"The Christmas Chronicles" is tinsel-covered trash
As fresh and enjoyable as standing outside in a blizzard of yellow snow.
I can only imagine the pitch meeting for Netflix’s new holiday Santa adventure, “The Christmas Chronicles.” Someone must’ve dimmed the lights, hired a college drum line to provide an anticipatory roll, and just when the tension was built, they said it. It’s Santa Claus, but he’s played by Kurt Russell. BOOM – movie is made. And who can blame Netflix? On paper, sure, a children’s holiday movie starring the grizzled Kurt Russell sounds ironic, humorous and cute all at the same time. Unfortunately, the final product is a far cry from ever being considered a holiday classic. It is, in so many ways, just a blizzard of tinsel-covered trash.
Aforementioned, Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight, Escape from L.A., Sky High) plays the jolly Christmas icon. After a pair of loose-cannon kids sabotage his century-old holiday tradition of delivering gifts, he must work with the humans to bring back the joy that has been slowly vanishing from the world. In other words, picture the final twenty minutes of “Elf” (2003) and imagine it drawn out for an hour and forty-five minutes. Sounds breathtaking, doesn’t it?
Here’s the issue: While some may enjoy the ironic ruggedness of Russell’s Santa Claus, the story itself is just as old as the Christmas holiday. It’s rare to sit through a film with this level of mindlessness and still feel dumbfounded by the dozens of cinematic clichés. The level of predictability is at an all-time high, even for a feel-good holiday escape. It just doesn’t do anything remotely interesting enough to stand out from the literal hundreds, if not thousands of better Christmas movies on the market. It rehashes what we already know, but with more CGI.
Like so many other holiday flicks, “The Christmas Chronicles” attempts to weave heartfelt life lessons into its otherwise goofy narrative. In most cases, films will find a happy medium of lovey-dovey family moments, subtle lectures on the meaning of Christmas, and holiday hijinks. But in the case of “The Christmas Chronicles,” the awkwardly placed religious moments just further push the film into insanity. None of it is developed or approached with the care it deserves, and instead, it just feels like a forced plot point to reach audiences on all intellect levels. This, mixed with the wildly random set pieces, musical numbers and computer animated elves, only dilutes the attempted seriousness. In fact, it becomes so bizarre at times that I truly believed the film would conclude with Kurt Russell waking up in an 1860’s opium den, having just had the highest dream of his life. Alas, that isn’t the case.
With all of that said, some may find that “The Christmas Chronicles” fits the criteria for a weekend holiday escape. It carries with it that same level of cheesiness so many other Santa Claus movies have had over the years, and even though it’s absolutely ridiculous, some will find it amusing. Kurt Russell is far from the perfect iteration of the big jolly guy to hit the screen, but he does his best with a fairly one-dimensional script. In the end, you’ll laugh (even at the serious moments), and sometimes that’s a good enough reason to turn it on.
- Final Thoughts -
“The Christmas Chronicles” is a holiday blunder of wildly poor writing, weak charm and mediocre acting. When compared to other wintery classics, it doesn’t even stand a chance. However, if you’re feeling like a jolly ol’ laugh, and have a few brain cells to spare, grab some hot chocolate and give this one a whirl.
("The Christmas Chronicles" image courtesy of Netflix)