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‘The Santa Clause’ (PG)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 11, 1994

Tim Allen takes his tools to a new workshop with surprising success in Disney's "The Santa Clause," a cheerfully corny family comedy that promises to be as perennial as nutcrackers. Brimming with the sentiments of the season, the tale concerns Allen's transition one magic Christmas Eve from toy company executive Scott Calvin to the North Pole's most beloved resident.

Allen, the un-handyman of TV's "Home Improvement," brings the same self-destructive stubborn streak to the big screen as to the small. He plays a nonbeliever who inherits the global cookies-and-milk run when the current Santa falls from Scott's roof and vanishes, leaving suit, sleigh and a sackful of loot behind.

The reindeer are growing restless on the roof -- especially that pesky Comet -- when Scott pulls a business card from the former Santa's pocket: "Put on the suit; the reindeer will know what to do," it advises. Encouraged by his 8-year-old son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd), and urged on by Blitzen, Scott dons the get-up and Grinchily delivers the presents. "Aren't you going to drink the milk?" asks one child who spies him. "I'm lactose-intolerant," he barks before returning to the roof via the dryer vent.

The movie reveals many of Santa's secrets. Apparently the jolly old elf has long been familiar with morphing, which comes in handy when Scott grows too fat for chimneys. He puts on about 200 pounds between Christmas Eve and the next Thanksgiving, when he is obligated to return to the North Pole for pre-prep. Remember that business card? Well, it seems he didn't read the fine print, which binds whoever puts on the suit more or less permanently to the position.

Of course, none of the other kids believes Charlie when he tells them that his dad is Santa Claus, and his mother (Wendy Crewson), now married to a touchy-feely psychiatrist (Judge Reinhold), petitions the court to deny Scott the right to visit the boy. Scott, who has become not only Father Christmas but a better father, is as devastated as "Mrs. Doubtfire." But then he's already wearing a weird get-up.

Well, it all works out just fine in the end, even though Santa is arrested just as in "Ernest Saves Christmas." This, too, was the work of the Mouse Factory, and you know Mickey isn't going to let Santa rot in jail.

Aimed at kids, but written with parents in mind, "The Santa Clause" balances the sugar with the spice, which Allen sprinkles on just right. The ending, unfortunately, is stickier than a toddler with an ice cream cone. But that's the price of kids and Christmas. Say so long to cynicism.

The Santa Clause is rated PG.

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