At the start of The Christmas Chronicles 2, we’re shown a large leather bound book entitled The Christmas Chronicles Volume XVII. Whether or not this is a statement of intent from Netflix isn’t clear but, if it is, the Twinkly Santa Saves Christmas formula that made the original such a success may already need some beefing up. Because, on the evidence of this sequel, it’s already starting to show signs of wear.
We’re back in the company of Kate (Darby Camp), returning for this second episode and still struggling to get over the death of her dad. This time, she’s spending Christmas in Cancun with mum (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), her mum’s new boyfriend (Tyrese Gibson) and his young son, Jack (The Witches’ Jahzir Bruno), all of which makes her even further down in the dumps. But a chance encounter with the malevolent Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), an elf who has taken on human form, sends the two children into a worm hole that sends them to the North Pole. They’re rescued by Santa (Kurt Russell) and Mrs Claus (Goldie Hawn) and soon find that the man and lady in red need their help in preventing Belsnickel ruin the village where all the toys are made – and stopping Christmas forever.
Yes, we’ve been here before, and in more senses than one. Cancelling Christmas is a perennial problem and it’s always down to a youngster or two to make sure it never, ever happens. And we’ve met this particular Santa before. Not that he’s unwelcome, because Kurt Russell’s unexpectedly sexy take on Father Christmas was one of the most welcome cinematic arrivals of 2018. He’s lost none of the twinkle and swagger that we saw then, but this time Mrs Claus is brought to the fore so that he shares some of the limelight and the film can make more out of the Russell and Hawn’s long standing partnership. It’s just a shame she’s not given much more to do apart from be motherly and there are times when Hawn is about a wooden as one of Santa’s toys.
More uncomfortably, in a film that purports to celebrate the spirit of Christmas, that spirit seems to be decidedly commercial. This is a Santa that wouldn’t look out of place in Wall Street, boasting that “If you combined Amazon, FedEx, the postal service and UPS with every manufacturing company in the world, and they quadrupled their output for an entire year, you just might be getting close to what we can accomplish here in Santa’s village – in a single day.” Amazing that it doesn’t appear on the Dow Jones, then. Some of the simpler visual gags in the background are more on target, especially the cinema in the village square showing Elf – until Belsnickel comes to town and Bad Santa puts elven bums on seats instead.
At just a smidge under two hours – the Netflix standard running time? – there’s a definite sense that the film has taken on some of Santa’s padding. The big musical number at the halfway point is a bolt-on: until then, there’s no sign of this being a musical and, once the singing stops, it doesn’t return. But it does prevent the action sagging in the middle, giving the film the jolt of energy it needs to take it through the second half. The Christmas Chronicles 2 plays like exactly what it is – a sequel without the freshness of the original. While it’ll raise a smile and maybe a giggle or two, hanging out with an almost cool Santa has lost some of that essential seasonal sparkle.
Comedy, Family, Fantasy | Cert: PG | Netflix | 25 November 2020 | Dir. Chris Columbus | Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Julian Dennison, Jahzir Bruno.