Tim Allen
Eric Lloyd
Wendy Crewson
Judge Reinhold
David Krumholtz
Larry Brandenburg
Mary Gross
Paige Tamada
Peter Boyle

John Pasquin

"Can we take a direct flight back to reality, or do we have to change planes in Denver?"
Time: 97 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Holiday Comedy
Tim Allen's first major foray onto the big screen yields an instant holiday classic both parents and kids will enjoy. This slightly twisted take on the legend of Santa is clever and funny without being overwhelmingly heartwarming. It has its' mushy moments, but they are tempered by Allen's sarcastic wit and carefree attitude. He plays Scott Calvin (S.C. get it?) an executive at a toy company who accidently kills Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. His young son Charlie (Lloyd), who's not usually thrilled with his father's behavior, encourages him to put on the suit and carry on with Santa's deliveries. It's here that the film "solves" many of the mysteries about how Santa is able to cover the whole world in one night and deliver packages into homes without chimneys. The visual effects in this section are both inventive and charming. At the end of the night, the reindeer return to the North Pole with Scott and Charlie in tow.

Neither can quite believe their eyes, though for vastly different reasons. They get the grand tour of the operation from Bernard (Krumholtz), the head elf, who informs Scott that he has a year to settle his affairs before he must return to accept his new job as Santa. If he refuses, he'll ruin the dreams of millions of children around the world. Scott pretends that nothing happened, but Charlie is beside himself with excitement over the fact that his dad is going to be Santa Claus. So thrilled, in fact, that he tells everyone about his visit to the North Pole, which doesn't go over well with his teachers or Scott's ex-wife Laura (Crewson). She and her new husband Neal (Reinhold) think Scott's making this up to get Charlie to like him more than them. Their already strained relationship heats up when Scott begins to take on Santa's characteristics, despite his best efforts to stop the transformation. As Thanksgiving approaches and "The List" arrives, it becomes clear to Scott that his days as a normal person are quickly dwindling.

It's at this point that film becomes slightly mired in a custody battle subplot that adds tension and depth to the story, but brings the laughter to an utter standstill. Thankfully, the film doesn't linger here too long. In the end, Scott comes to accept his role as Santa, eventually proving to Laura and Neal that Charlie was right all along. It's Allen's acerbic and slightly childish behavior that keeps the final denouement from being overly sappy and emotional. It's not easy for television actors to transition to the big screen, but Allen chose the right vehicle with this frothy, funny flick. The screenplay is clearly tailored to his type of comedy, utilizing his talent to pull off both physical gags and witty one-liners. All those years on "Home Improvement" paid off, enabling him to make the warm and fuzzy family moments believable as well. While not as dysfunctionally hysterical as A CHRISTMAS STORY or THE REF, THE SANTA CLAUSE is still one of the better holiday films to be released in a long time. Another reason to look forward to December.