Even though I am a well-known softie when it comes to Christmas movies, “The Santa Clause 2” gets a “bah humbug” from me.
Indeed, if the Ghost of Christmas Present had shown Ebenezer Scrooge “The Santa Clause 2,” they both might have just given up on the whole thing. This overstuffed turkey of a movie wraps itself in holly and hot cocoa only to come to the conclusion that the magic of Christmas is…getting presents. When it comes to the true Christmas spirit, this movie makes “Home Alone” look like “The Gift of the Magi.”
In part one, modern day Scrooge and bitter divorced dad Tim Allen finds that Santa has fallen off his roof and died. He puts on Santa’s red coat and finds that he is now the new Santa, complete with North Pole workshop and eight tiny reindeer. Allen saves Christmas and saves himself by getting in touch with his inner Santa, generous and unabashedly mushy.
This time, Allen fnds out that there is one more “Santa Clause” in his obligation to take over. He has to marry a Mrs. Clause before Christmas, only 28 days away. He goes back home to visit his son Charlie (Eric Lloyd), so that he can find out how Charlie got on the “naughty” list and find a Mrs. Claus to bring back to the North Pole.
Charlie is in trouble for vandalizing the school with graffiti protesting the principal’s refusal to celebrate Christmas. The principal is very stern and, well, Scrooge-ish, but you can tell that if she would just take off those glasses and let down her hair, she would be very warm and pretty. I think you get where this is going.
Meanwhile, back at the North Pole, Santa has left a mechanical substitute (also played by Allen), who gets wired on a couple of gallons of hot cocoa and decides that all the children have been naughty and will get lumps of coal in their stockings this year.
Yes, it has Disney’s meticulously imagnative art direction, and that workshop on the North Pole has some charm. Allen’s comic timing is always a pleasure and co-star Elizabeth Mitchell has a lovely laugh. But the overall theme that Christmas is about getting the perfect gift, even if you haven’t been entirely good, compounded by intrusive product placements for McDonald’s and Nestle, will leave the audience feeling like it has just eaten an entire plum pudding.
As with the first film, parents should use caution in bringing children who may be grappling with the issue of Santa’s existence to see this, and should be prepared to discuss their own traditions and beliefts.
Parents should know that the movie has some bathroom humor. A character tries to yank out his tooth to get the tooth fairy to come (and apparently succeeds, off camera). Parents should talk to younger kids to make sure they do not imitate this behavior. While the movie has strong, intelligent female characters, the elves (played by children) conform to 1950’s-era stereotypes, with the boys creating toys and playing football while the girls deliver the cookies and cocoa. There are very few minority characters and the movie does not acknowledge any other religious or cultural holiday traditions.
Families who see this movie should talk about how Charlie feels about keeping the secret of his father’s life as Santa. And they should talk about how a big disappointment can make someone afraid to try to be happy. Talk about the scene in which adults play with their favorite childhood toys. Which would you like to have again?
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the original and Christmas classics like “A Muppet Christmas Carol” and “White Christmas.”