Director – Michael Lembeck, Screenplay – Ken Daurio, Ed Decter, Cinco Paul, Don Rhymer & John Strauss, Story – Leo Benvenuti & Steve Rudnick, Producers – Robert F. Newmeyer, Brian Reilly & Jeffrey Silver, Photography – Craig Haagensen, Music – George S. Clinton, Visual Effects Supervisor – David Yrrisani, Visual Effects – GTVFX (Supervisor – John Gajdecki) & Tippet Studio (Supervisor – Brennan Lloyd), Special Effects Supervisor – Dean Lockwood, Animatronic/Makeup Effects – ADI (Supervisors – Alec Gillis & Tom Woodruff Jr), Production Design – Tony Burrough. Production Company – Disney/Outlaw Productions/Boxing Cat Films
Tim Allen (Scott Calvin/Santa Claus/Toy Santa), Elizabeth Mitchell (Carol Newman), Eric Lloyd (Charlie Calvin), David Krumholtz (Bernard), Spencer Breslin (Curtis), Judge Reinhold (Neal Miller), Wendy Crewson (Laura Miller), Art LaFleur (The Tooth Fairy), Liliana Mumy (Lucy Miller), Danielle Woodman (Abby)
Scott Calvin, the man who became Santa Claus, is enjoying preparations for another Christmas when the elves inform him that there is another Santa Clause – that he has to find a wife within 28 days or he will no longer be Santa. Almost immediately, Scott starts losing his beard and paunch. He also learns that his son Charlie has been getting in trouble at school. Scott returns to St Paul to help Charlie, as well as to search for a wife. He meets Charlie’s principal, the initially authoritarian Carol Newman, and starts wooing her. Meanwhile, back at the North Pole, one of the elves has made a plastic copy of Santa to supervise operations in Scott’s lieu. However, the replacement Santa goes out of control, constructing an army of toy soldiers and deciding that all children will be punished this Christmas by being given lumps of coal instead of presents.
The Santa Clause (1994) was a film that was no more than a cute tv movie concept that had somehow stumbled onto the big screen. It was a huge hit, a surprise even to its creators it seems. The sole reason for its success was the starring presence of Tim Allen, who was then riding the coattails of tv’s hit sitcom Home Improvement (1991-9). Had the film featured a lesser-known star, it probably would not have made a cinematic release.
Disney produced two sequels, starting here. They had the initial embarrassment of releasing a trailer for The Santa Clause 2 in 2000 and then having to retract the announcement after finding that the production had not been contractually greenlighted. Eventually the sequel did emerge here and even obtained some surprisingly good reviews. Certainly, The Santa Clause 2 is a better film than the original – somewhat. In particular, it appears designed for the cinema screen. The first film with its anonymous tv-styled production values and near-avoidance of anything fantastique has been replaced by lavishly-detailed North Pole sets and the likes of animated toy soldiers, talking and flying reindeer, climactic fights aboard a flying sleigh and appearances from various other mythic creatures (Mother Nature, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, Cupid, even Michael Dorn (alias Star Trek‘s Klingon warrior Worf) as The Sandman).
It is all very contrived – a second Santa clause, the requirement that Santa find a wife in 28 days, a replacement Santa who for no clear reason turns evil. There is occasional sparkle to some of the romance between Tim Allen and schoolteacher Elizabeth Mitchell and in some of Allen’s earlier scenes as evil Santa. On the other hand, none of these story elements are dealt with in any vaguely challenging way – Elizabeth Mitchell’s authoritarian school principal renounces her anal retentive hard-headedness within two scenes and becomes standard romantic fodder thereafter; while Eric Lloyd’s son gives strong impression of having developed authority issues owing to the lack of a father in his life, the situation is barely even dwelt on and is only resolved by a restoration of the status quo at the start of the film. Tim Allen rarely gets a chance to let his comedic talents shine. Elsewhere, The Santa Clause 2 is a film driven by cuddly sentimentality, weak laughs and the presumption that Yuletide warmth alone will bring audiences in, hang the need to give them anything of substance. It is hard to understand what made the film such a hit, let alone garnered such glowing reviews from the American mainstream press.
Tim Allen, director Michael Lembeck and most of the cast returned for a further sequel The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006). Michael Lembeck went onto direct another film about mythical characters with Tooth Fairy (2010).