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'Santa Clause 2, The'

St. Nick needs a wife in likable sequel

Friday, November 01, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

It's been eight years since divorced dad Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) became Santa Claus and someone just noticed there's no Mrs. Claus? Maybe the elves have inhaled a little too much paint and glue in the workshop where they turn out toys for good little boys and girls.

 
 
'The Santa Clause 2'

RATING: G

STARRING: Tim Allen

DIRECTOR: Michael Lembeck

WEB SITE: disneypictures/santaclause2

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As we learn in "The Santa Clause 2," the requirement that Santa take a wife was included on the business card designating Scott as the new man in the red suit. But the fine print was so teeny that it wasn't visible to the naked eye, and now Santa must be informed. He's already undergoing the "de-Santafication" process by which his long white beard, waist and magical powers are shrinking. He has 28 days to find a mate or lose his golden gig.

If that and the impending holiday weren't enough to keep an icon busy, Santa also learns that his teenage son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) has become a troublemaking tagger. To allow Santa to go home and straighten out Charlie and find a wife, an elf decides to make a Claus clone that can keep the workshop cranking till Christmas Eve.

But the lookalike Santa, with a rubber face and plastic tush, becomes drunk on power and hot cocoa and wreaks havoc, as the real Santa's search for a mate little resembles the one on "The Bachelor."

Like its predecessor, "The Santa Clause 2" has been positioned to be the first children's holiday movie out of the gate. As directed by first-timer Michael Lembeck (a TV actor/director) and written by a gang of five, it's middle-of-the-pack entertainment that could have debuted on TV without a single edit. To its credit, it doesn't simply duplicate the original's story; it reverses it. Instead of growing fatter and grayer, Santa gets thinner and more youthful-looking by the day.

Although the production designers poured all their energies into the Elf Village and Santa's Workshop, the movie finds its center in Santa's courtship of a school principal (Elizabeth Mitchell) whose frozen heart begins to thaw. This Santa works best in the presence of other adults although he has a nice way with Charlie's half-sister who wonders why there's a reindeer in the back yard.

The pointy-eared elves are played by children, which initially gives you the impression that Santa's running a sweatshop. I had to keep reminding myself that they're supposed to be hundreds of years old. And giant toy soldiers at the North Pole seem a bit like storm troopers but the movie stays within its G rating.

Also on the naughty side, "SC 2" includes blatant product plugs (one fast-food chain, one candymaker) and reindeers that are obviously puppets. On the nice side, the return of key players from the first movie provides a rare continuity and the story preserves the notion of the North Pole.

It repeats the mantra from "The Santa Clause": "Seeing isn't believing. Believing is seeing." Guess we'll see.


Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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