NOW PLAYING: The Santa Clause 2

Posted: Monday, November 11, 2002

Nothing new at the theater this week. Much to the dismay of the entire teen population of the peninsula, Eminem's pseudobiography 8 Mile was noticeably absent. So, rather than subject myself to the morally bankrupt idiot-fest that is Jackass, I settled on the pure-as-the-driven-snow kid confection The Santa Clause 2. Much to my surprise (and all the people in line behind me) it sold out. Sold out! On its second weekend at a tiny theater in the wilds of Alaska, and it sold out! As I was begging the ticket guy to sell me the single ticket left (hope the fire marshall ain't reading this), I thought, it just goes to show, when you give parents the choice between mindless, yet incredibly popular entertainment, and relatively mindless yet sweet and optimistic entertainment, they will make the right choice. (I'll try not to think about the fact that Jackass was the #1 movie in the country last weekend. Sigh.)

Tim Allen reprises the role of Santa in a sequel that has been strangely long in coming. When The Santa Clause came out in 1994, its success pretty much guaranteed it a sequel and yet, there was none. I mean, it's not like it was the monster hit of the year or anything, but it was a good movie and, c'mon, even Prancer got a sequel. Whatever the reason, Santa seemed to go underground for a while, but now he's back in town, just in time to reaffirm our faith that movies don't have to be trash to sell tickets (I've gotta get off this Jackass kick!)

It's eight years later, and things are going swimmingly at the North Pole. If you missed the first film, Tim Allen is Scott Calvin (SC, get it?) a normal, everyday guy who inherits the suit, the magic, and the responsibility from a jolly fat man who decides he's fallen off one too many roofs. So, Scott takes over, deals with the learning curve, and Christmas is saved. As this movie opens, our hero is faced with two new problems. First, his son Charlie has been placed squarely on the naughty list, leaving Scott to deal with an issue all too common today with the divorce rate what it is. How do you raise a son when your job keeps you traveling extensively? The second problem is slightly more Hollywood and less afterschool special: Santa has to get married. It says so, right there in the rule book. (It's the Mrs. Clause, get it?) So, with just under a month to let his son know that daddy cares, not to mention find a wife, Scott ventures back out to the real world on the back of Comet, the reluctant and recalcitrant reindeer. He leaves the North Pole in the hands of a toy version of himself, the idea being, I guess, that the very presence of Santa is what keeps the elves working. Unfortunately, toy-Santa gets his hands on the aforementioned rule book and decides to tighten things up a little at the ol' toy factory. As you might imagine, all heck breaks loose. Of course, it's no surprise that Christmas will be saved in the end, but the getting there is a lot of fun.

Much like its predecessor, Clause 2 is friendly, accessible, and just right for Christmas. The story is basic, yes, but look at who it's aimed at. Kids. And to see a theater full of little kids fully immersing themselves in the simple joys of the season; in the timeless themes of sharing, love, and tolerance, was very refreshing. No, this movie is not the best Christmas flick out there. Nor is particularly clever or groundbreaking in any way. What it is, however, is nice. I was irritated a little when the "Council of Legendary Figures" convened. Mother Nature, Cupid, The Easter Bunny; all pretty fake and contrived. The Tooth Fairy plays way too big a role in the entire thing. But who cares, really? The Santa Clause 2 is less a sum of its parts than it is a culmination of themes that people are hungry for. And Tim Allen provides the perfect delivery vehicle. He's funny without having to be ironic, and without sounding like he's pandering. He brings a "regular guy" kind of openness to the whole production, and brings Santa down to a reachable level. He's not going to win any awards, but he very well could be Santa to a whole generation, much the same way that Christopher Reeve was - is Superman.

Take your kids to this movie. They'll love it, and you won't feel like you've wasted your afternoon. I don't know if they've made Santa Clause 2 action figures or not, but at the very least, the movie doesn't feel exploitive. It just feels happy, which is exactly how you'll feel when you leave the theater. And really, what more can we ask for for Christmas? Grade: B+

The Santa Clause 2 is rated G.

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