Set on a wintery Christmas Eve, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ follows Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy Pierce (Judah Lewis) as they set out to catch footage of Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) but instead almost derail Christmas. Trying to fix their mistakes, Kate and Teddy must work together with Santa to put aside their differences and save Christmas before the sun rises.
With a wide collection of festive films set to release on Netflix this winter, rivalling only Hallmark in both quality and quantity, the streaming giant appears to be positioning themselves as the new leaders in seasonal content. This of course includes big budget ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ which, while not offering anything particularly new, does set itself above your average Hallmark movie in terms of quality, production value and heart.
On the whole, the film is just delightfully festive, albeit with a hint of darkness that probably stems from trying to add an edge and contemporise the standard ‘we need to save Christmas’ narrative. The performances are surprisingly good all around, with Darby Camp portraying the wonder of a child full of Christmas spirit and Judah Lewis being a little (but not too) annoying as the angsty teen non-believer. However, the perfectly cast Kurt Russell absolutely nails his over-the-top Santa, seeming to not take it seriously at all but loving every minute of it.
I am severely torn over one part of the film in particular; the elves. I have mixed feelings over their part cute, part terrifying portrayal, with the creatures being the love children of minions and gremlins. You can tell that the filmmakers are trying to emulate the huge appeal of Minions, just as many other children’s films of recent years have attempted. I will admit that I did found them hilarious at points, and I did mostly enjoy their inclusion, but they have a couple of pretty menacing moments that turn them from ‘cute and fluffy’ to ‘creatures of nightmares’, so we’ll have to see how they land with general audiences.
Taking a side step from terrifying CGI creatures, the special effects in this Netflix original are actually pretty good for the most part. The first two acts contain some effects-heavy sequences which are well executed; Santa’s sleigh soars high in the sky lead by CGI reindeers, both of which are rendered to quite a high quality, even if they don’t quite blow your mind. There were a few green screen issues towards the end though which did take me out of the moment slightly, but as I saw it on a cinema size screen, this may not look so bad at home.
With so much going on in the reasonable 100-minute runtime, it really seems that the writers threw everything at the wall to see what sticks, but luckily I think more sticks that doesn’t. There is a pretty odd message about the meaning of Christmas towards the end of the film that I definitely think should not be there, but the rest of the film is just one big, charming cheese fest. There is quite a heartfelt through line that garnered a few tears from the audience and this is well balanced by a heavy dose of humour.
I can’t say that ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ is a masterpiece, but I truly found it very charming, heartfelt and just fun. There is plenty of action to keep the kids occupied, although I do think that with the somewhat scary elves and a few darker moments, this may be more suited for a slightly older audience than the young children that it’s clearly trying to target. This will undoubtedly become one of my guilty pleasures and in all honesty, I can’t wait to watch it again as soon as it’s released.
THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES comes to Netflix worldwide on 22nd November.
Family, Comedy | USA,2018 | 22nd November 2018 (Globally) | Netflix | Dir. Clay Kaytis | Kurt Russell, Darby Camp, Judah Lewis