Disney+ UK film review: Noelle
Ivan Radford | On 06, Dec 2020
Director: Marc Lawrence
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, hirley MacLaine, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Billy Eichner
Watch Noelle online in the UK: Disney+
“Joy to the world, except for you! Because you forgot to floss!” That’s the sound of Christmas going wrong after Santa Claus departs for the big North Pole in the sky. In his place is Nick (Bill Hader), his useless brother, who is officially the successor of the red suit and sleigh, but has none of the qualities that being Santa requires – he can’t even handle being a fake store Santa for a queue of kids. And so in steps Gabe Kringle (Billy Eichner), the outsider cousin with a taste for technology, a love of statistical analysis and no sense of goodwill. Calculating that there are only 2,800 nice children in the world, he’s even less the right man for the job.
The right woman, however, is standing in the shadows, and Noelle charts her rise into the world’s most famous occupation. Played by Anna Kendrick, she’s an eager force for good, actively trying to spread cheer as she heads to Phoenix to track down the AWOL Nick and convince him to come back to the family business. What follows is a fish-out-of-water comedy that owes a lot to Elf. Jon Favreau’s live-action silly-fest set the bar high for festive whimsy, and Noelle is at its best when it moves away from the cynical quips involving Noelle’s brothers and leans into the earnestness that made the 2004 hit so endearing.
And so we follow Noelle through some conventional set-ups, befriending Jake (Kingsley Ben-Adir), a divorced dad and private detective, and his son, Alex (Maceo Smedley). She also interrupts a yoga class, fields many requests for iPads and faces a lot of skepticism about Santa Claus ever being a woman. Throughout, Kendrick sells the whole thing with a combination of straight-faced seriousness and goofy sincerity. And what emerges isn’t a romantic comedy or even a Santa Claus movie, but an upbeat story of empowerment and finding one’s purpose; scenes in which Noelle discovers a Doctor Who-style knack for immediately speaking in different languages are endearingly played and lead to some of the sweetest moments.
The script (by director Marc Lawrence) may not be particularly original, the effects may not always convince and the balance of knowing corporate satire and Noelle’s commercial unawareness isn’t entirely even, but thanks to Kendrick’s charismatic performance, this is a likeable addition to the festive canon. It’s no Elf but, then again, what is?
Noelle is available on Disney+, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription or a £59.99 yearly subscription.