Podcast Mini Episode - The Christmas Chronicles Movie Review
Mainlining Christmas reviews the surprisingly good Netflix Original movie, The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell.
Erin: Welcome to a very special Black Friday’s Eve installment of the Mainlining Christmas podcast. As always, I’m Erin…
Lindsay: And I’m Lindsay. This is going to be a mini-episode looking at the new Netflix live-action movie, The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus.
Erin: Let’s cut to the chase - I think I love this thing.
Lindsay: Yes, absolutely. The trailers were fun, but I really didn’t expect it to be this good. It might be the best American made live-action movie about Santa Claus I’ve ever seen.
Erin: I wouldn’t go quite that far. I enjoyed this a lot, but I wouldn’t rank it above Elf, and I certainly wouldn’t say it’s better than Miracle on 34th Street.
Lindsay: Well, you know I’m not a huge fan of either of those. I’ll take Kurt Russell over Will Ferrell any day.
Erin: We’ll save this for a future episode in which we shout at each other for forty minutes straight. Because, while we may disagree about those two particular holiday classics--
Lindsay: Overrated classics.
Erin:—We agree that The Christmas Chronicles deserves to be considered a classic in its own right.
Lindsay: That’s not hyperbole. It’s really that good.
Erin: I got an Amblin vibe from this, pretty much from the start. The effects may be modern--
Lindsay: Maybe a little too modern at times, but we’ll save the nitpicking for later.
Erin: While it looks modern, it feels like an 80’s adventure movie. And not just because it’s starring the living embodiment of everything good about that decade.
Lindsay: There was a lot of E.T. and even a little Gremlins in this. It’s lighter in tone than those, but you could feel the influence.
Erin: The kids - particularly the girl - felt like they stepped out of those movies. And that’s significant, because despite the fact that this was advertised as being about Russell’s Santa, the narrative was far more focused on them.
Lindsay: Yeah, it was much more their story than his. This movie is really about siblings dealing with the loss of a parent at Christmas, growing as people, and repairing their relationship. Saving Christmas and the world is sort of an extension of that.
Erin: Saving Christmas isn’t really the plot of the movie - it’s the setting. In the wrong hands, this could have failed miserably. Hell, I’m not sure success was guaranteed in the right hands. But thanks to believable characters and subtle writing, it works.
Lindsay: It helped that the kids can actually act. There were a few moments that strained believability around big CG set pieces, but the kids definitely pulled off all the heartfelt stuff.
Erin: Of course, no one listening to this podcast cares about any of that.
Lindsay: Probably not. They want to know how Kurt Russell was as Saint Nick.
Erin: I thought he was good. He’s recognizably Kurt Russell in the suit, but that was obviously the selling point.
Lindsay: I was a little surprised how well it worked. I think a lot of people are going to misread this Santa Claus as being a parody or somehow subversive, but it’s actually pretty accurate to the myth.
Erin: Agreed. They put their own spin on Claus, but even Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas has him doing his work with a knowing wink. And almost every famous version from Rudolph to Miracle on 34th Street makes it clear he’s capable of getting angry and irritated.
Lindsay: They definitely updated certain elements. He sings a rock song, after all.
Erin: Another scene that really shouldn’t have worked but somehow did.
Lindsay: And his outfit and sleigh have been updated. The suit looks a little less “mall Santa” and more like something a human might actually wear.
Erin: I don’t want to give too much away, but in some ways he reminded me of a Golden Age superhero, especially towards the end of the movie. But it’s worth remembering Santa Claus was winking and grinning long before any of them were dreamed up.
Lindsay: I really liked how his Christmas magic looked and how it was presented, especially the practical effects. I even liked some of the digital stuff, but… we should probably mention some of the things that didn’t quite work.
Erin: We already touched on the CG. None of it was bad and some of it - like the Northern Lights warp effect on the sleigh - was neat. But if you’re hoping for something where everything feels real and tactile, you’ll be disappointed.
Lindsay: While I like most of the designs, they do rely too heavily on some of the digital sequences to sell wonder or excitement, occasionally at the cost of a human connection. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s an unfortunate weak point.
Erin: I’m also not sure how I feel about the elves. They’re kind of fun and better handled than most movies that go in this direction - looking at you, Rise of the Guardians - but they were still more cartoonish than I’d have liked.
Lindsay: I’m not sure it’s really a flaw so much as a preference thing, but I mostly agree. I didn’t love that they were like weird CG kangaroo rats. I did really like their language, though. They sounded Scandinavian, which ties into Finnish and British traditions.
Erin: Speaking of the British, I want to bring up one other aspect that, while not quite technically a flaw, does deserve to be mentioned here. This movie borrows a little too liberally from a 2014 movie from the UK called Get Santa.
Lindsay: There are worse movies to copy. And, to be fair, we don’t know for certain the producers ever saw that, but there are quite a few similarities.
Erin: It’s like a hair away from being a remake. I really like Get Santa, too - it’s a great Christmas fantasy adventure. That said, I think The Christmas Chronicles is even better.
Lindsay: I like them both, but I think I agree.
Erin: Anything else we should complain about?
Lindsay: I could quibble about some choices they made at the ending. There’s a point at the very end where they try to balance magic against character growth, and I’d have preferred a little less Hallmark magic.
Erin: I know what you’re referring to. It wasn’t awful--
Lindsay: No, I’d even say it was good. But they could have made it great with a few adjustments.
Erin: Overall, this was a really good movie.
Lindsay: It was funny, clever, smart, and sweet - just a really solid Christmas movie everyone should check out.
Erin: I wasn’t kidding earlier about this having the potential to become a classic. I really think it’s destined to become a staple watched annually by families.
Lindsay: Good. Maybe they’ll stop watching the dang Tim Allen movies. This is much better.
Erin: I know 2018 is a competitive year, but I feel like this would have been better equipped for a theatrical run than Nutcracker and the Four Realms. It really is quite a bit better than you’d expect from a Netflix original.
Lindsay: The Mainlining Christmas Podcast is written, recorded, and edited by Lindsay Stares...
Erin: --and Erin Snyder. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.
Lindsay: For more reviews and articles pertaining to the yuletide season, visit MainliningChristmas.com.
Erin: Hey, uh… just in case anyone who works at Netflix is listening, I’ve got a pitch for a sequel. Buy up the rights to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and remake that using the cast and characters from Christmas Chronicles. I’m not kidding - it could be amazing.