Over three movies, Disney’s The Santa Clause franchise changes from an emotional and often clever family story to a visual spectacle mostly set in the North Pole. One side of the story is definitely more interesting than the others, and it doesn’t take the Easter Bunny to figure out which.
The Santa Clause 3-Movie Collection is a really funny box set. Like many eventual film collections, The Santa Clause was not meant to be a trilogy. With a director change-up between the first and second film and a whole new set of rules implemented in each movie, it’s no surprise the series would be a little inconsistent.
Part of the problem is that The Santa Clause was never meant to be a continuing story. By the time Disney got around to making a sequel, the first film—and Tim Allen’s career—was nearly ten years old. All of the joie de vivre and cuteness Charlie (Eric Lloyd) exhibits is lost in a teen juvenile delinquent plotline, and by the third film, Charlie has almost been completely displaced. This is not surprising, as the series prefers to hone in on Santa’s relationship with children, but it is a telling reminder that The Santa Clause, The Santa Clause 2, and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause were made years and years apart.
If you somehow missed all three of The Santa Clause films over the last couple of decades, the plot in each film surrounds Tim Allen’s Scott Calvin (aka Santa Claus), a man who must deal with various misadventures around the holidays. Each film offers some weird sort of Santa dilemma, as well as a family issue Santa must deal with to keep some semblance of balance in his life.
One of the thing’s the films do well is bring back many of the same characters to connect the story. While there is some changeover between movie number on and number three, Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd, Judge Reinhold, and Wendy Crewson all appear throughout the series, and several other actors, including David Krumholtz, Spencer Breslin, and Elizabeth Mitchell appear in at least two of the flicks.
It’s difficult to fault such a successful initial film and set of characters for producing sequels, but the problem with creating a second and third film is that once all of the main players agree Scott Calvin is Santa Claus, the basis of the humor changes. The first installment works because it plays with the idea of fact and fiction, faith and rationality, and different parenting styles. By the second movie, Scott has totally settled into his new gig, his son has grown up and learned to shut his mouth about the big Santa secret, and even the conflict with Scott’s ex-wife and her new husband has evaporated, leaving uncomplicated Christmas cheer. The Santa Clause 2 and 3 go wilder with the concepts, introducing time travel and characters like the Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost, but it’s far less clever than the more streamlined original film.
There are a few great moments with the set, but overall, it’s a conflicted mess. Disney’s sets are usually so careful, but this time they simply took three separate Blu-ray copies and tied them together with a bit of outside packaging. A prime example of this is that the three separate movies don’t have similar packaging or even the same clasps to open and shut the cases.
Let’s get to the bonus stuff, though. Although it is also available in a single, this release marks the first time The Santa Clause has been available on Blu-ray. The picture looks a little cleaned up, but the extras on the disc are all leftovers from the DVD release or random finds Disney threw on to make the disc look more enticing. In the latter category, there is an animated short and some cooking TV spots with some of the elves and Wolfgang Puck.
The Santa Clause 2’s extras are probably most notable for a lengthy behind-the-scenes segment which features Spencer Breslin, the child actor who is probably best known for The Kid, or maybe for being the brother to other child actor Abigail Breslin (who appears in The Santa Clause 3). Director Michael Lembeck pops up in a few other featurettes, which are a little confusing. The actors stay in character while Lembeck questions them, which could work in another movie, but since kids are the most likely audience for the extras, I’m not really sure what the purpose these extras serve.
By the time The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is popped in, the menu page is a little more complicated and more of the standard extras are available (including audio commentary, etc.) There are a ton of featurettes and more interactive stuff for the kids, including a “Virtual Holiday Decorator,” a music video, and a Christmas Carol-oke. This disc also benefits from the relationship between Martin Short and Tim Allen, who seemed to have had a whole lot of fun together on set. A weird alternate opening scene is available, which flashes back to the original The Santa Clause film. There’s a lot to the disc, and it’s sort of a bummer that, as a whole, the latter flick is the least endearing.
If I could trade the extras with the third movie with the quality of the first movie in the film, I would gladly do it; however, that’s not the way the cookie crumbled. There are a slew of extras with the set, but there isn’t a whole lot of new stuff, and as a whole, the 3-Movie Collection feels slap-dashed together. If you really love the three movies, this could be the perfect buy, but otherwise, I would say pass.