebelling against his Dad. But this is not the case. As it turns out Newman is the principal and Charlie feels that she has no Christmas spirit, so the cartoon is meant to show that she is like a Scrooge.
Either way, as soon as you see this principal, you know what’s going to happen. The woman Carol Newman (played by Elizabeth Mitchell, of TV’s Lost,) is just too beautiful and too young to be the principal. Except for one idea. That she will become the love interest. She props up a ladder next to Charlie, right there in the gym, in the middle of the night, and she is wearing makeup and everything. Nevermind the question of what she’s doing there in the middle of the night, and how she must have saw him defacing property and then went to get a ladder instead of stopping him from doing anymore. It’s all meant for us to not ask those questions and instead be in favor of the joke of her appearing next to him, catching him in the act. And that’s fine. But having the principal be the love interest for Santa does feel a little forced.
Scott gets the news about Charlie being on the naughty list while he is up at the North Pole. That tells Scott that he’s needed back at home, and so he invents the plastic Santa to take his spot with overseeing things at the factory. Meanwhile, Scott goes back to his family and shows up to a meeting at the school with Scott’s ex-wife Laura, and her new husband, Neil (Judge Reinhold.) In the last movie, Scott and Neil were at odds the entire film, with Laura sort of being in between them. But by the end of the movie, both Laura and Neil came to believe that Scott was Santa and all seemed right between the three of them. Only here, Scott is immediately back at it again, making fun of Neil. In fact, that’s the way nearly the entire meeting in the principal’s office goes. It was funny in the first movie, but here it feels like they are just trying to maintain it because it worked in that movie, even though it probably wouldn’t be like that anymore.
Scott continues to go back and forth between the North Pole and his home in America, at first. During one of these trips, between places, he stops by a meeting of the holiday spirits. There he comes across the Tooth Fairy (a man,) Mother Nature, Father Time, The Easter Bunny, and Cupid (played by Kevin Pollack.) The idea here is pretty funny, in a Nightmare Before Christmas doors that lead to the holidays – kind of way. But the meeting itself doesn’t work. There’s nothing memorable that comes out of it. In fact, the whole purpose seems to be so that we can meet the Tooth Fairy who will have a small part in the movie later on. The holiday spirits ideas is a pretty good one, I just wish they had done more with it.
But the movie isn’t interested in the magical, fantasy world here. That’s why so little of this movie actually takes place in the North Pole. Instead, the main story here is the romance between Scott and Carol. And that story is incredibly weird, although the movie never addresses this fact. Scott shows up at her door one night. No announcement, no invitation, hell – she never even gives him her address. So this is incredibly creepy. Only Carol doesn’t say anything of it, and instead invites Scott in. And then things get even stranger when Carol invites Scott to her school Christmas party, and she opens the door to find a reindeer and a sled sitting outside her snow-covered house.
Instead of kicking this nut job out, like any normal person would, at this point, Carol actually gets into the sleigh with Scott, and the two of them ride down the snow covered streets at a galloping pace. The scene is fun, but also very strange. And Carol doesn’t seem to think anything of it. Later, when Scott goes to her Christmas party and surprises the entire staff with presents of toys they had when they were kids, Carol asks Scott how he did it. She thinks this something mysterious and maybe magical about this guy, and that all sounds great. Her amazement is fine. But what’s not fine is that when Scott actually tells her that he’s Santa, she insists that he’s lying. Sure the thought is crazy, but for all of the examples Scott has shown her throughout the night, there is no other explanation. How else can she explain the two of them riding in a sleigh pulled by a reindeer with a single snow cloud right over them, as they slid down the street?
Meanwhile, back up at the North Pole, bad Santa has completely taken over. First its just a football game against the elves where the plastic Santa runs over everyone and isn’t afraid to use violence. But then it gets worse. This new plastic, robot-like character creates an army of giant toy soldiers who start producing lumps of coal. Santa’s mission is to deliver coal to kids this Christmas instead of toys. The idea isn’t very bright, but for a kid’s movie, it’s fine. This bad Santa is an intentionally cartoonish villain, and he’s got kind of a funny mission. But the giant toy soldiers look ridiculous. Their mouths and faces don’t even move. If only they had shelled out the same kind of money for effects with these guys that they did for plastic Santa or ever the reindeer here.
The Santa Clause 2 is an okay movie. It’s not nearly as good as the first film, and the first one wasn’t great itself, but it definitely felt original. Here, the sequel definitely deserves points for being willing to go dark (the Charlie story, the bad Santa story,) but for the most part those stories don’t have follow through. They have a nice starting point, but then seem to have nowhere to go afterwards. Especially the Charlie story. This kid has a couple of conversations with his dad about how hard it is to be the son of Santa and not be able to tell people what his dad does for a living, and then the next thing you know, he’s all better. No more rebelling. That could have been the most interesting story of the bunch, if it had been willing to go a little deeper. But it doesn’t. And it just gets resolved with no actual explanation. Now that’s pretty much the story of this movie. Some fun ideas from time to time, but nothing that really lasts or has strong execution. This is the kind of movie that’s okay while you are watching it, but it’s instantly forgettable afterwards. And that’s a shame, because the plastic Santa idea was pretty cool. It looked fantastic. But in terms of story, it was nothing special, and actually felt more like the Robin Williams movie Toys, than anything else. That is to say, it wasn’t very compelling at all, and instead, was worth a quick laugh and nothing more. This movie is a fine sequel, but it’s certainly nothing special.