SWS seeks Mrs. Claus. Must love kids.

Santa searches for love and tries to help his son get off the naughty list

Gather round, kiddies, and hear a tale of Christmas past.

Not so long ago, the yuletide season started the day after Thanksgiving, making December a very special month. But that was before the dollar became quite as almighty as it is now, and Christmas has been creeping into earlier time slots with every passing year.

The folks in Hollywood haven't overlooked this trend, and that's why "The Santa Clause 2" is opening the day after Halloween.

Let's put the tinsel back in Tinseltown!

The movie itself is pleasant enough. Tim Allen reprises his role from the 1994 hit, where he played an ordinary man named Scott who becomes Santa Claus through a series of magical events.

Now he learns that in order to keep the job, he has to marry a Mrs. Claus before his yearly gift- giving trip.

That's a tricky order to fill, and to complicate things, his son back home has misbehaved enough to land on the "naughty" list.

So he leaves the North Pole to put in some parenting time, placing his workshop in the hands of a synthetic Santa clone whose plastic heart doesn't quite get the hang of true yuletide cheer.

Can he find a wife, straighten out his son, and get back to his elves before his waning Santa magic wears out?

Allen has fun with all his roles – Scott, Santa, and Santa's bogus twin – helped a lot by the Disney makeup department, which deserves an extra present or two for the convincing transformations they put him through.

The rest of the acting is bland, but the movie's preteen target audience won't mind, and adults will find occasional grown-up jokes to chuckle at.

I doubt anyone will remember the picture by the time Christmas really rolls around, but maybe it'll be on video by then.

• Rated G; contains mild vulgarity.

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