I'm the only person on earth who hasn't seen the first two Santa Clause movies, starring Tim Allen as the big guy, but I had no trouble following the plot of Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. The third film in the series, however, does not make me want to rent the earlier films to see what I missed. This movie could make John Gibson declare war on Christmas.
Am I being too harsh? My girlfriend didn't like this one much more than I did, but she says I shouldn't judge a kids' movie by my usual standards. Maybe, but the best "children's" movies will entertain adults as well - see the Disney/Pixar animated films, for example. As for Santa Clause 3, I can only imagine the disappointment of young viewers who were looking forward to a big showdown between Santa and Jack Frost, only to get a film primarily about Mrs. Claus's existential angst about being stuck at the North Pole.
Santa's better half (Elizabeth Mitchell, from Lost) is about to bring a new Claus into the world, but she's feeling sad about not having seen her parents ever since she moved to the North Pole. Her folks think she married a toymaker in Canada, so Santa gets the elves to make the place look more Canadian (Santa sees you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake, but doesn't know that the real Canada has a Tim Horton's on every corner) and with a little help from the Sandman, brings the in-laws up for Christmas. Meanwhile, Jack Frost (Martin Short), miffed at being a B-list mythical celebrity, schemes to take Santa's high-profile job.
It isn't the performers' fault that Santa Clause 3 is so bad. Tim Allen, under several tons of latex, has grown nicely into his role, and Martin Short plays Jack Frost like a villain from the old Batman TV series. (Switching this Jack Frost with the one from Batman & Robin would have made both films more interesting.) On the other hand, Alan Arkin, continuing a long, depressing string of veteran character actors winning Oscars and then appearing in total dreck (see: Jack Palance in Cops & Robbersons, and James Coburn in Snow Dogs) looks vaguely embarrassed. And as much as I hate to pick on child actors, Spencer Breslin plays the "head elf" as the most annoying little snot you've ever wanted to beat up in the playground after school.