Rated G - Running Time: 1:45 - Released 11/1/02

Eight years after Disney’s The Santa Clause catapulted comedian Tim Allen from mere television celebrity to full-blown movie star status, he returns to his jolly round roots with the sequel, Michael Lembeck’s unimaginatively titled The Santa Clause 2. Lembeck, helming his first feature film after spending the last decade or so directing TV sitcoms, creates a sequel that in terms of tone and style is virtually indistinguishable from John Pasquin’s 1994 holiday comedy, reuniting practically the entire cast and supposedly taking up 8 years after that story left off. It gives Allen, who is not so much an actor as a skilled craftsman at line delivery, yet another leading vehicle in which he doesn’t so much act as skillfully deliver lines. But this is not to say that Allen isn’t fun to watch. While he may not be a virtuoso at what one would call “serious” acting, there’s no denying that given the right script he can be seriously funny. The script for SC2, penned by Ken Daurio, Ed Decter, and several others, is not perfect, but with Allen’s help it delivers more hits than misses.

In The Santa Clause, when toy manufacturer Scott Calvin (Allen) suddenly had the duties of the Jolly Old Elf thrust upon him, we watched him change within a few days from a normal looking guy to a fat man with a flowing white beard. In this film, we see the same phenomenon in reverse. It seems there is another clause buried in the fine print of the business card Scott picked up on that fateful day, stating that if he doesn’t get married within eight years of his assumption of duty, he will cease to be Santa Claus and Christmas will “disappear.” (I know Christians just love that sort of storyline.) This detail, known as the “Mrs. Clause,” suddenly leaves him with only 28 days to find a wife, and in fact the “deSantification process” has already begun—his weight drops, his beard shortens, and he becomes less jolly. I’ve used Prozac to combat these symptoms, but to each his own. At the same time, he learns from trusted elves Bernard and Curtis (David Krumholtz, Spencer Breslin) that his own son Charlie (Eric Lloyd), now in his teen years, has become a juvenile delinquent and therefore gotten himself on the “naughty list.” Forced to leave the North Pole to meet with his ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson), her new husband Neil (Judge Reinhold), and Charlie’s ultra-stern school principal (Elizabeth Mitchell), Santa uses Curtis’s new untested toy-cloning invention to make a full-sized replica of himself to watch the plant until he returns.

For what it’s worth, anyone who liked The Santa Clause will probably enjoy this movie. Like that film (and like most Disney offerings), it doesn’t tax the brain with complex moral issues or philosophical musings. It’s fat, fluffy fun of exactly the kind Tim Allen is best at, and the fact that there are no changes in personnel among the cast members gives it a sense of continuity. If one listens closely enough, one will hear some amusing references to Allen’s other movies, and of course kids will love the kind of unbridled Christmas splendor represented by Santa’s elaborate workshop, filled with hardworking elves and more toys than they have at Wally World and Toys ‘R Us put together. Also adding laughs are the featured reindeer: Comet is a kind of ruminant version of Scooby-Doo who speaks his own language understood only by Santa, and a new deer, Chet, is amusingly out of control. Lembeck’s pacing slows to a standstill in the middle of the film, while we are forced to watch Santa’s excruciating romantic sub-plot; this is the only time when kids might get bored. But at 105 minutes, SC2 is still short enough to please without wearing out its welcome. ***½

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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