Author: Mark Bautista
All Photos Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures
Welcome to the first edition of “Mark’s Nostalgia Corner!” Every month, I’ll share a bit of movie or TV magic from my childhood and see if it still holds up today.
Warning: Spoilers for The Santa Clause 2 below.
It’s the holiday time of year, so I thought I’d dip back into the Christmas well and talk about a movie that doesn’t seem to get a lot of love in the Yuletide cinematic canon: The Santa Clause 2. It’s the second movie in that series of films made by Disney a long, long time ago, starring Tim Allen as an uptight, sarcastic businessman who stumbles into the mantle of Santa Claus. These holiday movies, especially the second, were holiday staples in my house back in the day, so I thought I’d revisit my favorite for my Nostalgia Corner!
I used to watch the VHS of this film all the time when I was younger, even when it wasn’t Christmas. I think it was because it starred Tim Allen as Santa and, when I was five, the logic was that if Tim Allen was in a movie, it was the cream of the crop. It was true for the Toy Story movies, so it just had to be true for The Santa Clause 2. And so, I wore out the VHS film on this baby for years; in a curious mix of sadness and pride, it’s no longer in commission.
I revisit the movie every so often when it’s on ABC Family/Freeform during the holidays, and I re-watched it recently for this review.
The premise of the whole series is that there are several clauses (haha) that the incumbent Santa must fulfill in order to keep the position. The last movie depicted how a toy tycoon named Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) donned the coat of the real-life Santa, thereby inheriting his position and all that entails, forcing him to leave his life in middle-class American life behind for the North Pole. This particular movie reveals that Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) overlooked one major condition during his eight-year tenure as St. Nick: he needs a Mrs. Claus. If he doesn’t find a wife by the end of the month, before Christmas, he’ll stop being Santa forever.
This is a kid’s movie, and a silly, goofy one with farting reindeer gags, but why do some filmmakers think that just because the demographic is young the story doesn’t make sense? Forgive me for taking the lore and logic of The Santa Clause 2 seriously, but what happens to the North Pole if Santa/Calvin doesn’t find a wife? The previous movie established that one only becomes Santa if they put on the coat of the recently-deceased predecessor—if Calvin doesn’t find a wife and therefore stops being Santa, does he just die for the next successor? Do the elves of the North Pole just have a closet of back-up humans, ready to take on the mantle for this discrepancy? We see Calvin losing his fat, his beard, and whiteness in his hair as the “Desantafication” process goes on, but we don’t know what will happen after he goes back to looking like 2002 Tim Allen. We are just supposed to want him to keep being Santa for the sake of the movie, but other than him having the best cinematic Santa makeup and garb I’ve ever seen, there’s really no other reason for him to be Santa than “just cuz.”
And then there’s the issue with his finding a wife. There’s a problematic trope in lots of older movies that perpetuate the notion that successful women are ice queens and just need a fun-loving, goofy guy to get them to relax. The Santa Clause 2 has this trope. Carol Newman (Elizabeth Mitchell) is the principal of Calvin’s son’s school, and the iciest of all ice queens. She asks a trouble-maker student to tell her what he sees in her eyes, and the kid says, “It’s cold and it’s dark.”
“It’s your future if you keep up this behavior,” she sneers. That being said, she’s an effective disciplinarian, and a chaperone for student community service. But then the movie says she’s unhappy because she doesn’t have the spirit of Christmas in her heart. Scott Calvin is the putative cure, using his abrasive nature as a counterbalance to Newman’s coldness. Again, it’s a kid’s movie, so you probably know by now that she ends up as Mrs. Claus, but how anticlimactic for her is that? Especially after only dating for less than one month, she’s doomed to an eternal fate of being… a wife? Not exactly an inspiring story/role model.
Don’t get me wrong; there are some good parts in this movie. The scenes where Scott uses his Christmas magic to liven up a teacher/faculty Christmas party with their childhood toys is particularly touching. And, there’s also an insane sequence when a plastic clone of Santa stages a fascist coup of the North Pole in a dogmatic attempt to preserve the integrity of the Naughty and Nice List. But as an adult, I find that there are some qualities of the film that just don’t hold up, especially in the way that Carol and Scott “fall” in love. It feels contrived/lazy and adds a sad element to the Christmas story that I hadn’t previously considered. There are just too many inconsistencies that any movie magic that may have come from the film’s tender moments are weakened by the sleigh bells of logic ringing ferociously in your ear.
Good or Nostalgia?: NOSTALGIA ONLY.
Mark Bautista | Peanut Butter Enthusiast | KXSU Arts Reporter