Title: The Christmas Chronicles 2
Describe This Movie In One Lethal Weapon Quote:
EBENEZER SCROOGE: Tell me ... what day is it?
MR. JOSHUA: [shoots TV] Goddamn Christmas!
Brief Plot Synopsis: Dark elf threatens mystical kingdom.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3 Thors from Adventures in Babysitting out of 5.
Tagline: "The battle to save Christmas is on."
Better Tagline: "After hundreds of years, is Christmas still worth saving? In this essay I will ..."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: It was just two years ago that Kate Pierce (Darby Camp) teamed up with her brother Teddy and Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) to, er, rescue the Yuletide Season. Kate now finds herself on the cusp of angsty teenager-dom, but the arrival of cursed elf Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) sends Kate to the North Pole with her soon-so-be stepbrother Jack (Jahzir Bruno), where they have to help Santa and Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn) foil Belsnickel's sinister scheme.
"Critical" Analysis: It feels like we're approaching the peak era of '80s action stars playing Santa Claus. This year alone we've had Mel Gibson (Mad Max*/Lethal Weapon) in Fatman and Kurt Russell (Escape From New York) reprising the role from the first Christmas Chronicles.
After the denouements of the Rambo and Terminator franchises, can Stallone and Schwarzenegger be far behind?
Christmas Chronicles 2 expands the mythology of the original, in a move as unnecessary as it is baffling. Turns out the origin of Santa's Village is a weird amalgam of early Christianity (Santa was formerly Saint Nicholas) and arboreal legend. The upshot being, at some point in the 4th Century AD, Nicholas/Santa Claus leads the elves to the North Pole, sort of paralleling Willy Wonka's indenturing the Oompa Loompas.
[And yet, Belsnickel is the only truly disgruntled one. Given the number of movies concerning plots to bring down Santa's operation from the inside, however, maybe the Canadian equivalent of the Department of Labor** should take a look.]
Santa's Village is powered by the energy of — wait for it — the Star of Bethlehem. This energy is focused into a crystal created by Turkish forest elves for use by an Ante-Nicene Christian figure who delivers gifts to everyone in the world, regardless of creed. It'd be a lot to unpack if director Christopher Columbus cared to explore it, or if the star itself was treated in the movie as anything other than a combination of an Arc reactor and a TRON disc.
Instead, Columbus farts around for most of the first act, introducing a suitor for Kate's mom (played by Tyrese, angling for his post-Fast and Furious career) and giving her and Jack a tour of the wonders of Santa's village. And also, providing Mrs. Claus the opportunity to mother some actual human children.
Hawn's chemistry with longtime companion Russell helps push things along. And say what you want about the former Jack Burton, but his enthusiasm is a big part of why Chronicles 2 works to the extent that it does. That Bone Tomahawk/Hateful Eight beard hints at some mischief, but his Santa is a truly jolly old elf. Hawn's approach is more workmanlike, but that might be because she's saddled with the side plot.
There's another desperate bid to restore falling levels of Christmas Spirit (this time at Logan Airport on Christmas Eve ... good luck), another musical number (bless his heart, Russell ain't much of a singer), and the rather perverse suggestion that the only way an elf can become human is if it's irredeemably naughty.
Which tracks, given the actions of Americans in the year 2020.
In the grand scheme of [waves hands] all this, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is nothing to get worked up about. Is it needlessly weird and otherwise superfluous in a world where Netflix already has roughly ten thousand Christmas offerings? Yes. Is it mostly harmless and — at times — entertaining, thanks mostly to Russell and Hawn? Also yes. As Jack Burton always says, "Ho, ho, ho."
*RIP Hugh "Toecutter/Immortan Joe" Keays-Byrne
**Department of Labour. Huh.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 is now streaming on Netflix and playing in select theaters.
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