The man, the myth, the legend.
There’s one good reason, and one good reason only, as to why you should check out The Christmas Chronicles, which is now streaming on Netflix: Kurt Russell.
From The Angry Birds Movie director Clay Kaytis and producer Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), The Christmas Chronicles is a new Netflix original film that sees Russell take on the character of Santa Clause.
Yes, THE Santa Clause, and he’s a pretty terrific Santa Clause at that.
The film opens in Lowell, Massachusetts, which is where we enter into the Pierce household. If there’s one thing that this family — made up of the father, Doug (Oliver Hudson); mother, Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley); and siblings Teddy (Judah Lewis) and Kate (Darby Camp) — loves, it’s Christmas.
Granted, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find any family who doesn’t love Christmas, really, but the Pierces really go all-out every year, mostly due to Doug’s special fascination with the holiday.
This year, however, is looking to be an especially somber one for the Pierces. Doug, a firefight, unexpectedly passed away while in the line of duty earlier this year, casting a dampened mood over this year’s holiday season.
Matters don’t improve when Claire gets called into work at the last minute, leaving Teddy and Kate to sulk by themselves on Christmas Eve.
That’s when it happens. The two of them are sitting there, minding their own business when something catches the corner of Kate’s eye. Something that, upon some investigation, just so happens to be Santa’s sleigh.
Teddy and Kate find the sleigh sitting — or rather, floating — on their street, reindeer and all. It appears to be empty, which is what causes the curiosity inside Kate to spark. What would it be like, she wonders, to actually ride on Santa’s sleigh?
Well, after forcing Teddy to join her and some further poking around, she soon finds out, as Santa comes back and, without looking to see if he picked up any freeloaders, takes off to the next city to deliver more presents.
It’s not until he’s halfway to the west coast when Santa turns around and sees Teddy and Kate hanging on for dear life. Startled, he mistakenly drops his hat and sack of toys, while also losing control of the reindeer who then take off in the opposite direction.
The sleigh crash-lands somewhere in Chicago, with Santa being less than pleased. The fate of Christmas now on the line, the three of them then have to find a way to get back old Saint Nick’s belongings and deliver the rest of the presents before the sun rises.
Yeah, there’s some cheesy life-lessons for Kate and Teddy that are stuffed in there too as the two of them learn what the true meaning of Christmas is and how to deal with the grief they feel from losing their father but, honestly, I don’t really care about all of that.
I’m just here for Kurt Russell.
It would have been all too easy for Russell to take a quick paycheck without having to put forth much effort with The Christmas Chronicles. He’s obviously an A-list actor in a B-list movie, meaning the production needs him far more than he needs the production.
But, no. Not our Kurt Russell. Even when he surely must had had thoughts of ‘What am I doing with my life?’ and ‘Is anyone even going to watch this movie?’ floating through his head during production, he goes all-out and commits 110% to The Christmas Chronicles. He’s yelling, shouting, singing and cracking jokes in nearly every scene he’s in, therefore becoming one of the most charismatic Santas we’ve seen on film to date.
For example: There is a scene (this isn’t a spoiler) in which Santa ends up separated from Teddy and Kate as he’s taken into custody by the Chicago Police Department. He then has to convince two officers — played by Lamorne Morris (Winston from New Girl) and Martin Roach — that he’s the real Santa Clause, even though the two of them clearly aren’t buying it.
In a Hail Mary effort, Santa pulls out a bunch of musical instruments from underneath his magical cloak, hands them to nearby inmates and proceeds to sing a three-minute song about how what Christmas means to him.
And Russell owns every single second of it. From his rambunctious energy on the piano his only slightly pitchy vocals, the moment is so bizarre and fun that you’d swear you’re watching something that’s straight from the 1980s.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie can’t quite keep up with that energy. While Russell makes you forget how dumb The Christmas Chronicles is whenever he’s on screen, it becomes immediately apparent anytime the story focuses elsewhere.
There’s a lot of the movie that he isn’t in, too, which give screen-time to humor that isn’t all that funny, a storyline that isn’t all that interesting and a bunch of CGI elves that are poorly animated and really got on my nerves.
It’s not that I had some kind of warped expectations when going into The Christmas Chronicles; I knew who this movie was for and that I likely wasn’t the intended audience. It was just such a bumpy switch of tones from seeing Russell light up to the screen to then going back to this bland, unoriginal Christmas movie.
For what it’s worth, Lewis and Camp are both fine in the movie. I don’t see them becoming overnight successes, nor do I think their character arcs are particularly well-written, but, performance-wise, they certainly don’t hinder The Christmas Chronicles.
All you really need to know, though, is that Kurt Russell makes this film far, far more watchable than it really has any right to be. Put any other actor who doesn’t have the same kind of commitment into this role and I would have turned it off under 20 minutes. Yet, I can’t lie, there were parts of this movie that left a huge, dumb grin on my face. Other parts might have made me want to throw something at the TV screen, sure, but Russell is really the knight in shining armor here as he not only saves Christmas, but saves The Christmas Chronicles.
Watch the trailer for The Christmas Chronicles here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the movie!
'The Christmas Chronicles' - Give it up for Kurt Russell [REVIEW]5