I am a sucker for good quality Christmas movies and Netflix‘s The Christmas Chronicles from 2018 was an absolute ripper (my review of that one is HERE). Starring Kurt Russell, it was a fun-filled adventure that threw back to family flicks of the 80’s, telling the story of a brother and sister who spend a night on the streets with Santa after sneaking into his sleigh and filming his big night on a camcorder.
It was a unique and mischievous movie that had one Chris Columbus on the producing team. Columbus, for those playing at home, has long specialised in the unique and mischievous, having written Gremlins (the penultimate festive exploit) and directed Home Alone 1 and 2. He moves into directing and co-writing position with this sequel – and unlike Home Alone 2, this return to the well fails to recapture the magic. Unfortunately, The Christmas Chronicles 2 offers a convoluted and laborious continuation with few laughs and a contrived narrative.
Two years have passed since her first encounter with Santa and young Kate (Darby Camp) now finds herself on a tropical getaway with her mother and brother (Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Judah Lewis), thanks to an all-expenses-paid holiday by her mum’s new boyfriend, Bob (Tyrese Gibson). Miserable and desperate to run away, Kate is tricked into leaving by a scheming former elf, Belsnickel (Julian Dennison, Hunt for the Wilderpeople), and is whisked away through a wormhole to the North Pole, only to discover that Bob’s son, Jack (Jahzir Bruno), has snuck along for the ride. Reunited with Mr and Mrs Claus, the four must bandy together to outwit Belsnickel and save Christmas from annihilation.
The original cast returns, with Russell back in the big read suit and his real-life sweetheart Goldie Hawn beside him as Mrs Claus (as revealed at the end of the first movie). Young Darby Camp reprises her role as Kate while the likes of Judah Lewis and Kimberly Williams-Paisley are relegated to lousy bookending cameos.
To remove my cynicism for a moment, I do concede that all players are having an absolute blast, which clearly shows and resonates on screen. However, sadly for them, the script is lousy and offers them little substance. Russell’s Santa is a pale reflection of his former self. Where he was a cantankerous and stylish modern folk-hero in the original film, this sequel has him as an over-joyous and traditional kind of guy. Of course, it’s a discrepancy that kids will be oblivious to, but for adult and parental viewers alike, the real fun has been all but removed from his character entirely.
With that said, it is a joy to watch Russell and Hawn share the screen together, their life-long chemistry doing wonders to distract us from the banality of their circumstances. Hawn is radiant and one can’t help but sense that she’s dearly missed being in the limelight. Dennison is a surprise addition to the cast, although not entirely out of place. Maintaining his trademark New Zealand accent, his performance as the villainous Belsnickel is definitely fun.
Kids will be none the wiser to The Christmas Chronicles 2‘s shortcomings and the spectacle of the Santa’s Village setting will undoubtedly hold their attention for longer than the previous movie. The ham-fisted gags and generic plotting shouldn’t pose any problems for the younger demographic – and in that regard, the movie might be a winner.
It has certainly set itself up to become an ongoing franchise, however its current trajectory aligns it with Disney’s The Santa Clause, whereby each instalment suffered from the curse of diminished returns. Heck, if they do tempt fate with The Christmas Chronicles 3, then one wonders if Martin Short is available (That’s a joke. He was in The Santa Clause 3… and he was awful in it).
If I were trying my best to review this one solely through the lens of a youngin, I may lean towards 3 out of 5 stars. Then again, discounting that demo and looking at The Christmas Chronicles 2 through my grumpy adult eyes results in a much-more-brutal 1.5 stars. So, since it’s Christmas and all, let’s meet at…
‘The Christmas Chronicles 2’ is now streaming on Netflix. You can watch it right HERE.