I have no earthly clue what metric one should go about judging the Christmas Chronicle films on Netflix. They’re too sentimental to be ironic. They’re too gimmicky to be dramatic. Their casting of Kurt Russell as Santa Claus feels like a joke (much like Mel Gibson in his upcoming Santa film Fatman). They just don’t come together in any sort of way that makes them feel complete.
Really the best way to describe them is awkward. That said, the same is true of a TON of popular Christmas movies like Jingle All the Way, The Polar Express and even the Tim Allen Santa Clause movies. People still mostly love those films in spite of their melodramatic stories and poor special effects.
That being the case, I can’t help but find these movies moderately charming. Maybe I’d be less forgiving of them if I had to pay to see them but I’m an easy lay for Christmas movies. Maybe it’s just the seasonal joy and the swelling orchestral music that makes these movies amusing.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 more or less picks up where the last movie left off. The Pierce family is starting to move on from the death of their dad the previous year. Their mom has started dating a new man but her daughter Kate is unhappy at having to spend her Christmas in Cancun with a man she doesn’t want to replace her dad. When an unhappy former elf of Santa Clause begins a scheme to get back at him, he schemes to sneak Kate into the North Pole so he can find a chance to sneak in and steal the source of Santa’s immortality.
I can’t help but feel the first film managed to draw more pathos out of its premise than this film does. Ironically that coincides with a much larger filmmaker taking over the directing chair from Clay Kaytis. Chris Columbus is one of the most famous workmen of children’s cinema in Hollywood working on projects like Home Alone, Harry Potter, Mrs Doubtfire, Pixels and the first Percy Jackson film.
The change definitely reflects a shift in narrative priorities. Kaytis’ working as an animator on Disney films for the certainly gave him a lot of experience working on high profile family films. His shift to directing has been more fraught (his only other credit being The Angry Birds Movie) but the film at least held a solid understanding of how to approach a dramatic narrative.
Santa has to get back his sleigh and his hat in order to finish delivering Christmas presents or Christmas will be ruined. He also needs to get two kids who tailed in his sled back home. There’s an immediate goal and an immediate set of problems he has to solve by relying on the kids and finding solutions.
The second film definitely feels more rushed conceptually. There’s no immediate goal for any of the characters from the outset. The opening seems to start setting up a story about learning to accept change and moving on to new things in life but the film doesn’t quite find the energy or problems that made the first film’s plot move forward.
There’s also nothing as amusing here as the scenes where Santa is freaking people out in the bar.
For whatever reason, there’s a lot more effort put into explaining the world building concepts behind Santa lord than usual. The movie puts a lot of effort into explaining the origin of Saint Nicolas, how he’s managed to stay alive for 1700 years, where the elves came from, etc. The movie even goes miles out of its way to explain how snow is formed on the North Pole and then creates a secret backstory for Kate’s late father who hasn’t be relevant since the prologue of the last film.
For good measure, the film ends with an insanely preachy “moral of the story” speech by its main character declaring what she’s learned on her journey, as though this needed to get more hackney.
There are a lot more meaningless digressions in this film and that doesn’t help it given that the main story is kind of undramatic. I definitely felt the length on this one more than the first one.
Still, hijinks abound. The movie has so many plates in the air that it’s not exactly boring. It’s wacky enough that it would probably be a solid distraction for the kids.
I hate to chicken out and just say that I wasn’t bothered by the film too much. I’ve been saying that too much lately and given tedious films too many passes just because I haven’t wanted to lash out at movies that weren’t trying to offend me. That said, you know if this is what you want to watch if you liked the first movie. This is just a more laborious version of the first film.