I came out of the screening of Christmas Chronicles with three prevailing thoughts battling for priority. One – Kurt Russell is a 5* Santa Claus. Two – I’ve now got a new movie to make a Christmas watching tradition. Three – I now fancy Father Christmas.
The thing is, all three thoughts are intertwined. Russell is brilliant in the role, channelling all his charisma and every beat with full gusto. He does caring, thoughtful, angry, sad, charming and scheming, all with a cheeky glint in his eye. He makes a film that would otherwise be mostly watchable into something really enjoyable and entertaining. And this in turn, combined with a beard for the ages, makes him somewhat surprisingly sexy. Or, as I rather wittily noted on the realm of limited characters, the film could be called ‘How I learned to stop worrying and love the Santa bob-omb.’
The set-up is a neat one. We meet a family in a manner somewhat reminiscent of this year’s underrated and underseen ‘Searching’, except that film charted the progression of technology whereas here the tech (aka a video camera) is intentionally low spec. We watch a succession of Christmas for a mum, dad, son and eventually daughter. They loooove Christmas. They’re all about traditions, decorations and family time. All is calm and all is bright for the Pierce household. Obviously not for long otherwise they’d be no point to the movie…
A year after a bereavement and the family has become fragmented. Christmas is coming and it won’t be the same. So siblings Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy (Judah Lewis) hatch a scheme to capture Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) on Christmas Eve, leading to all manner of shenanigans.
To list them would spoil the fun and surprise of the movie. Suffice to say, there are some cracking moments. I’ll just list my varying reactions instead – there was many a smirk, chuckle, grin, belly laugh and even an air bunch; a truly festive menagerie that hopefully demonstrates the joy and delights the film offers.
The film isn’t perfect. It has it’s pacing issues, the odd dodgy scripting with a side of predictability served with some oddly risqué moments AND YET – the cast give it their all that you find yourself quickly committed to finding out what is going to happen, even though you probably worked it out for the most part.
Aside from Russell’s stellar performances (think a level of commitment to the role that is reminiscence of Will Ferrell in Elf) the two young performances really hold their own alongside the bearded one they share the majority of their screen time with. Camp in particular is a revelation; she manages to play the ‘wise beyond their years’ archetype in a way that isn’t annoying. She plays Kate as sweet, earnest and well-meaning. You find yourself quickly caring for her. As you do for most of the cast actually. The messages of the film – about kindness towards others, doing everything to the best possible ability and how caring for things is actually a good thing – are well channelled.
And that’s what makes it an excellent Christmas movie. If you like ridiculousness, holiday spirit, festive puns of the highest order – then get your Netflix ready. Grinches need not apply.