Friday Films: The Christmas Chronicles

Christmas Chronicles 2

I hate Christmas.

Okay, that’s not fair. Hate is a strong word. I shouldn’t use that. I just dislike Christmas in a very strong, visceral sense. Something akin to revulsion, really.

Truth is, it’s not the fault of Christmas itself. The whole concept of it is fine, really. I’m down with Peace on Earth, and all that. In fact, I’d be pretty damn happy if we could a little peace on this fucking Earth of ours.

No, my problem with Christmas comes from people. To be rather blunt about it, people who treat the whole thing like a competition. You know the ones. You probably have a few in your own family. The ones who compare the cost of their gift to yours, then either act smug cause they spent more, or indignant cause you did.

I really hate that kind of shit.

It isn’t just them, though. It’s the whole commercial driven side of the thing. The annual lists of Must Buy Gifts. Ten Things You Have To Have Under Your Tree. May as well title the damn things, How Your Family Will Know You Care, or What Not To Buy If You Hate Your Loved Ones.

The whole idea of that just rubs me the wrong way. Christmas isn’t a competition, nor is about how much you spend. There’s no must have gift. There’s only you, spending time with the people you love, and love you. It doesn’t matter what you give, so long as it comes from the heart, and is a sincere expression of your affection, and thankfulness they are part of your world.

That is literally the only thing about Christmas that should matter. Being with the people you love.

Unless your me, and hate everyone, then it’s totally okay to say fuck all this, and spend the day watching porn.

Which I did not do.

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You’re on the naughty List. Like, forever, Cain.

My problem with Christmas comes down to the way it’s presented these days. The very idea that love has a definite price tag attached to it offends me. For that reason, I refuse to engage in any of the virtually meaningless charades that go with the holiday anymore.

I don’t give gifts. I don’t listen to the music. I scoff at the festive aisles in my local stores. I don’t go to parties. I most certainly don’t watch Christmas movies. That last one has been a hard and fast thing for me for many years.

Then Netflix ruined everything by casting Kurt Russell as Santa, and letting him sing an Elvis Christmas song.

Curse you, Netflix!

So, yeah, I watched a fucking Christmas movie this year. On Christmas!.

I feel so dirty, and yet, sexually attracted to Santa Clause. It’s a very strange time in my life right now.

The Christmas Chronicles is a 2018 Netflix movie, produced by 1492 Pictures, the company founded by Chris Columbus, maker of the Home Alone films, and other classic coming of age comedies we all know, love, and quote endlessly. So, yeah, it’s got that going for it.

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Everyone seems happy about that.

The story follows ten year old Kate Pierce, and her older, teenage brother, Teddy, as they try to cope with their first Christmas after the loss of their father, a firefighter who died in the line of duty. Their mother is working extra shifts, trying to make ends meet, and while Kate is all about the holidays, trying to hang on to the memory of her Christmas loving father, Teddy wants nothing to do with any of it.

He just wants to hang with his low life friends, steal cars, and drink. Like most teenagers do.

On Christmas Eve, their mom has to work an extra shift, so Teddy and Kate are Home Alone. Kate’s watching some old video recordings of past Christmas Day’s, when their dad was still alive, when she notices what appears to be Santa’s hand slipping into frame.

While Teddy had hoped to bail and hang with his criminally prone pals, Kate convinces him to help her capture Santa on film. The two set up a fairly elaborate trap, and to their surprise, do in fact capture Santa on film. Following him outside, they even behold his sleigh, as it hovers over the street, while Santa goes about his rounds.

Naturally, Kate decides to get int eh sleigh, for some better footage. Teddy goes after her, afraid something will happen to her if he doesn’t, and there the two still are when Santa returns, and heads off for his next destination. Realizing they need to do something, as they should not be there, Kate tries to get his attention, but startles him, sending the sleigh out of control. They lose his gift bag, then the reindeer, before crashing in Chicago.

This goes well, cause Chicago is the friendliest city in the world.

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Was that sarcasm? That was sarcasm. NAUGHTY!

As furious as Santa is legally allowed to get, he reprimands them, before trying to head out to recover his gift bag, and get back to work, only to discover he has also lost his magic hat, that allows him to leap incredible distances, as well as magically get into and out of homes. Faced with a steady decline in Christmas Spirit that could lead to World War Three, the kids team up to help Santa finish his rounds.

And steal a car. And get Santa thrown in jail for grand theft auto, kidnapping, and transporting minors across state lines.

Ya know, the usual Christmas shenanigans. We’ve all been there.

Now, I’m not gonna lie, this movie is cheesy as hell. Of course it is. It’s a Christmas movie. I’ve never seen one that wasn’t cheesy as hell, expect maybe Die Hard. The whole theme of the movie is about believing in yourself, and finding your inner goodness, and all that other happy crappy that Christmas movies are always about.

Lots of silly crap happens, for no reason, cause Christmas is magical, and barf.

So, ya know, maybe don’t watch this if your a diabetic. You’ll probably go into a coma.

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Or get a spanking… maybe?

Yet, I have to admit, the casting of Kurt Russell as Santa is a real stroke of genius that keeps this from being the traditional farce. I mean, this is freaking Snake Plisskin we’re talking about, playing fucking Santa. I don’t know who’s idea this was, but it is so batshit crazy, it actually works. The last thing you’d ever expect is to see Kurt “Kill Them All” Russell as jolly old Saint Nick.

Which he at one point bitches about, as he’s not ever been made an actual Saint, cause it’s all about who you know. That was… so bizarre. It really was.

Now, I’m a huge fan of Kurt Russell. I have been for pretty much my entire life. I’ve seen every movie the guy has made, and I have never not enjoyed the shit out of him. Whether he was doing action, or drama, or comedy, Russell always delivers a memorable performance, and is just one of the best actors in the business, bar none.

He’s also a decent stand in for MacGyver, but we won’t go there.

That was a Stargate joke, kids. Try to keep up.

As Santa, Russell didn’t pack on any weight, either. He’s his usual trim self, and actively rails against the popular image of Santa, as he strolls about in a leather duster, cause he’s Kurt Russell, dammit! He’s hysterically funny, delivering his lines, even the cheesy ones, with such warmth, and sincerity, that he really makes this whole film just so much fun to watch. Way more fun than it has any right to be.

Then Goldie Hawn shows up as Ms. Clause, and my life is complete.

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I can live with this.

Best of all, though, they let him sing. Kurt Russell is actually a damn fine singer, something that we rarely get to see, as he’s largely known for his action roles. There’s an entire musical number in this where he sings Santa is Back in Town, a song made famous by Elvis Presley, and just to add a cherry on top, he performs it with Steve Van Zandt, from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Cause Netlfix is determined to give me Christmas Spirit.

That’s playing dirty, you bastards. You know I can’t refuse a collision between Big Trouble In Little China and The Boss.

So, yeah, Russell is in top form here, and makes this while movie worth watching, just because he’s having way more fun than I think I’ve seen him have in some years. It kind of reminds me of Tango and Cash, or Overboard. He’s obviously having a blast.

I mean, look at this insanity!

Yeah. That’s pretty much this movie in a nutshell.

Judah Lewis (Deliverance Creek, Demolition) plays Teddy, and despite the rather cliched themes of the film, brings a good bit of pathos to his role as a very lost young man grappling with the untimely passing of his father. It is overall a very solid performance.

Darby Camp plays Katie, and is adorably precocious, as she should be for a movie like this. I mean, I’m not gonna harsh on a ten year old here, so I dunno what else to say. She does the job, and does everything she’s suppose to, but she’s ten. What, you want Oscar material out of her?

Martin Roach and Lamorne Morris play the incredibly put upon Chicago police officers Dave and Mikey, who find themselves in the difficult position of having arrested Santa Clause on Christmas Eve. While Mikey buys that it’s really Santa right after he watches the reindeer fly away, Dave takes a lot more convincing, and while it’s a rather small role, Roach does a really fine job of bringing the reality of adult struggles into what is primarily a kid driven story.

That, and his scenes with Russell are just magical.

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Gimme, you bastard!

Kimberly Williams-Paisly (Father of the Bride) plays exhausted mom Claire Pierce, while Oliver Hudson (Rules of Engagement) plays father Doug in flashbacks and on family videos. And of course, Steven Van Zandt plays Wolfie, the down on his luck would be guitarist Santa meets while in lock up.

We get a ton of CGI Elves in this, and while they are obviously CGI, they manage to be kind of bizarrely adorable, and somewhat terrifying. Well, the one with the Christmas theme chainsaw that nearly neuters Teddy was. The rest are just weird, but do add a bit of humor to the whole thing. They also speak a weird, kinda sorta Norse sounding language, which is oddly fitting.

In general, the visuals are pretty good. The reindeer look good, and the whole sleigh effects are pretty nice. The inside of Santa’s gift bag is an existential nightmare waiting to happen, if you are me, anyway. The Elves are okay, if a bit corny. In general, a good looking movie.

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Including the part where Santa steals a Camero…

The whole thing was directed by Clay Kaytis, best know for being the director of the Angry Birds movie, which I’ve never seen, cause that just seems like a really dumb movie. I mean, even for me, it seems kind of dumb. It may be good. I dunno. I’ll probably watch it one day if somebody makes me.

Just don’t think you’re ever gonna see a review of the god awful Emoji move here. That, I’ll gnaw my own arm off to escape.

Truth is, Kaytis does a really good job directing this movie. It’s cheesy, sure, but in the right ways, and he does a good job of delivering the feels. I mean, this is one of those movies where you really can’t sit and talk about it as if it was some kind of deliberate piece of art. It’s a Christmas movie. As long as it has a message about loving each other, believing in yourself, and all that other dumb shit, it’s gonna be kinda hard to fuck it up.

So, yeah, I’ll give Kaytis points for this one. He does a good job directing a movie that, honestly, could have been way worse. It’s overly sweet, but never saccharine, or at least, not too much so. Plus, Kurt Russell as Santa is brilliant.

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This shit was kinda fucked up, though…

The screenplay was by Matt Lieberman. I don’t know who that is, and I can’t really find much on him. Mostly cause there’s like a thousand Matt Lieberman’s out there. Apparently, he’s the writer for the newest take on The Addams Family that’s currently filming, as well as Scooby, which is in pre-production, and the announcing remake of Short Circuit. He may end up being a major mover and shaker in the industry if he nails all of those.

Just based on what I’ve seen here, I’d be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He delivers a fairly standard Christmas film, but with enough weirdness to make it stand out from the pack, handles dialogue pretty well, and structures the story in a rather interesting way. So, yeah, not bad. We’ll see how he handles The Addams Family though, cause I may change my tune if he screws that up.

You don’t fuck with The Addams Family in my world.

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The music is from Christophe Beck, and if that name sounds familiar, that’s because he was the guy who composed the soundtrack for Ant Man, Ant Man and the Wasp, and a bunch of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He’s someone I tend to fawn on a bit because of that last one.

I loved me some Buffy.

Now, I want to admit here, that I am partial to Beck’s work. He’s done a lot of stuff I love. Still, this is a Christmas movie, so there’s really only so much you can do. It’s gotta fit that whole vibe, ya know? And it does. It really does. It’s a solid soundtrack, and really does work for the movie. it’s just so… Christmas filled, ya know?

Eh, what the hell. Beck’s great, and he does a great job here. As much as I loathe Christmas, he does make this whole thing feel pretty good with a lot of upbeat, jingly music. Just don’t mind me while I go barf now.

Overall, this is a pretty good movie. Sure, it’s cliched as hell, overstuffed with Christmas cheer, and trite themes about believing in yourself, and all that crap, but still, it’s not bad. A lot of that falls on the shoulders of Kurt Russell delivering one of the more memorable versions of Santa in a while, obviously, but a good bit comes down to Judah Lewis and his struggle to come to terms with the death of his father.

Sure, I probably identified with that a lot more than most people will, but it did give the movie a bit more heart than I think a lot of Christmas movies manage to find. Mostly because Lewis does a good job of selling his character, and the conflict he’s going through.

So, ya know, if Christmas movies are your thing, and having Kurt Russell’s career used as rather elaborate injoke amuses you, what with the sleigh obviously using Stargate technology, then you might get a kick out of this.

Of course, if you just wanna see Snake Plisskin play Santa, then you should absolutely watch this, cause that shit was straight up hysterical.

Yeah, I know. In so many weird ways, I’m easy to please.

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Yeah, I laughed. Sue me.

4 thoughts on “Friday Films: The Christmas Chronicles

  1. I actively avoid Christmas themed movies (outside of you know, Die Hard) so while I’ve seen a lot of promos for this one I wasn’t going to watch it. I’m blaming you for the stargate references because now I just have to watch it.

    Liked by 1 person

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