Every year, the rampant commercialization of the holiday season and all the moral hypocrisy that accompanies it never fails at strangling me into a state of utter depression. The disingenuously cheery goodwill (that so many lap up without question) does less to spread any real love of thy neighbor than it does both highlight and increase the divide between the haves and the have-nots, while the whole month-long smorgasbord is not unlike some perverse year-end means of force-feeding synthetic happiness to the masses, as if to make them forget how fucked up the world is just long enough for the economic machine to continue its dehumanizing processes for yet another year.
So goes The Santa Clause 3, which, aside from its very existence being a soulless money grab, might have you believe its purported criticism of a commercialized society if it didn’t abandon its declared principles as quickly as it resolved its already pointless narrative conflicts. When the mutinous Jack Frost (Martin Short, channeling Mr. Rogers’s evil twin brother) uses the time-travel based “Escape Clause” to strip Santa (Tim Allen) of his power and take it for himself, he converts the utopian North Pole into yet another money-fueled theme park. Here, upper-class families can purchase a place on the “nice list” for their children, rather than the traditionally merit-based approach in which children of all income levels received toys as a sign of their good behavior (says a voiceover at the newfound North Pole resort: “Remember kids, you can tell how much your parents love you by how much they spend on your presents”).
Make no mistake, though: As much as it flaunts them, Santa Clause 3 doesn’t want to examine and play with our cultural customs; it merely caters to the worst of them amid embarrassing cracks about Canadian stereotypes, farting jokes, and the usual slew of squishy sound effects and sparkling CGI flourishes that accompany every overenthusiastic gesture and bad attempt at slapstick humor. Already void of creativity, the movie alternates between being offensively trivial (already treading common ground, it exerts zero effort to distinguish itself from every other Christmas cash-in ever made) and downright creepy (epitomized by an unmistakably horny Easter Bunny who, in an end-credits outtake, remarks that beta-carotene gets him buzzed), never for a second resembling anything that could be called an edifying children’s movie. Kids, you can tell how much your parents love you by how far away they keep you from this worthless fiasco.