When my friend Bobby recommended I review The Christmas Chronicles 2, my first reaction was – what about the first one? I hadn’t seen it yet. After finding out it stars Kurt Russell as Santa Claus, I made a joke about how I just knew Elvis was really Santa. Little did I know that joke was close to reality in this film.
This 2018 film released on Netflix stars Russell as Santa, Kimberly Williams-Paisley as single mom Claire, Judah Lewis as Teddy and Darby Camp as Kate. It was written by Matt Lieberman (Dr. Doolittle: Tail to the Chief) and based on a story by Lieberman and David Guggenheim (Designated Survivor). It was directed by Clay Kaytis (The Angry Birds Movie) and lists our Christmas film favorite Christopher Columbus as a producer.
The film begins as many Christmas films do and had me a little worried. Here was the common theme of a single parent looking out for their two kids (one boy, one girl) with the boy spiraling down a path of self-destruction and a girl just wanting to have a good Christmas. We are introduced to the Pierce family through a series of home videos made over the years and learn that Claire, the mom, is a nurse and her husband Doug was a firefighter killed on the job. This sent Teddy into a stereotypical life of petty crimes eventually leading to grand theft. Kate gets him on videotape stealing a car and convinces him to help her try and get a video of Santa in exchange for not telling their mom. He agrees.
In a montage of Home Alone throwback closeups and traps, Teddy and Kate set up their living room and lie in wait eating pints of ice cream but eventually fall asleep. When a clatter arises, Kate sees Santa and then investigates, leading both her and Teddy to find themselves in the back of Santa’s sleigh as he continues on his journey delivering presents. When they make themselves known, this startles Santa and the reindeer, and while over Chicago the reindeer fly off, Santa loses his hat and bag, and the sleigh crashes. Without his hat, Santa’s powers are greatly diminished, and without the bag, he can’t call the elves for help.
It’s time for the great Chicago scavenger hunt!
Kate finds the reindeer and brings them to Teddy and Santa, who before being arrested sends them both off to find his bag of presents. They drop the reindeer off at a Christmas tree lot in a scene stolen almost entirely from the film Santa Who, then go on foot to find the bag of presents. After they do so, Kate goes into the bag and pops out at the North Pole and is tied up by the elves. Teddy is picked up by thugs who intend to burn the bag of presents after each present only has coal for them.
Meanwhile, Santa uses his coat to produce presents, eventually pulling out instruments to form an entire band. Russell, I mean Santa, puts on a show for the police force and all of the other inmates. Elvis style of course.
The elves save teddy and return the hat to Santa so he can break out of jail, and everybody helps to deliver presents around the world so Christmas can be saved. And with a finger to the side of the nose, we end our film.
Despite its stereotypical beginning, I found The Christmas Chronicles endearing and captivating. The modern twist on Santa with gizmos and gadgets to measure Christmas cheer was interesting and carried well throughout the film as a believable plot device. Russell as Santa was also terrific and he really carried the film off well. Every time Santa met someone, he knew everything about them and what they wanted for Christmas. He also routinely criticized the popular notion of Santa being fat and at a few points refused to say “Ho Ho Ho” except for once. The Elvis song in the middle of the film was not as out of place as you might think. The elves were not little people or kids but animated little things that could give kids nightmares though.
Performances by Lewis and Camp as the kids were both really good despite Camp’s character’s predictable mood swings. The cinematography was on-par or exceeded even traditional films for theatrical release and the special effects, when used, ranged from very minimal to complete environments such as on the sleigh ride and, of course the elves.
All in all, a great film and I am looking forward to seeing The Christmas Chronicles 2. You can find this and the sequel on Netflix.
Get ready, Chicago – Santa Claus is coming to town!