The Netflix sequel cannot reach the heights of the original
Starring Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Jahzir Bruno, Julian Dennison, Tyrese Gibson, Judah Lewis, Sunny Suljic, Darlene Love, and Malcolm McDowell
A sequel to 2018’s Christmas Chronicles, the creatively named Christmas Chronicles 2 seems to be operating under the assumption that more is better. The sequel features more of what lots of people enjoyed of the original: more sleigh rides, more animated elves, and higher stakes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it more compelling to watch.
Two years after where we left them, the Pierce family are in a completely different place. Quite literally, as they are spending Christmas in Cancun with Claire’s (Kimberly William-Paisley) new boyfriend Bob (Tyrese Gibson) and his son Jack (The Witches’ Jahzir Bruno). In a role reversal from the first film, Kate is now the moody, disengaged teenager, reluctant to accept another father figure into her life and embittered and angry at her mother for moving on after her father’s death, while Teddy is remarkably relaxed and accepting of the whole thing, and far more interested in girls while on holiday. However, Kate and almost-step-brother Jack are thrown into the crosshairs of a plot to destroy Christmas, when they are abducted by ex-elf Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) so that he can steal Santa’s Christmas Star and create a new North Pole.
When they arrive in the North Pole, after almost freezing to death, they are rescued by Santa (Kurt Russell), and taken to his village, inhabited with an aggressive number of CGI elves and Mrs Claus (Goldie Hawn). After a decent extra half hour of unnecessary exposition that does nothing to make the villain of the piece even vaguely sympathetic, the film then throws in not one, not two, but three obstacles. Belsnickel’s snow cat attacks and severely injures Dasher, while also releasing a potion in the village that turns all of the elves crazy, while also stealing the Christmas star and robbing Santa’s village of power.
While Mrs Claus stays behind with Dasher because I guess the feminist movement hasn’t yet reached the North Pole and apparently all Goldie Hawn is good for is ladling water into a fake reindeer’s mouth, it’s up to Jack – a literal child – to scale a mountain to retrieve a root that will reverse the crazy potion, and Kate and Santa head off to Turkey to get the elves there to make a new Christmas Star. Somehow, along the way, there’s also a sequence that involves time travel and a musical number with Darlene Love which lasts far too long to be even remotely comfortable, a game of chicken between two flying sleighs, a gingerbread man crafted by Mrs Claus that explodes upon impact, and a Yule cat that is eliminated by being swung round by the paws, not to mention a small boy taking on a gang of unconvincing-looking elves with a nerf gun.
Look, I’m sure there’s enough ridiculous energy and random things going on here to entertain many children, but the plot is simply too convoluted and nowhere near cohesive enough to work. It lacks the emotion of the first movie, and, while Kate does have a few moments to shine, most of the movie separates her and Jack, preventing them from forming any sort of meaningful relationship. There’s nowhere near enough of Mrs Claus either, which is a shame because Goldie Hawn is brilliant in the small sections that she’s in. It’s also appalling that this movie runs to nearly 2 hours when, even with a ridiculous number of plots going on at once, it still feels like it’s mostly padding. Honestly, this was the most effort I have had to put into watching a film in a long time. Quite how Chris Columbus can be responsible for the first two Harry Potter films and also this cesspit of creativity just goes to show that even the best filmmakers can make shit films.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 is now streaming on Netflix, in case this review hasn’t dissuaded you.