You have to admire the folks behind THE SANTA CLAUSE II. In this sequel-happy world, they didn’t rush right out to cash in on the success of the original. Instead, they waited eight whole years for a good premise before venturing back, and when you consider that in kids’ years that’s a whole generation, it was a gutsy move. And one that paid off. SCII is a lovely bit of holiday cheer that will warm the appropriate cockles of everyones heart.
Santa, having taken over the jolly elfin duties after accidentally snuffing his predecessor, is happily ensconced at the North Pole. His is a life of frolicking with the other elves, making lists and checking them twice, and supervising the production of toys that all the good little boys and girls will get on Christmas morning. But all is not well in Santaland. As the Christmas rush begins in earnest, he discovers that odd things are happening to him. That tummy that jiggles like a bowl full of jelly is becoming noticeably less jiggly, the flowing white beard is experiencing drastic shrinkage. It turns out that there is a Mrs. Clause, specifying that if St. Nick doesnt take a bride by Christmas, he’s out of a job. Plus, his son Charlie, played again by Eric Lloyd, is having some behavior problems linked to having an absentee dad.
And thus with all the plot devices in place, the action can begin. Santa creates a toy double of himself to supervise the holiday rush and heads south to fix everything by Christmas. There’s a catch, of course, in that he has only so much magic at his disposal to help him in his efforts, and if he uses it all up, he won’t be able to return to the North Pole. Plus the toy double, who has a distinctly plastic sheen, takes his job just a little too literally, fomenting rebellion among the elves and threatening to leave a lump of coal in everyone’s stocking instead of bright and shiny presents.
Allen is once again Santa, playing him as a gung-ho, can-do sort of guy with a twinkle in his eye, but with a tiny little edge that makes him interesting for grown-ups and kids alike, more like a ginger snap than a cream puff, if you will. This is not a character that has grown over the years, all the growing, literally and figuratively was covered in the original. His attempts to find a bride are strictly formula, but livened a bit by his blind date with Molly Shannon in a deliciously loopy performance as a holiday groupie who loves Christmas not wisely but too well. You can probably figure out that Charlie’s school principal, played with charm and backbone by Elizabeth Mitchell, is the likely future Mrs. Claus from their hate-at-first sight meeting, but that doesn’t stop their rocky courtship from having its sweet moments, particularly a sleigh-ride through a magical snowfall and a deathly dull teacher’s holiday party livened up when Santa comes through with the presents each of the guests wanted as a kid but never received.
There are nice little subplots, too, involving the council of magical creatures like the Tooth Fairy, who longs for a more rugged name, say The Molinator, Mother Nature, who’s suffering from Pre El Nino, and Kevin Pollock taking silliness to new heights with wings, tights, and attitude as a Cupid who takes a less than rosy view of romance.
The rest of the returning cast includes Wendy Crewson as Santa’s ex-wife, and Judge Rheinhold as her sweater-wearing, psychologist husband who’s just a little creepy under all the psychobabble. Best of the bunch are David Krumholtz as Bernard, the snarky elf with the heart of mostly gold, and newcomer Spencer Breslin as the moon-faced, egghead head elf, Curtis.
Michael Lembeck, in his feature film directorial debut, takes the best of his television sit-com experience to pace the action for maximum laughs and heartstring-tugging. The art direction that creates a Currier and Ives Christmas village at the North Pole is spot-on perfect for promoting holiday cheer.
THE SANTA CLAUS II may not rank up there with A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, but it has some real imagination. It also grapples nicely with real-life issues like balancing work and family, and it captures that wistful longing we have to relive that special magic we felt about the holidays when we were kids.