Netflix Originals come and go, but the streaming service’s latest festive flick The Christmas Chronicles is a new holiday classic – an entertaining family film that will hold resonance for years to come.
Young siblings Teddy and Kate (Judah Lewis and Darby Camp) used to be close but, over the years, their relationship has frayed. They’re still reeling from the devastating passing of their Father, while Mom (Claire played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley) tries to hold her family together. However, keeping composure is tough around the holidays considering how celebrating was a traditional family affair. Out of boredom when Claire is called into work on Christmas Eve, the kids decide to catch video footage of Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) making a house call. Before they know it, they’re not only catching Santa in the act, but they’ve caught a ride in his magical sleigh; causing a startled Claus to crash land in Chicago, and creating a major hurdle during his annual duties.
The film has been co-produced by Chris Columbus, and his influence is certainly apparent. A montage featuring Teddy and Kate planning their Santa heist is in the same spirit as the montages in Columbus’ Home Alone, and the whimsical fantasy elements are imaginative in ways that remind us of Columbus’ first Harry Potter instalment. The holiday influences continue with hints of The Santa Clause and Arthur Christmas. The film’s final scramble for our underdog heroes to recover is a condensed plot seen in Arthur Christmas, while the gizmos and gadgets look like updated models of tools Tim Allen’s Santa used. The elves are also mannered like Despicable Me’s Minions, but fashioned by better animation that gives them more personality and humour.
Because of these mirrored images and essences, I can see why someone would denounce The Christmas Chronicles as some kind of rip-off or rehash – that would be the act of a jaded movie goer or a Grinch. In fact, director Clay Kaytis (The Angry Birds Movie) and screenwriter Matt Lieberman use these familiar ideas to create a fun and fresh adventure for youngsters who may be looking for their own favourite Christmas movie.
The film is wholesome and charming enough to warm over seasoned movie goers but, if that’s not sufficient, The Christmas Chronicles has a secret ingredient: Kurt Russell’s slick and funny portrayal of St. Nick. Russell (Sky High, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) brings his signature magnetism to the traditional role, which has also been thoughtfully written as a charismatic guardian. And, with the film mostly taking place in Chicago, the film stops for Russell to pay homage to The Blues Brothers with a jazzy musical number. As hokey as that sounds, there’s something about Santy Claus Russell tearing down the joint (you’ll see what I mean) that will slap a huge smile on your face. It’s the gift you had no idea you wanted.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie