Tim Allen plays the top toy man again in 'Santa Clause 2'


Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2002 at 10:33 p.m.
Tools and toys. Tim Allen can't escape the trappings of his best-known roles.
Formerly Tim "The Toolman" Taylor on "Home Improvement" and the voice of plaything Buzz Lightyear in the "Toy Story" movies, Allen returns as Big Cheese of the North Pole toy industry in "The Santa Clause 2," the sequel to his 1994 hit.
Allen wants to broaden his range, but he's not grousing yet about typecasting. Santa's too good a gig, he says.
And it doesn't hurt that the follow-up to his highest-grossing live-action movie comes after two bombs the past year, "Joe Somebody" and "Big Trouble." With a clever premise that's faithful to the first movie without simply duplicating it, "The Santa Clause 2" has the makings of another green Christmas for Allen.
"That would certainly please everybody that's relying on me to make their living," Allen, 49, said in an interview. "I don't rely on that, the box-office part of it. It's hard enough to be in this business without constantly thinking about that. I don't know who you emulate on that. There's only a couple of role models that don't ever bomb. So you just can't focus on that."
Until "Big Trouble" and "Joe Somebody," Allen had a solid resume of second-tier movies to accompany his blockbusters. His comedy "For Richer or Poorer" tanked, but he had modest successes with the fatherhood romp "Jungle 2 Jungle" and the sci-fi spoof "Galaxy Quest." Allen's credits also include a supporting role as a movie-obsessed hit man in last summer's low-budget caper "Who Is Cletis Tout?"
In the original "Santa Clause," Allen plays a divorced dad who accidentally bumps off Kris Kringle, then begins transforming into the jolly old elf when he slips on Santa's coat. The new movie picks up eight years later, with Santa forced to search for a bride if he wants to keep his job.
Allen said the sequel took so long because he did not want to churn out a tired knockoff.
"You don't make a sequel," Allen said. "You make an independent film that's like an alias. It relates to the original but isn't really anything like the original."
The new movie presents Allen in the real world as he "de-Santafies" - losing his fat belly, white hair and beard - and tries to find a woman to settle down with him up north. He also doubles as a "toy Santa" - a plastic substitute left behind to mind the shop, a role that required a four-hour makeup job each day.
The sequel gives Allen, generally cast as a lovable lunkhead, a chance to play the heavy, albeit a comic one. As the toy Santa, Allen goes on a power trip, replacing his Santa outfit with a fascist uniform, deciding the world's children all deserve lumps of coal and creating an army of giant toy soldiers to enslave his elves.
"He's a much better actor than anybody gives him credit for," said "Santa Clause 2" director Michael Lembeck. "Tim has this incredible comedy tool in his tool kit, but he also has wonderful acting skills. He's playing the villain, the hero, this amazing icon of Santa, and this Everyman character. He breaks your heart, he makes you laugh. He's such a simple actor who moves you based on how honest he can be."
While toy Santa becomes a bit menacing, the movie still landed the family-friendly G rating distributor Disney is known for. Most of Allen's film and TV success has come with Disney, including the "Toy Story" movies and "Home Improvement," which aired on Disney-owned ABC.
Allen, who spices up his conversation with four-letter words and built a stand-up comedy career loaded with vulgar language, finds it ironic he wound up in partnership with wholesome Disney.
"It makes me smile all the time that what my standup was, to translate that into 'Home SANTA on Page 6
SANTA: Allen returns in 'Clause 2' Continued from Page 3 Improvement' is an amazing metamorphosis," Allen said. "They just took out all the objectionable stuff that kids couldn't see and put the rest into a sit-com, and it still works.
"It may be pretty edgy, but even in my standup, I'm a likable guy, because in my heart, I am a likable guy. On the surface, I'm pretty angry, like that grandpa who's always griping and moaning and attacking people, but you still like him."
His comic sensibilities developed amid adversity, including the death of his father in a car crash when Allen was a boy and a 28-month prison term in the early 1980s for selling drugs.
More bad times hit in 1999 with the breakup of his 15-year marriage to Laura Deibel, with whom Allen has a 12-year-old daughter.
Allen has scripts in development that would let him play darker characters. But he understands the studio resistance he encounters when he pitches anything that strays too far from comedy.
"Why would you want me in a dramatic role when there are guys like Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson?" said Allen, who then adopts a somber tone to simulate the sort of heavyweight dialogue Hanks spoke in "Road to Perdition." "You've got Tom talking to Paul Newman, going something like, 'Death is an alley that we all must venture.' Cut to me going, 'Are the elves ready to get on the horses yet?'
"I would love to do something serious, but can you imagine me going, 'No, Spartacus!' I don't know that you would want that. I think there's an opportunity for me to use the art I have and maybe be something like a likable villain. And I have the capacity to do a transformation person. I've done a lot of that. So I could go from good to bad to terrible to good again, and you'd buy it. I have several scripts like that in mind. But two big studios don't like those ideas at all. They said, 'No one's going to buy you being a villain.' I said, 'Well, we'll see."'

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