Between hearing great things about this movie and Netfilx’s recent releases, we decided this movie was worth a shot. Now, I don’t usually consider myself a “Christmas” person, and I find a lot of “Christmas” movies too predictable, cliche, surface-level, PC, “Just Another Re-Write,” and so on. I do have a few favorites, though, and while The Christmas Chronicles will not be on there, I did still overall enjoy this modernized take on waiting up for Santa.
The first thing that bothered me that I just want to get out of the way is the acting. I know I bring this up a LOT and I know it’s incredibly hard to get actors to act like a “real family”. I have been involved in a few theater productions and movies and have seen first-hand the effects of poor acting, as well as poor directing, and who knows what this was. I just know I noticed a lot of misplaced pauses, emotionless phrases, and lack of appropriate facial expression. Or maybe my family is just super expressive.
That being said, the characters did grow on me quickly, and I laughed along with their antics. This is definitely the sort of adventure I would have loved to have been on when I was younger (ok, ok, or now). While in general I was able to see where the story was going, there were a few twists that caught me off guard, and I like that. Two stick out. First, the church scene. The idea of kids being aware of faith and decisions thereof and consequences, and the anger at God narrative that is laying fairly low throughout most of the story, gave a lot more depth to the story than I have become accustomed to seeing in recent holiday flicks. Second, there was that whole hat thing. I did not see that coming. Guess I’m not a true believer.
Speaking of true believers, THANK YOU NETFLIX FOR FINALLY MAKING SENSE OF THE WHOLE HOW DO PARENTS NOT NOTICE THING! Something that has always baffled me in Christmas movies is how kids get gifts from Santa at the end of the movie and the parents don’t notice, don’t care, aren’t even in frame, or in the room, and so on. Christmas is supposed to be a family thing. I can understand maybe forgetting a gift or two once in a while and being surprised when your kid opens it, or maybe some would assume it was purchased by the other parent. But, in general, how do parents not notice when it’s something big? Like that skateboard? Well, thanks to the book of true believers featured in this movie, we know that, at least in this alternate reality, these parents never stopped believing. They knew it was real the whole time. I’m sure peer pressure kept them from being too vocal about it, and who knows if the mom and dad wrote letters still after their teen years, but they definitely never lost the Christmas Spirit. It also explains a little bit how Santa can deliver to the whole world in one night. If he only brings gifts to the gold-lettered believers, that saves a lot of time. Countries that don’t celebrate Christmas or have a different gift delivery people would be easily skipped, except for maybe the American embassy.
Also I loved the whole quantum mechanics thing. If Santa has tapped into the powers of quantum mechanics, then wormholes, instant travel, even time travel, is totally believable. Of course he could travel the world in one night. Also, I appreciated the holographic map within the main “wormhole” which plays into the tendency of humans (or humanoids, whatever Santa is) with a photographic memory to recognize more immediately images, such as monuments, instead of numbers or words, such as a list of cities or latitude and longitude. And of course Santa would have a photographic memory, as his job rests heavily on recognizing faces, cities, toys, and so on. So yeah. Science for the win.
The setup of the dad as a fireman was obvious enough to know what had happened when suddenly dad was no longer there, which was nice that the real story didn’t come up into words until Teddy’s meltdown. The position of the meltdown and the phraseology, coupled with the church being in the background, was a pretty solid and quick little gospel moment that would also easily go over the heads of people who were not ready to hear it, so that was cool.
One last thing; Elves. What… What were those? And the whole language thing? I don’t know, I wasn’t a huge fan of the elves. Like the minions in the Despicable Me franchise, they are cute, moderately crass, devoted, talk in half-English (although they obviously understand English and are capable of speaking it) and are moderately magical in and of themselves. Minor character points, like a woman boss and addictions to violence and candy canes, added a little depth to otherwise very surface-level-y little guys. The language thing bothered me. However, the little bit of Christmas magic when Kate suddenly understood the fuzzy minions was charming, and a generous confidence boost to work on her Spanish when she returned to school in the new year.
Ok, last last thing… Maybe…
Jailhouse Christmas Party. Wow. That was a little awkward with the whole Santa definitely can not play piano issue (just what does he spend the other 363 days doing?) but the cops enjoying the show and not understanding exactly what was going on was kind of fun. I can only assume they thought it was an elaborate Merry Christmas prank. And that one cop getting together with his ex again? How sweet! I love a good redemption story, and that sounded like the beginning of something worth having.
Overall, if you have room in your typical Christmas lineup, set aside a slot for this one. I can see where it may be a classic for many families in the years to come, so long as Netflix endures. I am not exactly anti-Disney, but I do believe competition is healthy, and as Netflix continues to grow and, as far as I have seen, produce and provide access to smaller-budget but still good quality movies and shows, I sincerely hope that they are not run into oblivion by larger companies.