Christmas Film Review: Klaus

Netflix gives Santa Claus an origin tale

Starring Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Neda Margrethe Labba, Sergio Pablos, Norm Macdonald, and Joan Cusack

Spoilt rich kid Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) is cut off from his family to teach him a lesson. Sent to the ominous town of Smeerensburg, he is tasked with 6,000 letters being posted in a year before he can return. Unfortunately, Smeerensburg is more preoccupied with a generations-long feud between the Ellingboes and the Krums than they are with the postal service. When Jesper meets enigmatic recluse Klaus (J.K. Simmons), who makes handmade toys, he uses this to his advantage to persuade the community to write letters, and makes a large impact upon the divided town.

From the brain of Sergio Pablos, who also created the Despicable Me franchise, Klaus has many elements of Disney animations of old, despite being a Netflix production. This likely stems from Pablos’s involvement in Disney classics such as Hercules, The Hunchback of Norte Dame and Tarzan. The angular character design and the offbeat, wacky sense of humour certainly echoes oft-unappreciated Disney film The Emperor’s New Groove and is mostly successful.

The animation style in general is absolutely gorgeous. Though it clearly has not used many of the techniques that traditional 2D animation uses, allowing for greater depth within the scene that a computer allows, Pablos has stuck close to 2D animation styles, which gives the movie a timeless, homely feeling.

Not only are the visuals a tremendous factor in the appeal of Klaus, but so too is the unexpected level of emotion. It should come as no surprise that the character of Jesper changes throughout the film and morphs into a more selfless and community-minded spirit, compared to the selfish and self-serving man we see at the beginning. Lots of the appeal of seeing this transition is due to his relationship with Klaus which is massively touching. Also emotional are the details of Klaus’s backstory that are revealed as the story goes on.

The origin tale given to Santa, such as the details of where the reindeer came from, the idea of climbing down a chimney, getting coal for Christmas and the sleigh are all cleverly achieved, and the film really dives into the whole idea of Christmas as uniting a community. Klaus truly is a festive treat for all ages.

Klaus is streaming now on Netflix.

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