Starring: Kurt Russell, Darby Camp, Judah Lewis
Director: Clay Kaytis
Running Time: 104 mins
The Christmas Chronicles is an American film about two kids who, after accidentally crashing Santa’s sleigh on Christmas eve, unite with Saint Nick as they attempt to save Christmas.
You’ve seen Christmas movies, right? All the adults think Santa isn’t real but he turns up anyway and then has to save Christmas at the last minute with a bunch of young believers. Well, The Christmas Chronicles is every festive film stereotype rolled into one.
And yet in doing so, the film proves to be irresistibly adorable. It may not be a particularly cerebral watch, and its story is far from enthralling, but with an unashamed love for the festive season and light, sweet humour and adventure, The Christmas Chronicles is a thoroughly likable watch.
There’s a whole lot to love about the movie – most of which revolves around just how cute it is – but its biggest strength comes in the form of Kurt Russell’s leading turn as Santa Claus himself. Having been played by countless Hollywood stars over the years, there are infinite different iterations of Santa, but I have to say that Russell’s is genuinely one of the very best.
While it isn’t quite the warm and cosy classic Santa like Edmund Gwenn’s from Miracle On 34th Street, Russell captures the ‘alternative’ Santa brilliantly, with hilarious and enthusiastic big screen energy, and a thoroughly welcome willingness to blend the softer, more traditional aspects of the character with something a little different.
Too often when films try to get Santa right, they either go too heavy on the traditional, schmaltzy stuff about Christmas spirit, or go too far the other way by trying to subvert the audience’s expectations. In terms of finding a good middle ground, however, The Christmas Chronicles does a surprisingly brilliant job, with Russell right at the centre of an adventure that has everything fans of either traditional or alternative festive fun can want.
On the one hand, the movie’s biggest laughs come in the form of that alternative, tradition-breaking atmosphere. But on the other hand, its commitment to keeping that sweeter, more traditional character means that it’s often a wonderfully heartfelt watch, with a genuine and irresistibly adorable love for Christmas alongside its more unique ideas.
However, the film’s story is nowhere near as engaging or successful as those ideas, and while it impresses with charisma, laughs and fun throughout, it’s really easy to get a little bored with what is a very, very generic premise.
Unlike its unashamed love for festive fun and Santa Claus, the film’s generic story comes across as more lazy, struggling to find anything beyond the most predictable festive formula, and despite finding humour and ingenuity in pockets throughout, not offering any properly entertaining surprises along the way.
As a result, The Christmas Chronicles, for all its good heart, isn’t the most interesting watch, and particularly when the focus isn’t on Russell’s Santa Claus, it can be a very dull watch, amounting to little more than a generic kids’ movie.
Overall, though, I really rather liked The Christmas Chronicles. On the surface, it’s as generic as Christmas movies get, with a predictable and often dull premise, but thanks to a hugely memorable lead performance from Kurt Russell, a good sense of humour, and an adorable love for all things festive, it still proves a thoroughly enjoyable watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2.