THE WEEK IN REVIEW

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The Independent Culture
THE FILM

THE SANTA CLAUSE

THE PLAY

THE BREAK OF DAY

THE CONCERT

BLUR

THE SITCOM

THE THIN BLUE LINE

overview

critical view

on view

our view

Tim Allen, star of Home Improvement, plays a divorced dad who averts a nationwide crisis by riding Rudolph and ends up sleigh-bound.

"As crisp and crunchy as that first stretch of sparkling snow," cheered Ryan Gilbey. "A sackful of fun," declared the Mirror. "Imagine what a sludgy mess Robin Williams would have made of it," said Time Out. "An ending at which even Tiny Tim would cringe," remarked the Guardian. "Walt Disney snow, reindeer and a sack of product placements," observed the Evening Standard.

"At a cinema near you," as they used to say in trailers.

A US box-office smash last Christmas. Erases the memory of the ghastly re-make of Miracle on 34th Street, the most famous Xmas film of all.

Max Stafford-Clark directs the latest play by Timberlake Wertenbaker, author of Our Country's Good, which centres on three friends and their hopes and aspirations as they address motherhood.

"Adept at raising oh-so-smartly-phrased points but not so good at developing them," wrote a dismayed Paul Taylor. "Relentlessly disappointing," mourned the Evening Standard. "A disjointed affair in which characters display attitudes as if they were sandwich boards," agreed the Guardian. "Intensely artificial... nobody comes well out of this production," concluded the Financial Times.

At the Royal Court Theatre and on tour in 1996. Booking: 0171-730 1745.

The same company, Out of Joint, is also touring an excellent revival of Three Sisters. Stick with that.

Nineties popsters Damon Albarn and his mates, armed with four Brit awards, have embarked on their biggest ever tour on the back of The Great Escape.

"Respected by music pundits and adored by drooling teens... Blur will be able to adapt to their new scale," enthused Glyn Brown. "Their cuddly songs are made to be heard in small clubs, not stadia," observed the Guardian. "Blur are still a ground-breaking outfit," approved the Telegraph. "There isn't a better introduction into the all-embracing world of pop," pronounced Time Out.

Tonight and tomorrow at Wembley, then Glasgow, Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester.

The tour is sold out, so stay home and listen to the album.

Ben Elton, who used to do anti-police stand-up, has written a new police sitcom starring his Blackadder leading actor, Rowan Atkinson, as Inspector Raymond Fowler of Gasforth constabulary.

"More frequently than is healthy, a belly laugh is followed by a groan," wrote an undecided Tom Sutcliffe. "Atkinson has hit the jackpot again," said the Sunday Mail. "The supporting cast were uniformly splendid," punned the Times. "Weak," wailed the Mirror. "The script arrived limping, but the programme was crippled by the blandness of the cast," complained the Evening Standard.

Mondays, BBC1, 8.30pm.

Elton has taken Dad's Army and switched uniforms, but then, sitcoms rely on familiarity and why not emulate the best?

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