Judah Lewis and Darby Camp are Teddy and Kate Pierce, siblings who don’t get on very well much to the disappointment of their widowed mother. Things haven’t been the same ever since their firefighting dad died on a call; Teddy is a budding criminal who nicks cars with his Monster energy-drinking friends, and Kate is desperate to prove Santa exists after seeing a glimpse of his famous red coat on an old home video tape. Capitalising on the excitement that is ripe in kids around the holidays, The Christmas Chronicles sees Teddy and Kate try to pull an all nighter, rigging their living room—Home Alone style—to catch Santa. It’s not as childish as it sounds, so it makes perfect sense Netflix’s latest features Kurt Russell as the hottest on-screen Santa ever.
After sneaking aboard his sleigh to capture footage for evidence, the duo are found out mid-air, and they are sent plummeting to the ground, wrecking the sleigh. Without his magical hat, Santa has to continue his Christmas duties on foot, and accepts Teddy and Kate’s help. They dash through the snow, they ride reindeer, they come across policemen that aren’t quite convinced of Santa’s existence. The pace is snappy, with lots of exciting sequences and fun disasters along the way, but The Christmas Chronicles remains unconvincing in its stale script.
“People need Christmas to remind themselves of how good they can be.”
Throughout the film the siblings, obviously, work through their argumentative relationship and repair old bonds over the precious memories of their heroic father, all of which feels like old wood with a fresh coat of paint thrown over it. The hectic race to help Santa complete his goals is what makes up for a lot of the film, and there’s moments of wonder (essential in Christmas movies) that pave the path, but any detour that focuses on the siblings for too long reveals a short supply of nuance. The dialogue is in your face and seems to restrain its own punchy humour, which when delivered by Camp of Big Little Lies (Madeline’s kid with the weirdly good music taste) is actually pretty great and almost brave enough to not be PG.
The real attraction is Kurt Russell as Santa Claus, a slightly grumpy version of the mythical man who isn’t all that pleased with the world’s perception of him. He is charming in the savvy role, as Russell always is, and makes things thoroughly enjoyable when he is centre focus, which unfortunately isn’t as often as it should’ve been. The film, much like Netflix’s other recent Christmas outing The Princess Switch, picks up on a lot of elements from past memorable sibling/Christmas films, but fails to deliver to the extent it tries to in the emotional aspects. Still, the cute ending will fulfil even the coldest of hearts, and you absolutely need to watch until the very end for the Mrs. Claus cameo, which for some reason is the best part of the film… aside from Santa karaoke, obviously.