It’s not too late to watch Christmas movies yet, right? Because I was still in the mood for some Yuletide cheer, and Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles looked like just what the doctor ordered.
This film has absolutely no business holding together as well as it does. Tonally, it’s all over the place—and I’m talking “a teenager about to be murdered by bloodthirsty gangsters is rescued by cuddly elves that resemble a cross between Mogwai and The Chipmunks” all over the place. This is a story that fully and unapologetically embraces the complexity of adolescence, when the challenges and responsibilities of adulthood first begin to intrude upon the childlike belief in magic and miracles; a juvenile delinquent abandoning his wicked ways and reconciling with his idealistic younger sister is as important to the narrative as explaining how Santa Claus manages to complete his round-the-world trip in one night, and both threads are treated with equal gravity and respect. It helps that Kurt Russell brings such total commitment to his performance as a badass reinterpretation of jolly ol’ Saint Nick, perfectly balancing the warmth and sincerity that the role requires with his trademark ruggedness and swagger.
The Christmas Chronicles occasionally gets a bit too dense and wacky for its own good (though Russell obviously relishes the opportunity to ham it up during a blues-flavored musical number, for example, the interlude adds little to the overall plot), but when you whittle it down to its thematic and emotional core, it’s a delightfully cute, charming, wholesome, earnest, and nostalgic adventure—and I know a lot of Scrooges and Grinches use those kinds of adjectives dismissively, but in the context of Holiday family fare, I consider them high praise, indeed. If you want evidence that this is a bonafide classic, look no further than this: the ending reduced both my mother and grandmother to tears… and yeah, maybe I got misty-eyed, as well.