The Christmas Chronicles 2 review – a wholesome but cluttered holiday treat lead the way

November 25, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
Film Reviews, Netflix
3

Summary

It lacks some of the first film’s charm, but The Christmas Chronicles 2 is nonetheless a wholesome and energetic seasonal treat — when it isn’t saddled with franchise-building clutter.

3

Summary

It lacks some of the first film’s charm, but The Christmas Chronicles 2 is nonetheless a wholesome and energetic seasonal treat — when it isn’t saddled with franchise-building clutter.

With Netflix currently flooding its thumbnails with seasonal content, it’s hard to imagine how anything could stand out. But Chris Colombus’s star-studded The Christmas Chronicles 2, a follow-up to Clay Kaytis’s original which just so happens to be one of Netflix’s most successful films ever, has a damn good go at it, delivering a wholesome helping of seasonal cheer that, rather than deviating from the family-friendly action-comedy recipe of the original, simply doubles down on its charms for another lap of the Christmas tree.

It does, admittedly, lack some of that film’s fresh pizazz, electing to not really do anything substantial with its framework and instead one-up its action and expand its mythology. It still hits the same beats and does so perfectly on-rhythm, but it’s also content to let the audience sing along, comfortable they know the words. Mostly, this is probably what people want from a film like this, but also means this effort lacks the same kind of staying power as the first. The likelihood of it being similarly record-breaking is small, though still feasible.

Returning siblings Teddy (Judah Lewis) and Kate (Darby Camp) to the North Pole is expected as far as setups go, but this one is justified well enough, with Kate experiencing the usual anxiety over her mother, Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), shacking up with a new man who she feels might replace her dead father. Bob is the new beau, played by Tyrese Gibson looking a little out of place outside of the Fast franchise. The almost anti-Christmas setting of Cancun, Mexico is used as a kind of shorthand for Kate’s sense of seasonal spirit being tamped down. By the time she and Bob’s son Jack (Jahzir Bruno) are tricked through a portal to snowier climes by Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), an aggrieved elf cursed with a human form, it feels almost overdue.

Belsnickel’s plot is simple enough: He wants to break into Santa’s Village so he can destroy the Christmas-enabling tree-topper star and corrupt his fellow elves into evildoing. Columbus and co-writer Matt Lieberman, though, have decided to make that dastardly plot as unnecessarily complicated as possible, bogging it down at every turn with unnecessary backstory for Santa, his workshop, and his workforce, and light, largely go-nowhere subplots. This, I suspect, is because the character of Belsnickel isn’t compelling enough on its own and is too moody of a presence for the movie’s overall sense of good cheer.

And good cheer is everything in The Christmas Chronicles 2, which continues to get excellent use out of Kurt Russell as Santa, and gives Goldie Hawn a lot more to do as Mrs. Claus. There’s a meta aspect to this movie-star pairing, a knowing wink to the audience that they’re in capable hands, and if the script naturally asks little of the performers they’re nonetheless content to deliver what’s necessary as affably as possible. Gibson’s casting feels like the opposite; a wasteful use of a born comic relief actor who gets given nothing to do in a film that could have probably used more jokes.

The sense of going bigger and better in the set-piece design is always felt, and not always in a way that really adds much. For the most part, it’s just a distraction, a reminder that there’s nothing else in the gaps between the bonkers developments besides franchise-building clutter, which is a bit too close to the capitalist underpinnings of Christmas for comfort. When The Christmas Chronicles 2 hones in on the essential spirit of the season it’s a good time – it just isn’t a good time as reliably or convincingly as it once was.


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