“The Christmas Chronicles” was streamed 20 million times its first week up. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)
Should a Christmas film contain a high speed car chase and a jailhouse rock number? Apparently for director Clay Kaytis and screenwriter Matt Lieberman, the answer is an enthusiastic, “Yes.” These elements, along with many more, come together in their newest Netflix adult Christmas film, “The Christmas Chronicles.”
When the movie begins, it is Christmas Eve, 2018, in Lowell, Massachusetts, and siblings Teddy (Judah Lewis) and Kate (Darby Camp) are struggling to feel the spirit of Christmas after their recent holiday-loving father’s passing. With their mother having to work, they hatch a plan to catch Santa (Kurt Russell) on camera.
They get more than they asked for when they find themselves on his sleigh and, after a more than bumpy ride over many states, crash it into the snowy streets of Chicago. The siblings find themselves helping the not so rounded Santa to retrieve the runaway reindeer, find his missing magical hat and then save Christmas.
While the plot and its Christmas elements drive the movie, the intriguing draw of this film is Russell’s rough and grizzly rendition of Santa, jettisoning the jolly version of Saint Nick of a Christmas movie for a feistier Nick, one with a wicked sense of humor. He regularly barks that he does not go,“Ho ho ho,” and takes every chance he can to comment on society’s vision of him being the fat and rosy Coca-Cola man in the red suit.
Of course, he still is kind and warm-hearted enough to be a true Santa Claus, and the audience gets the sense that he is willing to go beyond what any other Father Christmas would do to make sure he gets those true believers their gifts.
Although they did not compare to the more seasoned actor, both Lewis and Camp played their roles of young children dealing with the loss of a parent, while helping to bring a meaningful message to a plot full of hijinks and magic.
Speaking of magic, there cannot be a Christmas movie without Santa’s magic, and the workings of CGI animation brings this aspect into play, especially with the elves. They hold a very distinct look and come off almost gremlin-like, but any adult will get a chuckle out of their humorous behaviors and elfish language portrayed in the film. This feature, along with the other more adult themes, is something that may be more frightening for a younger audience.
Finally, one part of the film that did not need any special effects was the outstanding musical number that Russell performed while behind bars in a Chicago police station. Although the movie parts ways from the typical “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas,” Russell’s cover of Elvis’s “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” is exciting and captivating. Along with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt as lead guitarist in this musical number, there are many other nostalgic cameos in this film – the best being Goldie Hawn who plays Mrs. Claus for her first and only appearance in the film during the final scene.
With the obvious intent is for a more mature audience, “The Christmas Chronicles” may not be put up on the classic Christmas film pedestal like “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but as a Christmas comedy, this thrilling adventure should most definitely make it onto everyone’s must-see holiday film list.
Final Grade: A