Directed and Produced by Chris Columbus
November 25, 2020
Once again Christmas is under threat when an exiled elf sneaks back into the North Pole in order to take over the gift giving mantle from Santa Claus.
The cast of the first film returns. Sometimes though it is for what amounts to a cameo as with Teddy (Judah Lewis) and mother (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). Those two just show up for a few lines in the opening and you do not see them, or they do not get really mentioned until the last few minutes of the film. They felt a bit forced in.
In my thinking, if you bring back the entire original cast as they did here then give them the more to do. In this case Teddy’s participation was downgraded to bookending appearances. The mom did get more to do but its importance to the plot was neither here nor there. She just has an anxious look on her face the whole time.
Tyrese Gibson of Fast & Furious fames joins the cast as Bob who is the mother’s new love interest whom she has known for a while. You do not get much more than that as his appearance is just a MacGuffin in order to get the returning daughter out of the Christmas spirit and wanting to go home. Tyrese brings along his young and mildly fearful son Jack (Jahzir Bruno) who at times is more annoying than cute. Tyrese seems like a bit of a big name to play a part that could have been helmed by any mildly competent known actor. Nothing against him but it seems like a waste.
Kurt Russell is back killing it as Santa Claus. I still cannot get past this man playing Santa. And he does it so well. He is all energy with a playful twinkle in his eye. He is jolly and boisterous. At times his character, in attitude, reminded me of Dean Proffitt from Overboard. The man has a style that has carried through his performances and it is one that he has been able to use to great effect.
The character of Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) is introduced as the film’s big bad. Belsnickel’s plot is to steal the star atop the tree in Santa’s Village (which gets unofficially renamed as Mrs. Claus’s Village since apparently she designed every shop that is there). The star contains a part of the Star of Bethlehem and harnesses the power to provide magical protection to the entire village. Belsnickel is going to establish a workshop at the SOUTH Pole because, well, it is the opposite of Santa I guess.
That’s all fine and dandy but later on Santa and Katie (Darby Camp) have to travel back to Turkey where Santa is from in order to have the Forest Elves make-and I stress MAKE-another Star of Bethlehem which is this crystalline looking thing. Prior to that they make it clear that what is contained in the ornament on top of the tree is a fragment of the actual star and then when they get to the Forest Elves it appears quite clear the elves manufactured it. Was it manufactured by the elves or was it a piece of the Star of Bethlehem or was the Star of Bethlehem made by magical Forest Elves? That is what I am trying to figure out.
Another issue I have is that Santa and his place at the North Pole are to be a safe haven for the same Forest Elves which were being hunted by people for their magic but yet there are still Forest Elves in Turkey and they seem to be doing just fine without his protection. Did Santa really need to get all these elves to the North Pole? Or was this a plot by Jolly Old Saint Nick to trick the elves into living at the North Pole and becoming slave labor? I know I am reaching a bit for that but if they needed a safe haven why are they still in the forest and doing just fine from all appearances?
Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn) plays a much larger role in this film. She is a medic and a mystical cook and apparently quite the architect. By default, it appears that Santa is largely hogging the glory when she should be getting much of it. After all the village should be named after her since she created everything in it. She became a bit of a Mary Sue here and Hawn deserves better.
One of my favorite jokes in the film was a movie theater that is only ever seen in the background. Different Christmas themed films are seen on the marquee. When the elves are good it is Elf and when they go bad it is Bad Santa. It is a cute little in joke.
While an enjoyable piece of fluff, there are questionable moments that took me out of the narrative. The ones I noted above are the biggest sins in my opinion but there are others. A family friendly film is no excuse for a sloppy narrative. Are they destructive to the story? No but they are annoying.
The rivalry between Belsnickel and Santa Claus never gets any kind of buildup. We can see from his first moment on screen that he is the villain, and he has a thing against Santa Claus, but it is all left very vague for a good portion of the film. We get no hints or any kind of real explanation as to what the whole issue is until there is a heavy exposition moment. It mutes the climax of the story in my opinion.
In the first film Teddy had to come to terms with the passing of his father after being a family friendly troubled youth. In this film Kate must come to terms with her mother dating again as well as learn to accept the son of the new man in her mom’s life. One off trauma cured by an adventure is common in family friendly Christmas films but as depicted in the last film she would appear to be the least likely of the two siblings to develop an issue over mom dating again. It would make more sense to place Teddy in that position.
We get a little bit of time travel in this film that allows for the young Kate to meet her father Doug (here played by Sunny Suljic) when he was about her age. It is a cute moment that also provides for a rather entertaining and larger production of a song and dance number in a similar vein as to what the last film had. It is also quite possibly the only reference to the need to keep the Christmas Spirit up otherwise bad things will happen.
While I think the story feels a little more forced than the first film and it does have some story issues it is still an enjoyable watch. It is the kind of straw that Chris Columbus can spin into gold. It is light and bouncy and just fun. A film like this is not a sophisticated work. It is meant to make you and your kids smile and get into the spirit of the season. And this movie does that.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 is a fun and entertaining sequel. Is it the greatest film ever? No. That title is held by the original Star Wars, but this is an enjoyable Christmas film for the whole family despite its flaws. Not necessary viewing but not a complete disappointment. Only “if you want.”