Santa as you’ve never seen him before
Starring Kurt Russell, Judah Lewis, Darby Camp, Lamorne Morris, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and Oliver Hudson
Almost as notorious as the Hallmark channel with its ferocious output of Christmas films, Christmas Chronicles was released in 2018. It follows the story of Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy Pierce (Judah Lewis), who we are introduced to through home video footage, filmed by their father Doug (Oliver Hudson). We see their love of Christmas and togetherness brought to them by the holiday season, though this has all changed in the present, as the family must get along without Doug in the aftermath of his death. Both Kate and Teddy carry with them the scars of the loss of their dad, with Teddy rejecting his Christmas spirit and becoming a local miscreant, while Kate has swerved in the opposite direction, trying to replicate the Christmas cheer that they had while Doug was alive. Meanwhile, mum Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) desperately tries to keep everything running as expected at home. With Claire working on Christmas Eve, Kate spots something mysterious in one of their old home videos that convinces her that Santa is real, and ropes Teddy into creating a trap for her. They successfully spot Santa (Kurt Russell), when he appears down the chimney, and sneak aboard his sleigh. Unfortunately, their presence aboard soon causes a crash, and Teddy and Kate must work alongside Santa to put everything back on track before Christmas is ruined.
Netflix provides us here with a fairly conventional “saving Christmas” narrative, in which Teddy and Kate’s emotional problems are entirely fixed by the end of their adventure. It also, for some reason, features a bizarre musical sequence that seems to last forever inside a jail cell, which is quite a stretch of disbelief even for a film in which Santa constantly declares “Fake news”. Kurt Russell’s depiction of Santa is quite removed from the fat, jolly old man we have become accustomed to, instead a rather forthright, Machiavellian type, who is a little more gruff and cool.
Ultimately, the film provides a compelling enough narrative, with a superb pace and lasts just the right length for it to be a decent Christmas movie, with a strong emotional core as Kate and Teddy repair their relationship as brother and sister.
The Christmas Chronicles is streaming now on Netflix