Directed by Clay Kaytis
November 22, 2018
Siblings Kate and Teddy stay up on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus in their home on his Christmas rounds. After they sneak onto his sleigh his presents for the children of the world are lost when the sleigh crashes. With Christmas morning approaching, the children and Santa must save Christmas by retrieving the sack and delivering all presents before the sun comes up.
The Christmas Chronicles is such a cute movie. I do not use that often in relation to a film but here it is quite appropriate. It is just such a fun and light Christmas movie that is enjoyable to watch. It gives a very Christmas vibe throughout as it embraces the magic of the holiday. As plots go, I think stuff like this has been done before in one form or another but what saves this film as they have fun with it along the way. It takes itself just seriously enough without becoming maudlin or overly saccharine. They go all in on the concept of Christmas magic and the amazing things that can happen because of it.
The story centers around siblings Kate and Teddy Pierce (Darby Camp and Judah Lewis respectively) that are not getting along. Teddy is a bit of a troublemaker since the death of his firefighter father and his sister Kate who clings to the belief of Santa Claus because the previous year she got a partial shot of him at work.
Darby Camp and Judah Lewis are not too bad here. I was expecting talent along the lines of a Hallmark Channel of Family Channel (or whatever the name is these days) movie. Passable and barely adequate. They were actually good in this. Not as polished as Kurt Russell (and it shows) but they give entertaining and earnest performances.
Speaking of Kurt Russell, he would not have been my first choice to show up as Santa Claus. While he may not be rotund, he does get the jolly and fun aspect of the character down. He has a playful energy in his performance and that is exactly what is needed in a film like this. Who knew that Snake Plisken could play Santa Claus? Not this guy. Russell has played a long and relatively varying list of characters but someone like Father Christmas? Nope.
The song and dance number in the jail cell is a highlight of the film. The band performing is reportedly the real band of Steven van Zandt AKA Little Steven and is called The Disciples of Soul. The song Russell performs is the 1957 Elvis Christmas hit “Santa Claus is Back in Town.” It is interesting to note that Russell has had a series of Elvis connections over the years. One better known example is when he played the King in a 1979 television film. Regardless, Russell gives an infectiously fun performance throughout his time doing the song.
The special effects are not bad. They are just good enough that they do not take you out of the movie. The elves themselves are all CGI. While cute, in attitude they remind me a little bit of gremlins from, well, Gremlins. These guys will attack and can be vicious as demonstrated in one scene. One elf even wanted to use a chainsaw to hack somebody up.
While there is the plot about Teddy coming to terms with the death of his father (played by Goldie Hawn’s son Oliver Hudson) the movie does not shortchange you on the fun. It is just an exciting Christmas adventure through Chicago. Like many Christmas movies (at least it seems like it) the kids must locate Santa’s sack and run afoul of local ruffians while doing so. We get an exciting car chase and Christmas themed shenanigans with the reindeer.
Not to spoil too much but it was a cute surprise at the end where Mrs. Claus was played by Kurt Russell’s real-life partner Goldie Hawn. This movie also includes a few other real-life connections for Russell. The first name read when they get to San Francisco, Ryder Robinson, is Russell’s grandchild. Bing Bellamy is a name on Santa’s list and that kid is Hawn’s grandson.
In Back to the Future Marty McFly had a family picture that faded or altered during the film to give a status update on his progress. They have something similar with a gage on Santa’s wrist that measures the Christmas Spirit in the world. If the available Christmas Spirit falls too low then bad things like wars and the Dark Ages happen. Unfortunately it does not get used to great effect. The device is whipped out three times and sandwiched between two of those is the explanation. It is not really important to the story and does not serve to build up the importance of their mission.
Aside from that one issue, The Santa Chronicles is an enjoyable Christmas film. It will put a smile on your face and boost your spirits. Watch it!