With the holiday season in full swing, Netflix has been once again timely this year in adding Christmas films to the viewer selection. New, however, is a Christmas film that stars Kurt Russell as none other than Santa Claus! The Christmas Chronicles is one of the latest Christmas comedies to hit the streaming service, so let’s review the ups and downs of the latest St. Nick flick.
On the verge of being grounded for over a month, a teenage boy named Teddy Pierce is in need of a moral compass. Along with his little sister Kate, they wind up boarding Santa’s sleigh. However, they soon cause Santa to lose all the essentials needed on Christmas Eve, and St. Nick is even arrested later in the story (not your typical Santa story). Christmas Eve is not going well, and it’s Teddy who must learn to do some good before Christmas morning arrives.
Now, The Christmas Chronicles has its strong points. The production design in many scenes and shots throughout the movie are beautiful. The visual effects that may or may not involve small little elves (that may or may not remind some of Gremlins) were executed with dazzlement and a palette of saturated colors.
In addition to these areas of production, Kurt Russell also does his best in my opinion to fill the big red suit. I must confess, however, Russell as Kris Kringle wasn’t always easy viewing for me. See, I along with many others have been lured into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with all of the characters that come with it. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Russell’s performance as a space god in the back of my mind, watching jolly ole St. Nicholas in Chronicles omnisciently know everything about the human race had its moments of eery reminiscence.
A final strong point in Chronicles was its modern take on “The Night Before Christmas.” Though the film overall did seem to exude tones of The Santa Clause, which debuted now twenty-four years ago, as of this writing, children and teens I think will more easily relate to such a film as Chronicles than if they were required to watch one of the classics, essentially from any decade in the twentieth century.
Yet such a strength in the film conversely has its own weakness. With a modern update to such a classic Christmas poem (and films), Chronicles suffered from unnecessary product placement and distracting pop culture references. From “fake news,” to Stranger Things (which Netflix distributed), and even a red-hot Dodge Challenger, along with other merchandise and one-liners, the script of Chronicles unfortunately is where the rubber meets the road. *comedy drum fill*
When Santa exclaims, “People need Christmas to remind themselves of how good they can be,” I can’t help but wonder if such products and cheesy references dilute such a proposition that Santa is so passionate about. Sure, I know that it might be “fun for the whole family,” and if so, Netflix succeeded with one of its many holiday films. Yet considering why people need Christmas (if we do) perhaps would be a worthwhile discussion for families after viewing this Santa adventure. Instead, I only wonder if some kids will be left with visions of Cheez-Its and Challengers dancing in their heads.
The Christmas Chronicles is stated as “popular” right now in my Netflix streaming service. In fact, it is because it was the first listed film in this category that it is the first film I am reviewing for my new movie review blog! Does the movie deliver for families that may want a new take on a Christmas story we’ve heard and seen before? I would say yes. There’s bits of humor, some beautiful scenes, and a fast-paced adventure! But strained dialogue and a predictable plot I think should keep some from investing an hour and a half of their time into their monthly subscription.
Zimm Score (scored prior to viewing online scores): 6/10
Aggregate Critic Score on Rotten Tomatoes: 5.8/10 (not using percentage score)
Metacritic Score: 52