2 out of 5
Directed by: Clay Kaytis
This kinda sorta had me with a bemused ‘that’ll do’ up until the elves. I mean, I’m maybe okay with allowing for the indulgence of a Kurt Russell musical bit – yes, that happens – because certainly a percentage of us are only here because of Kurt, so you might as well go whole hog with that, and the ridiculousness of that particular scene does just that. But it otherwise falls short of capitalizing on its spin on the usual ‘we lost the christmas spirit and after a night of hijinks regain it’ holiday pic (with the usual Chris Columbus in production tow…); with Russell as a Santa waylaid by the machinations of kids Kate Pierce (Darby Camp) and her Santa-doubting older brother Teddy (Judah Lewis), both in a slump in the year following their firefighter father’s passing, The Christmas Chronicles proposes a leather wearing, in-shape, sass talking Claus, who takes the loss of his reindeer and sleigh breaking down in stride. The usual setup here would involve Santa Ho Ho-fully blaming the kids for the hiccup in operations – there’s a slight nod to social media, with the children seeking to get Santa on camera, although then there’s the flick’s half-in / half-out modernization where the kids tote around a to-tape video camera – so to have the flick proceed without that, and without some forced, external big bad preventing Santa from getting back on track (okay, the flick uses the loss of his magic hat for that, but still: Kurt Claus just brushes that off) is kind of refreshing, and keeps the movie light-footed and forward moving.
But then, I dunno, it never feels like it leans into that very much besides the initial setup. The pressure is on for spectacle, I suppose, and we get away from that enjoyably hokey relationship for reindeer flying, North Pole exploration, and CGI elves, all of which falls a little flat, juxtaposed against their ‘grounded’ Santa. None of the movie really rates above average, true, but this stuff edges it into usual kid humdrum fare at about the midway point, which carries over – through that musical number, alas – to the pic’s end.