Lisa Schwarzbaum
July 25, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Tim Allen and his team make it look easy, this putting on of ho-ho-hos in such a way that adults may find stocking-stuffer laughs amid the general jingle-bellishness of The Santa Clause 2. While younger viewers are distracted by the cute elves, we’re in on Santa’s council meeting of colleagues (members in good standing include the Sandman, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, who’s understandably desperate to change his name), during which Mother Nature warns that she’s moody because she’s ”pre-El Niño.” Allen is a master of this kind of throwaway hipness camouflaged in square Dockers and crew-neck sweaters, and working with first-rate sitcom director Michael Lembeck (”Friends”), he presides over a sequel to the 1994 family comedy ”The Santa Clause” that’s as snappy and well reinforced as Santa’s pajamas.

Back in ”Clause 1”, the comedian played distracted divorced dad Scott Calvin, who discovered that being Santa was his destiny. Now Scott’s a fat man fulfilled, but there’s trouble, too: The small print in his Santa contract says he needs to find a wife (the ”Mrs. Clause”), and his own kid, Charlie (Eric Lloyd, among the cast returnees), is on the Naughty List. Yeah, yeah, the usual polyester Christmas cheer ensues. But the scene of Allen on a nightmare blind date with ”SNL” alum Molly Shannon is spiked eggnog for the boomer soul.

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