Noelle‘s lineage can be directly connected to Elf with a feminist spin. Both are holiday, fish-out-of-water tales of naive, childlike innocence when dropped in the big city.
Noelle (Disney+) is one of the very first films that has launched on Disney’s new platform this month. It’s the perfect, safe choice really. It’s a non-threatening, inoffensive Christmas comedy film to kick off the festivities this season. Its lineage can be directly connected to the Will Ferrell holiday classic, Elf, but with a brand-new feminist spin. It’s too bad Marc Lawrence, a director who previously specifically specialized in Hugh Grant befuddlement comedies, gave Noelle very few LOL’s to go along with its considerable charm.
Noelle Kringle is the daughter of everyone’s Saint, and we are not talking about Thomas Aquinas. She is the daughter of Santa/Kris Kringle and has dreamed of becoming the next fat man in a fire brick suit. Unfortunately, as a tween, the news breaks to her that her brother, Nick (Barry‘s Bill Hader) will be handed the big red pants, beard included. When she asks her father why she can’t do the job, he tells her that her job is to spread Christmas cheer, which in the North Pole to stand there and look pretty. Her mother (Julie Hagerty) assures her that her role is important, but the more she shows her brother the ropes, the more she longs for something bigger. Noelle then must thrust herself into action to save the Holiday season when Nick goes missing, and there is no one to deliver presents.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Noelle is pleasant to watch, but is almost exclusively dependent on the heaping amount of charm that Anna Kendrick brings to the table. The endearing quality she has brought to films throughout her career, even as the spunky, hard-edged cup-flipper on Pitch Perfect, is in an adorable hyperdrive here. Bill Hader’s slacker, hippy Nick is surprisingly tepid; he could have offered a high-energy comic relief, similar to Ferrell, which is something Lawrence’s film sorely needed. Billy Eichner has an amusing plotline creating an algorithm to dwindle the number of good kids down to a reasonable figure, but that remains the problem; the script’s ad-lib, improvised style of humor has very few laugh-out-loud moments. Even the baker’s dozen of anthropomorphic characters can’t generate enough visceral humor but surely will keep the kids happy.
Noelle is an escapist picture that’s a bit one-note, with the lack of any real chemistry between Kendrick’s character and a private dick that has no culinary skills played by The Commuter‘s Kingsley Ben-Adir not helping matters. If you are a fan of Kendrick’s or of holiday films in general, I have a feeling its winning nature won’t disappoint. It just needed an additional X-factor to play off of Kendrick’s naiveté that could have landed it in the category of a future classic that would have made its feminist message stand-out; even if it has the cutest damn calf to grace your screen since Norman in City Slickers.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.