'The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two': Film Review

THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES: PART TWO Still 3-Netflix Publicity-H-2020-1605810699
JOSEPH LEDERER/NETFLIX
Russell and Hawn bring the star power.
11/25/2020

Kurt Russell returns as a super-cool Santa, with Goldie Hawn's Mrs. Santa at his side, in this sequel to Netflix's 2018 holiday hit.

Netflix's mission to conquer the already oversaturated holiday movie marketplace continues with this sequel to its 2018 hit starring Kurt Russell as a very hip Santa Claus. With Chris Columbus in the director's chair (he produced the earlier film) and Goldie Hawn bumped up from a cameo to a co-starring role as Mrs. Claus, The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two delivers even more elaborate Yuletide mayhem in another overstuffed adventure in which plucky children help Santa save Christmas.

Set two years after the original, the film again features siblings Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy (Judah Lewis, pretty much relegated to the sidelines in this installment), the children of widowed mother Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). The story begins in Cancún, where they are vacationing with Claire's new boyfriend Bob (Tyrese Gibson) and his son Jack (Jahzir Bruno).

Kate gets reunited with Santa Claus when she and Jack are transported to the North Pole by the villainous Belsnickel (Julian Dennison, Deadpool 2), a disgruntled former elf who's determined to ruin Christmas by stealing the magical star at the top of the Christmas tree in Santa's Village, which lives up to its name by resembling a kitschy, holiday-themed marketplace run amuck. (The village's cinema features Elf on its marquee, which doesn't do this holiday film any favors by reminding viewers of a better one. And does a snippet of It's a Wonderful Life on television have to be accompanied by a shot of Mr. and Mrs. Claus fast asleep?)

That's about all of the plot that you'll get from me. Actually, that's about all of the plot you'll get from the rest of the film, with the dramatic high point being Dasher getting seriously wounded and a loving Mrs. Claus nursing him back to health. There's also plenty of shenanigans involving Santa's Minions — I mean elves — who become naughtily crazed after ingesting "elfbane" and who speak a dialect called "Yulish." The latter means that their dialogue, along with some of Santa's, is accompanied by subtitles, which just seems cruel to small children trying to enjoy some undemanding holiday entertainment during their school break.

The magic-infused adventures include Santa and the kids traveling back in time several decades to an airport thronged with holiday crowds. This provides the opportunity for an elaborately choreographed musical number called "Spirit of Christmas" featuring Russell's hard-rocking Santa (complete with Bill Clinton-inspired sax playing and shades) and a joyous vocal turn by Darlene Love. Although why they would put Darlene Love in a holiday film and not have her sing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" is anybody's guess. The scene also allows for a Back to the Future-style plot twist, albeit of a more wholesome variety.

Even for a film geared toward kids, the dramatic stakes aren't very high, especially since the New Zealand-accented, villainous Belsnickel (the character's name stems from German folklore) seems less evil than merely annoying, most resembling a middle-school bully who takes other kids' lunch money. That doesn't prevent you from wishing that Russell would temporarily shed his jovial Santa persona and get all Snake Plissken, which he comes close to when he removes an arrow from his own rear end and explains, "Riding around in the sleigh is like a shot of Novocaine in the old butt cheeks."

Kids will eat it all up, but let's face it, they also love the food at Chuck E. Cheese. The film's chief lure for adults is the comforting presence of Russell and Hawn in their first co-starring appearance since 1987's Overboard. Russell leans into his iconic role with admirable commitment, providing just enough winking to let us know he's in on the joke and thoroughly enjoying it, while Hawn remains as adorable — albeit now in a more grandmotherly way — as always. When they're onscreen together, it somehow feels like this year's pandemic-threatened Christmas will miraculously still be one to celebrate.

Production companies: 1492 Pictures, Wonder Worldwide
Distributor: Netflix
Cast: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Jahzir Bruno, Julian Dennison, Tyrese Gibson, Judah Lewis
Director: Chris Columbus
Screenwriters: Matt Liberman, Chris Columbus
Producers: Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, Michael Banathan, Kurt Russell
Executive producers: Tracy K. Price, William V. Andrew, Adam Kolbrenner, David Guggenheim, Lyn Lucibello, Clay Kaytris
Director of photography: Don Burgess
Production designer: Jon Hutman
Editor: Dan Zimmerman
Composer: Christophe Beck
Costume designer: Pierre-Yves Gayraud
Casting: Barbara J. McCarthy, Alice Merlin

Rated PG, 112 min.