Arts, Features

REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ follows formula for heartwarming Christmas story

Kurt Russell stars in Netflix’s new holiday film “The Christmas Chronicles,” released Thursday. COURTESY OF MICHAEL GIBSON/ NETFLIX

As Thanksgiving has already become a memory, Netflix is promoting its newest holiday original, “The Christmas Chronicles.” A pair of brother and sister embark on a surprising journey after accidentally crashing Santa Claus’ sleigh.

The story follows two siblings who go on a once-in-a-lifetime Christmas Eve adventure after attempting to film Santa Claus making his yearly visit.

At first glance, some of the components of the story seem to come right out of the cliche Christmas movie handbook. The main family features a deceased parent, a single parent who always seems to be working and a pair of siblings who just can’t see eye to eye. Oh, and one of the siblings doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.

The plot revolves around fighting against the odds and trying to save Christmas.

Nevertheless, “The Christmas Chronicles” finds ways to make itself stand out as unique. It’s more than just another cliche Christmas movie.

Part of the movie’s uniqueness comes from the creators’ choice to cast Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. Russell’s performance brought new life to a character who’s been portrayed countless times before in different iterations.

While Russell’s performance maintained the kindness, generosity and omniscience that has become characteristic of Santa Claus adaptations, it also added a new layer of sarcasm and overall realness. This added layer created a fresh version of Santa that fits well alongside Christmas movies that take place in the present day.

Many Christmas movies before have taken place in an alternate version of reality where Santa Claus is real. But in those movies, the adults seem to uniformly accept the fact that Santa Claus is real, even if they were previously ardent nonbelievers.

In “The Christmas Chronicles,” the audience sees characters who vary in terms of their willingness to believe in a real life Santa Claus. Some people accept him almost immediately, while others need more than a little convincing.

The film is also unique from other Christmas movies because of its format as a Netflix original movie. It’s not subject to the time constraints it may be subject to if it were made for another format, such as cable or broadcast TV networks.

Unfortunately, this might work against the movie in the long run.

The runtime for “The Christmas Chronicles” is around one hour and 45 minutes, which is a bit long for a Christmas movie. There’s really no need for the movie to run that long.

The beginning of the movie, the climax and the resolution all take place in an appropriate amount of time, but the buildup to the climax is much longer than it needs to be. Because of this, there are parts in the middle of it that drag. Some scenes didn’t feel totally necessary to the plot, while others were just played out for longer than needed.

“The Christmas Chronicles” might have been better if created for a network TV channel, such as Freeform, which has more time constraints than Netflix. In that case, non-essential scenes would have been cut and other scenes wouldn’t have dragged on for as long. The result would have been a shorter, but more enjoyable movie.

While its Netflix original movie status makes “The Christmas Chronicles” unique, it might have been a counterintuitive choice.

Overall, “The Christmas Chronicles” is an enjoyable Christmas movie. It’s unique enough to stand out from other movies of its kind, but the takeaways that exist at its core are still the same. Like other Christmas movies, “The Christmas Chronicles” stresses the importance of family, faith and, of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

For those looking for a new, slightly cheesy, but overall heartwarming Christmas movie for this holiday season, look no further than Netflix’s “The Christmas Chronicles.”

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