Suiting up again as the title character in "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," Tim Allen seems bored with his own franchise. At times...

Share story

Suiting up again as the title character in “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause,” Tim Allen seems bored with his own franchise. At times, he looks downright morose, cranky enough to kick an elf.

Reprising a role that dates back 12 years can’t be the most exciting gig for an actor, but it’s no reason to scowl. Allen should be happy that the one-joke series has been successful enough to merit a third installment.

Movie review 1.5 stars

Showtimes and trailer

“The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause,” with Tim Allen, Martin Short, Elizabeth Mitchell, Ann-Margret, Alan Arkin. Directed by Michael Lembeck, from a screenplay by Ed Decter and John J. Strauss. 90 minutes. Rated G (contains some crude humor). Several theaters.

The original movie followed Allen’s character as he made the transformation from ordinary guy into legendary figure. In the sequel, he courted a new Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell). The new film centers on a visit from St. Nick’s dysfunctional in-laws (Ann-Margret, Alan Arkin) and his rivalry with Jack Frost (Martin Short).

Allen and Short have a good rapport, but the outcome of their Freddy vs. Jason showdown is predictable. The in-laws storyline basically gets abandoned because Santa’s too busy saving Christmas to squabble with his wife’s parents.

It’s a shame the jokes aren’t as inspired as the retro casting and pop-art set design. The film, directed by Michael Lembeck (“The Santa Clause 2”), panders to every demographic with a fail-safe yuletide mix of puns, slapstick and platitudes.

The subtitle, “The Escape Clause,” refers to a loophole in holiday law that Jack exploits to become Santa. The clause, unfortunately, doesn’t get us to the story’s conclusion any faster.