Hey! Hallie here!
This movie came out a couple of years ago on Netflix, but I never got a chance to watch it. I’m definitely one of those people who has a list of movies I watch every Christmas that, most of the time, is too extensive to add things to. However, given that I’m not doing much this year, I wasn’t really complaining when my family decided to turn this one on. Plus, I grew up with a few of Kurt Russel’s movies so I was interested to see how he’d take on a role as wholesome as Santa. Now that ‘Christmas Chronicles 2’ is out on Netflix, I figured it’s about time I write up a review on the first movie. And let me just say; this movie was so much weirder than I thought it would be. Unfortunately, it wasn’t weird in a good way, either.
The Casting: I specifically want to praise the casting of the two main characters of this film. Judah Lewis and Darby Camp often stole the show, even when Kurt Russel was onscreen. There was no awkward child acting here, and while there were a plethora of cheesy scenes throughout the movie, these two didn’t ever miss a beat. While I wasn’t a fan of the character writing in this film, the sincere acting from both of them made me almost want to care about their characters. Also, they work incredibly well with one another. As an audience member that was raising an eyebrow for most of the film, I never doubted how close Teddy and Kate were. I will also give Kurt Russel credit for giving 100% to his character. It never felt like he was phoning it in. That’s about all I have to say here. I wish I could say more in this section, but this is really all I can give.
The Santa Claus Character: In my last post I talked a bit about how some writers fail to realize they need to give their Santa character a complete personality. That was directly aimed at this movie. When we first meet Santa in this movie, he’s a bit more of the serious, grumpy type. He’s instantly angry at Teddy and Kate for sneaking into his sleigh and subsequently causing him to lose the majority of the tools he needs to get through the night. He even directly tells them that they ruined Christmas and tries to leave them behind, even though they’re about a thousand miles away from their home. In the very next scene he walks into a restaurant and begins speaking to the adults there, all of whom he used to give presents to. When he’s speaking to them, his personality completely shifts. He suddenly becomes a proud father who’s excitability and general kindness cause the waitress to instantly accept that he’s the real Santa. It’s a jarring shift, and one that happens several times throughout the movie. I couldn’t ever tell what they were trying to accomplish with this character. In some scenes it seemed like they wanted me to find him likeable and endearing. But in scenes like those where he blames his own loss of control of his sleigh on two kids, it seemed like I was supposed to find him intimidating and critical. He also, at one point, magically influences a police officers ex-wife to ask the officer out for coffee, which raises so many more moral questions.
No Subtlety: This happened a lot, especially during the “heartfelt” scenes. Characters would often speak about the emotional struggles they were having unprompted, causing a cheesy scene where a character would pour their heart out and instantly feel better afterwards. These scenes happened the most to Teddy, who the movie decided needed several scenes to talk about how his fathers death made him sad. On top of this, several of these scenes were littered with information the movie decided to dump on the audience without buildup. One scene in particular had Teddy asking his sister why his dad had to go out into a specific fire to save other people. Before this the audience had known his father was dead and known his father was a firefighter before he died. We didn’t need a random line to allude to the exact way he died. It wasn’t anything the audience was curious about and it was delivered with the subtlety of a nuclear explosion. “Show don’t tell” was nowhere to be found in this movie.
The Elves: Why does everyone in the movie seem to think these guys are cute? They aren’t. They’re terrifying. They look like a mix of the most recent Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Gremlins. I never want to see them again.
The “Twist” Ending: At the end of this movie Santa decides to reveal that he didn’t need his hat to magically move around in the first place. Somehow this movie thought this would be a moment for the audience to look on in joyful wonder. But it made the movie completely obsolete. What did Santa solve by pretending he couldn’t break out of prison or get out of literally most of the things that caused them problems? If it was because he was trying to help Teddy and Kate by putting them through this experience, they were already mending their relationship before they met Santa. If it was to help give more people Christmas spirit, why was that more important than making sure he got his job done by the end of the night? I almost cried knowing that the several-scene-long musical number in the prison could have been avoided the entire time.
So what did I think of this movie? It was not good. It was very bad. Granted, it could have been worse. The acting was pretty good. It wasn’t nearly enough to save this train wreck, though. Between the nonstop Christmas puns, the morally ambiguous Santa who had two different warring personalities, the frustrating inconsistencies, and the writers constantly banging me over the head with teenage angst, I didn’t have all that much fun with this movie. Although, give me a movie where Santa has two warring personalities on purpose and I might be interested enough to give it a watch. Anyway, sorry Goldie Hawn. I won’t be sticking around to watch your bigger role in the sequel.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!