Russell wearing red suit in ‘Christmas Chronicles’
Director Clay Kaytis’ “The Christmas Chronicles” isn’t going to make audiences believe in the power of Christmas, let alone stoke the spirit of the holiday season, but it does exhaust itself trying.
The family-friendly adventure, about two kids whose Christmas Eve mission to capture Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) leads to helping him save the holiday, plays like a love letter to producer Chris Columbus’ previous works without ever distinguishing itself. With its saccharine score, saturated cinematography and trite platitudes, the film is formulaic and forgettable except for Russell’s performance as the lovable legend.
Christmastime used to be a season filled with warmth, laughter and love in the cozy Pierce home. But since dad Doug (Oliver Hudson) died in a tragic firefighting accident, single mom Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) has been scrambling to restore some normalcy to her fractured family.
One member who is absolutely excited for Santa’s return is precocious 10-year-old Kate (Darby Camp). She gets hyped for the holidays by reminiscing over home movies and recording her “Dear Santa” letter on the family’s old camcorder. Her older rebellious teen brother Teddy (Judah Lewis) is not nearly as thrilled. Not only is he still mourning the loss of his father and hanging out with the wrong crowd, he’s also lost the belief that Santa exists.
The siblings’ world turns upside down once Kate unearths old video footage of an arm — possibly belonging to Saint Nick — tossing presents under
‘The Christmas Chronicles’
Streaming now on Netflix. Not in theaters. their tree. She hatches a plan to get Santa on camera for online acclaim. In order to do this, she ropes Teddy into her scheme, blackmailing her brother with footage of him and his friends boosting a car. Instead of waiting for Santa to come to them, Kate and Teddy stow away on his high-tech sleigh.
Their ride-along quickly descends into calamity when they cause Santa to lose his concentration, his never-ending red velvet sack of presents and the magic hat that allows him to spring from rooftop to rooftop. With his sleigh damaged, those lost items strewn about Chicago and the clock ticking on the night’s deliveries, Santa and the kids team up to save the world from losing their Christmas spirit. Only it’s the audience who loses their spirit as the high jinks unfold.
The narrative follows a predictable path and fails to mine the “fish out of water” scenarios it sets up — like the irony of stealing a car from a car thief, or the hilarity of the kidnapping that’s misunderstood by the police. This situational absurdity may have looked good on paper, but it isn’t executed with any zest or zing. Plus, we could also live without the groan-worthy and wornout line about Santa’s famed “Ho, ho, ho” being “fake news.”
The action set pieces are hollow computer-generated spectacles that don’t provide the characters with much-needed narrative drive. The kids’ sleigh ride, jumping through space portals at warp speed, is garishly greenscreened. Kate and Teddy’s reindeer ride could also use a better sprinkling of Hollywood magic.
Santa’s rascally team of elves provide the slapstick and pratfalls but are clearly a sanitized version of Columbus’ rambunctious “Gremlins.” Kate’s descent into the presents portal, akin to Alice’s infamous tumble down the rabbit hole, is the lone sequence that dazzles or embodies any sense of childlike wonder.
Kurt Russell, from left, Darby Camp and Judah Lewis star in “The Christmas Chronicles.” Santa Claus gets help from the children in an attempt to save Christmas.