Thursday, November 22, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

The Netflix streaming service debuted a new holiday film today, THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES (2018).

In a different era, this very enjoyable Christmas movie probably would have been a theatrical release, but with some exceptions -- such as last week's INSTANT FAMILY (2018) -- it seems that more and more often "mid-range" type movies are now made for streaming rather than theaters.

In THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES Kurt Russell stars as Santa Claus, whose sleigh is inadvertently smashed up on Christmas Eve after he's startled to discover teenaged Teddy (Judah Lewis) and his little sister Kate (Darby Camp) stowing away.

Teddy and Kate had been left home alone on Christmas Eve while their widowed mother (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) worked, and their discovery that Santa is real leads to their unexpected "road trip." After the sleigh crash, Teddy and Kate are stuck in Chicago, 1000 miles from home; they need to help Santa figure out a way to round up the reindeer, fix the sleigh, deliver presents, and get them both back home before their mother returns from her shift at the hospital.

It may sound goofy, and indeed it is, but it's also far better than I expected going in. The movie has a good script and is both creative and funny. (I'm still chuckling over a ferocious elf going after a bad guy while squealing "Naughty, naughty!") I loved subtly clever things such as some of Santa's dialogue being borrowed from the lyrics of Christmas songs, and the film also pays tribute to "The Night Before Christmas," with Santa laying "his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose."

Russell has become a terrific character actor, as seen in films such as DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017), or FURIOUS 7 (2015). He pulls off something special with his performance here, simultaneously being the coolest Santa you've ever seen -- you won't forget his jailhouse Christmas musical performance -- yet at the same time he's completely respectful of the character.

Incidentally, the film is something of a family affair, with Oliver Hudson, the son of Russell's longtime partner Goldie Hawn, seen in early scenes as the children's father. And watch for a special cameo role at the North Pole at the end.

Speaking of the North Pole, the design in this film is terrific, from the bottomless toy bag to the files of children's letters to the wall of their video requests. One feels watching the movie that it was not done "on the cheap" but rather that considerable thought and even love went into creating it.

All of the performances are good, with particular kudos going to Camp as the spunky and thoroughly likeable Kate.

THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES was directed by Clay Kaytis from a script by Matt Lieberman. It runs 104 minutes.

A trailer may be seen here.

For more on this film, here's Gary Goldstein at the Los Angeles Times: "Kurt Russell was born to play Santa Claus. Maybe not your father’s Santa Claus but one who’s cooler and more subversive. It’s a bit of casting karma that may not have been all that evident before his appearance in the clever and captivating new fantasy-adventure... Russell, he of the shaggy mane and those twinkly, crinkly eyes, digs into the classic role with a sleighful of energy, humor and gusto, deftly making the character his own with guidance from Matt Lieberman’s inventive, myth-bending script." It's really that much fun.

I hope that perhaps next year this film will be out on DVD, as I'd like it to become part of my permanent Christmas movie collection. In the meantime, Netflix subscribers should be sure to check out this most enjoyable holiday film.

4 Comments:

Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, a really good write-up. I look forward to seeing THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES the new Christmas Santa Claus Movie. I've been a fan of Kurt Russell ever since THE TRAVELS OF JAIMIE McPHEETERS(1963-64) TV show.

Thank you.

4:54 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I was on the fence, but you've settled it. We're watching this! Maybe follow it up with The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. After all, I couldn't possibly feel any more ancient.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Walter! I hope you'll enjoy it too -- if you're a Russell fan I suspect you'll get a kick out of it!

Best wishes,
Laura

4:04 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Caftan Woman, I hope you like it -- do let me know! :)

Best wishes,
Laura

3:04 PM  

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