I do not come from wealthy people. Those of you who grew up similarly know that Christmas was not always that magical, miraculous holiday it’s been made out to be. Anyone, for instance, who got BMG or Columbia House stickers/stamps with pictures of cassettes on Christmas Day — with the promise of eight new tapes in six to eight weeks and four more a month later! — knows what I’m talking about. Worse were those Christmas mornings you opened presents (wrapped in aluminum foil or the comics section) only to discover items that were lying around your Dad’s bedroom the day before, like a wind-up camera with a few flashes left, videotapes with shows you’d been given permission to tape over, or — in the case of my little brother on his 12th Christmas — a collection of Playboy magazines our father no longer needed because he’d come out of the closet that year. I’d seen enough holiday films, of course, to know that it was the thought that counted, but I also knew that — in the movies anyway — the poor kid still got his goddamn Red Rider BB gun, just as long as he had the requisite Christmas spirit.
My “Christmas spirit,” unfortunately, was broken during the last Christmas that I believed in Santa Claus, which — as I recall — was in the first grade. There was nothing in the world I wanted more that year than an electric racecar track — the kind you snap together yourself and squeeze a little trigger to watch a matchbox-sized car whir around and — if you took the turns too fast — fly off the roadway. I begged my parents for it. I wrote letters to Santa. And I even left the bearded bastard a portion of my Hamburger Helper dinner in lieu of cookies and milk we could not afford. And on Christmas morning when I woke up and frantically unwrapped my gift, I was initially overcome with joy. There it was: An electric racecar track! Unfortunately, whatever elation I’d felt in that instant was immediately pushed aside by the discovery that the racetrack was not only missing several snap pieces, but that there was a strip of masking tape stuck to the box, which read “$2” in scrawled red ink.
My Santa Claus shopped at yard sales. And he was a bad motherfucking bargain hunter.
But I’d take that experience — and all the attendant eight-year-old devastation — all over again, if it meant that I’d never have had the misfortune of sitting through The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. How the hell am I supposed to rehabilitate my goddamn Christmas spirit with the current generation’s crop of shitty Christmas flicks? Seriously, when’s the last time Hollywood offered us a decent one, Elf notwithstanding? C’mon, people. I’m supposed to get worked up about a Santa Claus film where the major source of humor is Tim “I Ruined Christmas for Everyone” Allen and reindeer flatulence? Blitzen farted, y’all! How’s that for Christmas cheer? Why doesn’t Rudolph just take a shit on the roof of a house and Santa slip in it and fall to his death? Now, that’s funny. I swear to God: If it weren’t for the fact that BMG and Columbia House now offered 12 compact discs for a penny, instead of cassettes, I’d have given up this godforsaken holiday years ago (oh, and props to the DVD club, though five DVDs for $.49 is hardly a bargain).
I’ll make this short and sweet and — because it’s a Christmas film — use as much profanity as possible: Santa Claus (Tim Allen) is having family troubles. Mrs. Claus (“Lost’s” Elizabeth Mitchell) is pregnant and a week past her due date. Consequently, Santa needs some motherfucking help up in the North Pole from his in-laws (Alan Arkin and Ann Margret) so he can get his shit together, what with Christmas Day closing in and all those little incompetent elves unable to get it in gear. (As an aside — what kind of 21st-century elves are still futzing around with stuffed teddy bears and snow globes? Where are the goddamn iPods, the X-Boxes, and the transgender talking Barbies? Don’t tell me that Santa can deliver presents to every house in the world and squeeze that fat ass down 3 billion chimneys, but he hasn’t moved into the goddamn Internet age yet. Ridiculous.)
Anyway, Santa doesn’t want to give away the secret location of Santaland (it’s the North Pole, bitch) so — with the help of the Sandman, i.e. the token black character — he puts the in-laws into a deep sleep. When they wake up in Santa’s workshop, he tells them it’s Canada (the in-laws, for reasons that are unclear to me, think that Santa is a toy maker living in Canada). And, of course, because no one knows anything else about Canada, the North Pole is turned into a hockey-loving, maple-syrup eating holiday crapstravaganza where the only freakin’ English the elves appear to know anymore is “eh.” (And how ridiculous is it that they left out the fact that all Canadians are flappy-headed, beady-eyed lumberjack-Eskimos who live in Igloos and eat blubber?)
Also along for the ride are Santa’s ex-wife and her new-age, suburban, hippie husband, played by Judge Reinhold(!). I’m pretty sure the ex-wife and her husband have some sort of backstory, revealed in either one of the two previous films, but I haven’t seen either and — unless I’m looking to induce a coma — I don’t ever plan to.
The rub in The Santa Clause 3, however, comes from Jack Frost (Martin Short), an envious asshole who resents the fact that he doesn’t have his own holiday. So he basically does everything he can do to sabotage Christmas and trick Santa into reneging on his Kris Kringly commitments, thereby leaving an open position Mr. Frost intends to take. And, of course, he eventually manages to do just that, changing the North Pole into a freakin’ Vegas Theme Park where — and this is the only thing about the film that rings the least bit true — parents have to pay to get their kiddies on the “nice” list.
If you’re unlucky enough to get stuck in a theater showing The Santa Clause 3, it is at this point that you basically have two options: 1) You can bang your head on the seat in front of you and hope it knocks you unconscious, or 2) you can start to fantasize that the Jigsaw Murderer from Saw III, playing in the theater next door, finds his way into the film, plants a bear trap in Tim Allen’s mouth, and gives him 90 seconds to lay waste to his nine reindeer before the trap separates his jaw in two, delivering the necessary one-liner: “There’s your Christmas cheer, asshole!”
I chose the latter, and that has made all the difference. Merry Christmas!
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He is currently halfway through a three-year ‘sentence’ in upstate, NY, where he lives with his wife. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause / Dustin Rowles
Film | November 3, 2006 | Comments ()