THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Wednesday, November 16, 1994 TAG: 9411160670 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E10 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: Medium: 87 lines
IF YOU'RE MORE in the mood for ``ho-hum'' than you are for ``ho-ho-ho-ing'' when it comes to the ever-earlier advent of the commercial-style Christmas season, you'll still, believe it or not, enjoy ``The Santa Clause.'' You don't even have to read the fine print to get the idea that this new bid for holiday-performance from the Disney studio is a wink rather than a guffaw. There is enough irreverence to allow adults to go along with the simplicity.
Tim Allen, currently the nation's most popular TV star, makes a heavyweight and bearded big-screen debut playing no less than the most popular fella in the world. We're talking, of course, about Kriss Kringle himself. In his best bumbling, stubborn manner (a hold-over from his ``Home Improvement'' TV show), Allen is a notably reluctant Santa.
He plays Scott Calvin, a workaholic toy company executive who is more interested in making money than taking charge of his 8-year-old son who is visiting this Christmas. The son, played with a likable lack of cuteness by little Eric Lloyd, had rather stay with his mother (Wendy Crewson) and stepdad (a stuffy psychiatrist played by Judge Reinhold). Things get worse when Tim sets the turkey on fire, and he and the son have to make do with Christmas dinner at a fast-food restaurant. It gets even worse when, while reading ``The Night Before Christmas'' aloud, Tim hears a clatter on his rooftop. It's Santa himself, who promptly slips on the icy roof and falls to his death.
The most questionable point of the plot is that Santa disappears after falling, leaving his suit with a card that reads ``If something happens to me, put on my suit. The reindeer will know what to do.'' He doesn't read the ``Santa clause,'' which stipulates that if he puts on the suit, he takes over the job, including the toy run and dealing with all those pesky elves back at the North Pole.
The deal is that Tim has from Christmas Eve until Thanksgiving the next year before he has to report to the North Pole for preparations. He's drafted.
Of course, all this brings bonding with his son, who starts telling neighbors that his dad is Santa Claus. Reinhold, who is quite funny as the yuppie psychiatrist, wants to have Dad committed and cancel his visitation rights. Crewson, who scored points with many by throwing MacCauley Culkin off a cliff in ``The Good Son,'' is also a nonbeliever.
The movie looks pretty cheap in the not-very-special effects category, which includes showing how Santa gets down chimneys that don't exist. The North Pole looks as if it's a junky shopping mall with no cleaners.
Still, there's a laughable edge that makes it all entertaining - not hilarious, just chuckle kind of chuckles. The elves are 200-year-old kiddies with pointed ears a la Mr. Spock. They're led by David Krumholtz, complete with a street-wise Bronx accent.
Tim knocks over a number of Christmas trees during his klutzy visits. When one little girl spies him and asks why he doesn't drink the milk she's left, he replies ``I'm lactose-intolerant.'' He asks another, ``Do you want this doll or not?'' Comet, who leads the reindeer has a bad attitude. (Rudolph is nowhere in sight.) He even praises naughty or nice big girls on the street, preferring the naughty.
The production values are pretty cheesy, not much better than the same studio's ``Ernest Saves Christmas,'' but the laughs are there. And, yes, there probably is a ``Santa Clause'' in the future of perennial holiday screenings. ILLUSTRATION: Photo
It's up to Tim Allen as Santa Claus to deliver the gifts in ``The
MOVIE REVIEW ``The Santa Clause''
Cast: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Eric Lloyd, David
Director: John Pasquin
Screenplay: Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick
Music: Michael Convertino
MPAA rating: PG (two flatulence jokes and one ``hell'' - with the
suspicious look that the studio was actively trying to avoid a G
Mal's rating: Three stars
Locations: Chesapeake Square, Greenbrier in Chesapeake, Janaf
and R/C Main Gate in Norfolk, Lynnhaven and Surf-n-Sand in Virginia