Christmas movies aren’t usually something that get a number of sequels, so there weren’t many choices when the holiday season rolled around and Toronto Film Scene wanted to explore a holiday franchise. In fact, The Santa Clause may be the only film to actually get a trilogy. There are a few films that have managed to get a direct-to-video sequel, but two films doesn’t make a franchise. Starring Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, the popular series was shot mainly in Canada and has managed to become a part of Christmas tradition over the years. With 2014 marking the 20th anniversary of the first film, Toronto Film Scene is looking at The Santa Clause, a franchise that started out very strongly, but quickly came to an end in 2006.
The Santa Clause
The first film in the series was a huge success. Directed by John Pasquin, who had previously worked with Tim Allen on his television show Home Improvement, the film gathered very positive reviews, and a huge profit. Made for an estimated budget of $22 million, with the worldwide gross being just under $190 million, it was inevitable that a franchise would be born here. It’s an odd place to start, as the premise of the film is that Scott Calvin (Allen), must take over the duties of Santa Claus after he accidentally frightens Santa on his roof, causing Santa to fall to his death. It seems a bit unusual to think that such a popular family film basically begins with somebody killing Santa, although those with a slightly darker sense of humour may not be surprised when they realize that Disney is behind the film. There’s always a touch of death in a Disney film.
It didn’t seem to matter that Santa Claus met his end after a snowy slip from the roof, as the film was certainly a huge hit. It’s also one of the few holiday films that looks behind the scenes at how Santa became the man that he is. This gives the movie a unique kind of twist, while still managing to include all the usual holiday film clichés, like somebody realizing what the true meaning of Christmas is. It’s sappy without overdoing it, and a lot of that has to do with Tim Allen, who walks a fine line between grump and good guy through most of the film. The Santa Clause even has a bit of a Canadian connection, with the film being shot mostly in Oakville, Ontario, and even using reindeer from the Toronto Zoo.
The Santa Clause 2
After the success of the first film, the purse strings were loosened for The Santa Clause 2. With an estimated budget of $60 million, nearly triple the original, it seemed like everybody was expecting the series to take off. This time around, Scott (Allen) learns that there is a second clause to becoming Santa, and that’s the Mrs. Clause. See what they did there? In order to continue being Santa, Scott must find a wife, and he’s only got about a month to pull it off before Christmas comes, and he’ll no longer be Santa. On top of all that, his son Charlie (Eric Lloyd reprising his role from the first film) is on the naughty list. To keep things running smoothly, Scott and his elves have a fake Santa created, who winds up trying to take over the North Pole.
The film started out strongly, having a much better opening weekend than the first film, but eventually failing to gather the same worldwide gross, coming in at just under $173 million. This film actually features some of the better moments in the series, like when Scott begins dating Carol (Elizabeth Mitchell) and takes her on a date to remember. The problem there is that this winds up being more of a romantic comedy set at Christmas. It’s also a problem that Allen plays the creepy looking toy Santa who takes over the North Pole. The character is incredibly irritating, and is actually hard to watch, which makes the entire film vary wildly in terms of success. The highs are high, but the lows are unbearable.
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
It seems obvious that there was a total loss of faith with the third entry in this series. Reception of the second film was mixed, and the estimated budget for The Santa Clause 3 was only $12 million. That’s a pretty big difference from the $60 million for the second film. Perhaps it was the lack of cash, or the simple fact that the film just doesn’t work well, but reception was as chilly as Martin Short’s character, Jack Frost. This time around, Scott finds out there is one final clause; the escape clause. This means that any Santa can return to their life before they became Santa, as if it never happened. Obviously Scott doesn’t want this to happen, especially since Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell) is pregnant, and Scott quite enjoys being Santa. Jack Frost (Short) is desperate to get his own holiday, and realizes that if he can trick Scott into using the escape clause, he can finally become Santa.
Although the reviews weren’t very good, the film still generated a gross of just over $100 million worldwide. That’s not a bad number for a $12 million budget, but it wasn’t enough to keep the series going. To be honest, this film isn’t any worse than the previous films, and is certainly one that kids can enjoy. It’s just not as entertaining for the adults as the previous films were, and that’s the biggest problem. The third film seems to have been quickly forgotten and rarely seems to air during the holidays, although the first two parts can be seen quite frequently.
Without any plans for a fourth film, viewers will just have to be satisfied with what they already have. Perhaps it’s time for the series to get the always popular reboot. They could always have Tim Allen fall off the roof, passing on the legacy to another Santa. They eliminated one Santa, so what’s wrong with getting rid of one more?