Christmas cheer is in short supply in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, a feeble festive farce that's more no-no-no than ho-ho-ho. Tim Allen returns as reluctant Santa Scott Calvin, this time beset by a pregnant spouse (Elizabeth Mitchell), demanding in-laws (Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret), and a malevolent rival in jealous Jack Frost (Martin Short). Twelve years on from The Santa Clause and whatever once appealed about this seasonal franchise now has all the warmth and flavour of Boxing Day leftovers.
Calvin, you may recall, was left in charge of Mr Claus' bustling North Pole workshop after accidentally killing the real Father Christmas back in 1994. That pivotal moment is replayed twice in Michael Lembeck's film as part of an extended It's A Wonderful Life-style segment that shows Allen what would have happened had Frost been there that fateful night to don Santa's crimson cloak instead.
This, however, is just one of several competing subplots in a movie that groans at the seams like an overpacked hamper. Another sees Santa's elves disguised as Canadians (don't ask!), while a third has Scott realise he's spending too much time caring for the kids of the world and not enough on his own neglected brood.
"NOT WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT"
"This junk is not what Christmas is about!" wails Allen at the sight of Frost's cynical, commercialised alt-Yuletide. Rich indeed coming from a corporate giant like Disney and a film that - Short's exuberant turn notwithstanding - leaves almost as big a stink as one of its hero's flatulent reindeer.