Netflix UK film review: The Christmas Chronicles 2
James R | On 25, Nov 2020
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Judah Lewis, Julian Dennison
Watch The Christmas Chronicles 2 online in the UK: Netflix UK
Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn take centre-stage in The Christmas Chronicles 2, the unlikely sequel to Netflix’s unlikely festive hit from two years ago. The original film, which played somewhere between Home Alone and Elf, was a fun, surprisingly dark but even more surprisingly warm-hearted romp, with Kurt Russell just the right balance of tough and twinkly-eyed as Santa Claus – if live-action Christmas blockbusters were a thing of the past, nobody told writers Matt Lieberman (Scoob!) and David Guggenheim (Safe House) or director Clay Kaytis.
It’s a shame, then, that Guggenheim and Claytis have departed for this follow-up, which sees producer Chris Columbus step up to the helm and co-write the script with Lieberman. We pick up several years after the events of The Christmas Chronicles, with Kate Pierce (Darby Camp) and Teddy (Judah Lewis) struggling to come to terms with their widowed mum (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) dating a new guy (Tyrese Gibson), not to mention making friends with his son, Jack (Jahzir Bruno). On a sunny Christmas getaway that leaves Kate pining for the familiar festive traditions of home, the gang find themselves split up not only by their own tensions but also the meddling of Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), a former elf with a grudge against Saint Nick.
What ensues is a journey back to the North Pole, where Kate and Jack meet Mrs Claus (Goldie Hawn) and try to help Santa save 25th December from Belsnickel’s sinister plans. Except, well, his plans aren’t all that sinister put next to Russell’s Santa, with the duo as immature and petulant in their bickering as each other. It’s a strange move that gives Russell some depth to play with, but only highlights the difficulty the movie has in maintaining a tone or even a coherent plot – by the time Kate and Jack have been separated, reunited and separated again, the whole escapade has lost momentum, while an interlude involving the elves going berserk is nowhere near as anarchic as it thinks.
All of these missteps, curiously, arrive despite the film’s determination to flesh out its own universe’s mythology, leaving the sequel feeling simultaneously ambitious and under-baked. Russell and Hawn are clearly enjoying themselves but, aside from one rollicking sequence that turns an airport departure lounge into a song-and-dance number, there’s little magic on display to spread that festive cheer. Trying to make up for that with a sleigh-full of sentiment, the result is more ho-hum than ho-ho and misses the playful grit that made the first Chronicles so disarmingly entertaining. If The Christmas Chronicles was a welcome surprise to unwrap with the family, this is one to quietly put to one side and leave unopened.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.