The Santa Clause 2 Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, October 31, 2012
It took eight years and five (seven
, if you count the "story by" credit) screenwriters to concoct a sequel to Disney's 1994
hit, The Santa Clause
, and then they
only wrote half a good story. That's the half in which Tim
Allen's Scott Calvin suddenly discovers a second "clause" on the card he took from the coat
pocket of the previous Santa, thereby accepting a contract to become Santa Claus. This one
requires him to get married, if he wants to continue in the job. The portions of SC2
plotline had intriguing potential, beginning with the classic romantic comedy element of
opposites attracting, then veering off into unknown territory, as the woman who falls for Scott
faces a momentous decision. It's an extreme version of the choice faced by anyone contemplating
a life partnership: Am I ready to take a leap of faith into something wholly new and unknown?
squanders that potential in a few rushed scenes, because its writers' room spent most of
their effort dreaming up big, splashy action and effects sequences full of elves, animatronic
animals, peripheral characters called the "Legendary Figures" and a fake plastic Santa who, for
no obvious reason other than as a pretext for nutty routines, becomes a technocratic fascist and
stages a coup at the North Pole. I suspect the writers enjoyed creating a villain with a false smile
and fake hair and buffed skin. It was their subversive revenge on the L.A. executive suite, who
may not even have noticed the reference. (Or, if it did, they thought, "But that's not me
." Yeah, it
had the twin benefits of a big budget and the charms of Tim Allen (in dual roles) and
Elizabeth Mitchell as the yummy but stern principal of now-teenaged Charlie Calvin's school.
(The never-married principal and Charlie's extremely available dad fight when they first meet.
Need I say more?) These qualities continue to give the film some entertainment value, but it has
no staying power, and parts of it just grate. As a reviewer, I had no choice but to sit through Scott
Calvin's blind date with SNL
's Molly Shannon, but anyone who can do so willingly is made of
sterner stuff than me.
opens promisingly, as the elves under the leadership of Santa (Allen) and head elf Bernard
(David Krumholtz) evade the electronic eyes and ears of a military surveillance aircraft. It's a
sharply written and edited sequence that effectively showcases the elaborate production design
and also demonstrates how well the new Santa has settled into his role during the last eight years.
Then comes the bad news, which Bernard insists be delivered by his
assistant, Curtis (Spencer
Breslin, brother of Abigail), because Bernard doesn't give bad news. Curtis, who's something of
a techno-nerd, has found the other clause, the so-called "Mrs." clause, buried deep inside the
contract. No one bothers to explain why it hasn't kicked in during the previous eight years, but
now that they know about it, Curtis and Bernard inform Santa that he must get married by
Christmas Eve, or he'll cease being Santa. Indeed, the "de-Santa-fication process" happens right
in front of them through the magic of CGI, as Santa begins reverting to the former Scott Calvin.
To make matters worse, Charlie Calvin (Eric Lloyd, less cute as a teen, but still a decent actor)
has landed himself on the "naughty" list, after being caught tagging the school gym with an
enormous piece of graffiti mocking the principal, Carol Newman (Mitchell). Santa now has two
good reasons to re-enter his former life, where ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson) and her shrink
husband, Dr. Neil Miller (Judge Reinhold), know his secret identity and try, with the best of
intentions, to help Scott Calvin a/k/a Santa get a date.
Scott Calvin and Principal Newman are the main attraction here. The sparks fly from the moment
they meet at a conference to discuss Charlie's misbehavior, with Laura and Dr. Neil largely
relegated to the sidelines, where they remain for most of the film. Even Charlie has to take a
secondary role, handing off the adorable moppet part to his new half-sister, Lucy (Liliana Mumy,
daughter of Bill Mumy of Lost in Space
and Babylon 5
). After a few disastrous dating attempts,
most of which ended up on the cutting room floor, Scott turns his attention to the only interesting
woman on the landscape and uses up nearly all his remaining "Santa magic" (as measured by a
special watch on his wrist) to win her over. At that point, Scott has to come clean about who he
is, and whap! the classic rom-com obstacle drops between him and the principal like a giant
All of this should have been more than enough for one film, but SC2
keeps cluttering up the story
with more. Take the Legendary Figures: Father Time (Peter Boyle), Mother Nature (Aisha Tyler),
Cupid (Kevin Pollak), the Easter Bunny (Jay Thomas), the Sandman (Michael Dorn) and the
Tooth Fairy (Art LaFleur). Sketch comedy concepts with zero connection to the Santa Claus
story line, these characters have a meet with Santa early in the film where each of them gets to
deliver a few punchlines, most of them unmemorable. It's all a big setup to the reappearance of
one legendary figure late in the film to help solve the other big plot distraction that the writing
team has piled on: Toy Santa.
Toy Santa is a duplicate Santa created by Curtis the elf to take Santa's place while he deals with
earthbound business as Scott Calvin. (Why do we need
a duplicate Santa at the North Pole? Uh,
never mind.) Jolly and robotic at first, Toy Santa becomes obsessed with rules and decides that
all children are naughty and should receive coal in their stockings. He creates an army of giant
toy soldiers (the allusion to March of the Wooden Soldiers
should be obvious) to enforce his will
on the elves and trades in his red suit for a stylish generalissimo uniform. Toy Santa also imprisons
Bernard, and when Scott returns to put things right, takes off with the reindeer, thereby setting
the stage for a massive showdown and chase scene involving the entire population of Elfsburg.
By the time we get back to the "Mrs." clause, a lot of interesting plot has to be rushed through,
and that's really too bad.
The Santa Clause 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Santa Clause 2
was released in the same year as Sweet Home Alabama
, another Disney
catalog title I recently reviewed, and it too didn't benefit from a digital intermediate, but it looks
a lot better on Disney's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray. No doubt part of the improvement is a
function of the original cinematography by Adam Greenberg, whose trademark blacks and cyans
were essential to the look of James Cameron's two Terminator
films and can also be spotted in
and the first Rush Hour
. But overall the most likely cause is that SC2
received a superior
(and perhaps more recent) scan. In any case, the image is sharp, clear and noiseless, with just a
possible touch of grain reduction here and there. However, to the extent any grain reduction has
been applied, it appears to have been done lightly with the kind of software tools that don't strip detail.
You can see every pattern and strand on Dr. Neil's extensive and questionable sweater collection.
Colors are bright, varied and saturated, especially at the North Pole, where everything is jolly, at
least until the Toy Santa begins bringing in huge loads of coal. Then the transfer is good enough
to show the impact as coal dust gets everywhere, darkening the realm of the elves until the real
Santa returns to restore the reign of cheer, cookies and cocoa.