As a full-service holiday movie, "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause"gets you into the mood to shop early and often by making the North Polelook like a shopping mall with a never-ending school pageant. Maybeyou're not ready to deal with this stuff yet. The movies don't care ifyou are or not.
And here's something else you'd better get used to: "The Santa Clause"is going to be around for a long while as a holiday franchise. At thestart in 1994, we only had to deal with dysfunctional dad Scott Calvin(Tim Allen) mutating into Jolly Old St. Nick. It took eight years forDisney to decide Santa Scott needed a wife. So he married a high schoolprincipal (Elizabeth Mitchell). Now, we've got Scott's in-laws (Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret) to worry about and a Baby Santa on the way. Silverbells, indeed!
Maybe with more characters to play with, the next half-dozen or soinstallments won't need to rely so much on someone like Martin Short tojazz up the proceedings. As Jack Frost, the envious sprite who conspiresto take over Santa's gig, Short gets to sneer, glower and slither allover the place. He's a hoot whether he's doing a Broadway shtick,toadying up to the elves or cuddling up to Ann-Margret. (Did he reallycall her "kitten"? That's going to jab loose some memories in the olderparents' -- or grandparents' -- memory banks.)
Allen, meanwhile, seems content to just carry the enterprise on hispadded tummy -- that is, until his Santa is tricked by Jack into wishinghis way back to his svelte Scott self as the movie goes "A Christmas Carol" on us and shows a North Pole run by Frost as a chintzy touristattraction. One could insert a slew of unintended ironies here. But,heck, it's the holidays, right?
In case things aren't complicated enough, Santa brings along his ex-wife(Wendy Crewson), her therapist hubby (Judge Reinhold) and their youngdaughter (Liliana Mumy, the spitting image of her dad, Bill "Danger,Will Robinson!" Mumy). The movie leans a lot on Ms. Mumy's doe-eyedgazes. They're useful as an early-warning device that Something VerySpecial is about to happen.