Directed By: Chris Columbus
Written By: Matt Lieberman, Chris Columbus
In Theaters and Netflix: November 25, 2020
Runtime: 1Hr 52 Mins
Starring: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Jahzir Bruno, Julian Dennison
Like its predecessor, The Christmas Chronicles, the sequel follows Kate Pierce (Darby Camp) and a new face, Jack (Jazhir Bruno), her mom’s new boyfriend’s son, as her family vacations in Cancun to celebrate Christmas. Kate, unhappy with the whole situation, attempts to sneak away from Jack and is duped by Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), a devious elf who has plans of his own to stop Christmas for once and for all. Kate and Jack find themselves in the North Pole and have to help Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) and Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn) save Christmas once again from Belsnickel.
Now, on paper, it’s a straightforward story and call to action. Unfortunately, the elements introduced throughout the film bog down the call to action and make the second act more convoluted than the film already is. There are plenty of ingredients that make the film feel magical and full of fun, such as the production design of the North Pole and seeing Santa’s inventions come to life, as well as a kick-ass Christmas song that plays halfway through the flick. As ridiculous as the scene is, I couldn’t help but embrace the fun energy and suddenly felt a desire to pop on some Christmas music to boost the spirits. That’s the heart of The Christmas Chronicles 2, and I so very wish it focused more on that rather than being overly convoluted with a plot of an elf that has gone rogue. It feels minuscule and like a side plot, even though it’s an element throughout. Other aspects, such as the overuse of one-liners with awful dialogue and CGI’d elves, cloud any sense of character involvement and takes away what the heart of the film tries to say. That’s not to say the performances aren’t great, because they certainly are, and Russell brings a lot of magic to the character of Santa and holds the film together, and vice versa, Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus is near perfect casting.
Although the film is over-crowded with a lot of back noise about who Belsnickel is and how he came to be, it also offers some closure that had open ends from the first movie. There is a scene that moved me in a way I didn’t expect. I may have shed a tear, or two, at how sweet that moment is, and director Chris Columbus hones in on his skill of bringing these characters to life in a relatable way. He attempts to give the same amount of attention to the antagonistic Belsnickel, but ultimately that story arc flatlines the second Belsnickel acts like the immature child that he is. His overbearing ways of being “decisive” and “clever” get old very quickly, and in the end, we are to wonder how we are supposed to care for him. Of course, the heart of the film is about embracing every single person and finding the good in them. With the movie clocking in at 112 minutes, it goes to show just how overstuffed the script is when we get tired of the antagonist and we aren’t even halfway through the first act.
Due to the bloated script, there are a lot of details that slip through the cracks about the myth of Christmas, and we don’t nearly get to see the fun side of the North Pole as we could have—especially that of the main village where Santa resides. Not spending a whole lot of time there takes away the magic it first showcased itself having, and to me, that’s a huge bummer and doesn’t quite do the production design enough justice. Instead, we are allowed to witness some awful CGI’d elves (and reindeer) who don’t have a magical feel to them as one would think they should. The amount of CGI that is present in this sequel is gross. Even in the first entry, the CGI wasn’t the best, and yet it feels like they thought that was the best element as they are saying, “go big or go home” with the animation in this entry. Even for being a cheesy premise in the first place, the CGI makes this extra.
Despite my negative notions on the flick, I think The Christmas Chronicles 2 makes for a great family film where you gather around the television and enjoy the holidays. Some scenes get you in the Christmas spirit, and by the end, it may bring a smile—if you can overlook some glaring flaws that present themselves from the second the film starts. The Christmas Chronicles 2 has a lot of heart and tries its best to wear that on its sleeve to help boost our spirits during 2020, but it ultimately suffers from an opaque script and substandard CGI that overstays its welcome on the long Christmas journey ahead. I would recommend this to families more so than individual people. As a standalone film, it suffocates itself and struggles to get its message across in a coherent manner near the second act. In the end, it finds its tone a little too late, but still offers some warm-hearted guidance for the Christmas season to come. Plus, it got me to cry during a scene if that says anything.
Overall, The Christmas Chronicles 2 gets 3/5 stars.