November 01, 2002 10:00 AM

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, even though the critics all played Scrooge.

Despite rough reviews, “The Santa Clause 2,” starring Tim Allen, debuted as the weekend’s top movie at the box office, trouncing “I Spy,” despite the seemingly hot pairing of Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy — the latter of whom could badly use a hit after his “Adventures of Pluto Nash” debacle of the summer.

Overall, however, this wasn’t a big weekend for the movies, the Associated Press reports. Box-office receipts were down sharply after climbing for seven straight weeks.

Still, “Santa 2” rang up $29 million in ticket sales, more than double the opening numbers for “I Spy,” which came in at No. 3, after the horror movie “The Ring.”

Last weekend’s top title, “Jackass: The Movie,” fell to fourth place, which means this donkey might not have legs.

This weekend’s Top 10 movies at the box office, according to movie studio estimates, were as follows:

1. “The Santa Clause 2,” $29 million
2. “The Ring,” $18.5 million
3. “I Spy,” $14 million
4. “Jackass: The Movie,” $13.1 million
5. “Ghost Ship,” $6.6 million
6. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” $5.6 million
7. “Sweet Home Alabama,” $4.6 million
8. “Punch-Drunk Love,” $4.2 million
9. “Red Dragon,” $2.7 million
10. “Brown Sugar,” $1.7 million

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