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A shiny but iffy 'Santa' package

November 01, 2002|Kevin Thomas

The Steve Oedekerk-John A. Davis "Santa vs. the Snowman 3-D" is as bright and shiny as a Christmas tree ornament, and among other treats, it creates the illusion of snowflakes falling right into the viewer's lap.

But as a slick, hard-edged product targeting the holiday kiddie trade, it reminds us that the cartoon remains the realm of pain-free violence -- and all manner of sly subversiveness, in this instance starting with having Jonathan Winters voice Santa. If ever there was a man who could strike a pure note of false bonhomie, it's Winters.

The lonely Snowman, lured by the lights of Santa's Village, manages to break in, thanks to the laxity of the bored, inept guards, one of whom remarks to another that since he gets all the ice he wants, why should he buy the igloo? (It's safe to say that one will sail over the heads of small fry.) Overcome by jealousy of a Santa so beloved and so laden with goodies he can't have, the Snowman triggers the Christmas That Almost Wasn't.

It's hardly giving anything away that Santa and the spirit of Christmas prevail and all is forgiven. Or is it? Santa invites the Snowman to have a jolly snowball fight in which Santa advises that the Snowman will learn what a good snowball really is. St. Nick's not kidding: One of his snowballs puts out the Snowman's eye, which results in a hearty ho-ho-ho from Santa.

The Imax 3D-animation medium, with its razor-sharp, breathtaking, large-scale, deep-perspective images and all manner of fantastic effects, is dazzling in its possibilities, but the holiday message of the 37-minute "Santa vs. the Snowman" leaves a lot to be desired.

-- Kevin Thomas

"Santa vs. the Snowman 3-D": Unrated. Times guidelines: Amid fantasy razzle-dazzle, children may not comprehend the film's darker aspects. Exclusively at the Bridge, Center Drive, the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, (310) 568-3375. Running time: 37 minutes.

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