THE SANTA CLAUSE 2 (G, 98 minutes)
Multiple screenwriters and elaborate North Pole sets can't duplicate the charm of the original in this wildly uneven, often disappointing sequel to the 1994 hit (rated PG). For long stretches, "The Santa Clause 2" is a laugh-free, fidget-inducing zone. There are a few good chuckles, but not enough to delight tots. Kids 6 and older will perhaps follow the characters and wait for the laughs, even getting the more sophisticated humor. Rated G, "The Santa Clause 2" is tame: Mother Nature warns Santa she's feeling "pre-El Nino." Comet has gas. There's a warp-speed reindeer chase.
Scott (Tim Allen) still loves his accidental job as Santa Claus. Elfin hammers are pounding at the North Pole as Christmas nears when he learns that the small print in his contract says he must find a Mrs. Claus or be de-Santafied. Leaving a lifesize Toy Santa to keep order (in a clever bit, Toy Santa becomes a by-the-book fascist), Scott puts on street clothes and heads home. His son (Eric Lloyd) has discipline problems at school, and when Scott meets the principal (Elizabeth Mitchell), he's smitten. Kids will like it better when he meets the Tooth Fairy (Art LaFleur).
I SPY (PG-13, 96 minutes)
An infuriating waste of millions, "I Spy" has little relation to the TV series "I Spy," which starred Bill Cosby and Robert Culp in the 1960s, except that its co-stars are also African American (Eddie Murphy) and white (Owen Wilson). Where the TV show was thoughtful, droll and low-tech, the movie is a mindless buddy comedy about gadgets and explosives. Teens may take the silliness at face value and just enjoy the ride. The movie contains understated violence, sexual innuendo, crude language and toilet humor.
Wilson plays an American agent tracking a black-market arms dealer (Malcolm McDowell) in Budapest. He's ordered to team up with a loudmouth boxing champ (Eddie Murphy) who's there for a match, because the arms dealer's a boxing fan. Murphy is usually fun to watch, and Wilson is a likeably eccentric actor, but as the boastful pugilist and the slightly shy and bumbling spy, their banter sounds lame. Budapest looks great, though.
JACKASS: THE MOVIE (R, 87 minutes)
Yes, I've cried wolf before, but "Jackass: The Movie" really is the end of civilization. An expanded version of an MTV reality show, it features guys acting like drunken frat rats and trying dangerous, stupid stunts. It was the No. 1 movie last week, so clearly some find the "Jackass" brand of anarchy and public lewdness entertaining. Teen boys are a likely audience, despite the R rating. While destroying property and risking life and limb (the movie warns us not to try the stunts at home), the "Jackass" guys, led by Johnny Knoxville, often expose their behinds and/or their privates, vomit, relieve themselves in public and guffaw at their wit. Some of the pranks are funny. Most are dumb, gross or vile. There's also profanity.