I enjoy Christmas movies for the most part. They usually are a little campy, include something a sad, and in the end remind you that the holiday is about cherishing your loved ones. This movie was a good edition to the genre. The 2018 Netflix Original movie, directed by Clay Kaytis, makes you laugh and smile, while also making you care about the season a little more. What sets this film apart from most Christmas movies, and what was the biggest draw for me to watch, was the wise cracking Santa Claus with a little more confidence and swagger.
Kurt Russel plays the big guy in red slightly different the the version of the character we’re used to. This is a Santa that doesn’t mind being a little rude. He puts present under the tree with style. He hates the way the media has pushed his false image of being fat. There are very few actors could have pulled off this portrayal as well as Kurt does. This Santa may be a little rough around the edges but he still is the good guy. And seeing him interact with real people was some of the best parts of the movie. Before this I’ve never seen Santa Claus mouth off to a bartenderor sing with crooks and prostitutes (okay they don’t actually say that they were working girls, it is a kids movie) but the idea of Santa seeing the good in everyone is very visible in the film, even the people who have lost their way. We even see him do a bluesy Christmas song in jail that would make the legendary Blues Brothers proud.
The majority of the movie takes place in the city of Chicago; where else could you get scenes where Santa interacts with the best of the worst people. Unlike other films I’ve seen ‘based in’ a famous city, the movie actually takes care to make the experience authentic. Other than the blues song in jail, we get certain street call outs like Lake Shore Drive along with a few jokes about how bad the crime is. Like I said, some of the best scenes were with Santa talking to real people. Having Chicago police officers need to be won over by Santa’s charm was a really fun moment. The movie itself is full of enjoyable moments but there is a share of heartfelt ones too.
The film starts off with two children, Teddy and Kate. They are growing up and celebrating multiple Christmases with their parents. Within the first ten minutes of the film, they kick you right in the feels by letting you know that this year the father is dead. It’s a rough break for a kids movie. Kate, played by Darby Camp, misses her father but still believes in the Christmas spirit. Her brother on the other hand Teddy, played by Judah Lewis, is taking it a bit rougher. This is the dynamic of the characters through the rest of the movie as they go through an adventure to find Santa and learn a few unexpected lessons. For being two kid actors with not a lot of experience, they do a good job. The lines and plot are campy and a bit cheesy, but that’s just how Christmas movies are.
I will say I did not like one specific aspect of the movie. I don’t mind curving the grade because it is a Christmas film (I mean I wasn’t expecting Shawshank Redemtion or anything) but this one part was borderline unbearable. Every Christmas movie always has a different way of doing the elves, and the ones in this are just hard to watch. They’re animated and look weird. I think they were meant to be funny and cute like some sort of Minions, but it falls totally flat. They even have their own elvish language that the audience cannot understand (again like the minions). It comes off like a lazy excuse to get away with not writing any lines for them. Other then the elves, I enjoyed most of the gimmicky stuff. There are a good mix of magical elements met with weird north pole technology that makes the whole ‘Santa can get around the world in a day’ at least a little easier to swallow. And I think a good amount of people will really enjoy meeting Mrs. Clause.
I don’t think there is a world where Santa can be erased from reality with The Snappening. What he and Christmas represent is too powerful. This movie has it’s flaws and tries hard to be for kids, but isn’t that who the holiday is for? There’s something special about the imagination and wonder of a kid. Being with your family is the magic. This movie reminds you of that being with them on Christmas (as long as they’re not assholes) is what the holiday is all about.
Movie watched and review written by: Troy Smith