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‘The Santa Clause’ (PG)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 11, 1994

"The Santa Clause" would be another formulaic Christmas special without Tim Allen. The personable star of the TV series "Home Improvement" turns this Walt Disney film around. He may not be as effervescent as, say, Robin Williams, but he's full of understated, ticklish charm.

Preteen Eric Lloyd lives with his divorced mother (Wendy Crewson), who's now married to archly adult psychiatrist Judge Reinhold. Thanks to Reinhold, Lloyd has been informed that Santa's a delusion. When the kid visits estranged father Allen for Christmas Eve, Dad is stuck with a sullen, jaded youngster who doesn't believe in Christmas.

Fate intervenes on this cheerless night. When they hear thumping on the roof, Allen and Lloyd run outside. Thinking the red-suited guy up there is a burglar, Allen yells at him. The shocked stranger falls into a red, motionless heap in the snow.

"It is Santa," says Lloyd. Then he looks up at his father and says, "You killed him."

On the roof, the reindeer are waiting. When curious Allen and his son climb into Santa's seat, they're flown up to the North Pole where the chief elf (David Krumholtz) tells Allen that there's no time to lose. Allen has little choice. "This could be a really long night," he says.

The plot thickens but not nearly as much as Allen, who gains weight with alarming acceleration. ("Bee sting," he explains to his shocked office colleagues.) His hair turns white. A huge beard grows. Whenever he tries to shave, the whiskers come back instantly. Like it or not, he's the only man for the job.

Kids of most ages will be able to follow -- and enjoy -- this comic fantasy. Thanks to unobtrusive (or is that low-budget?) special effects, they'll also enjoy the movie's answers to such cynical questions as: How does Santa fit through the chimneys or get into homes that don't have them? Allen makes things equally pleasant for older audiences, especially when he's trying to deal with his new calling. "Merry Christmas to all," he intones good-naturedly to one and all, before muttering: "When I wake up, I'm going to get a CAT scan."

THE SANTA CLAUSE (PG). Contains extremely mild profanity.

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