They had me at Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. You heard me right. The bushy-faced Russell is a hoot playing the jolly old elf in the big red suit. It’s a hilarious bit of casting and it’s surprising just how well it works. While it’s Russell who steals the show, “The Christmas Chronicles” puts most of its focus on a struggling Massachusetts family.
Co-producer Chris Columbus is no stranger to Christmas films (“Home Alone”, “Home Alone 2”, “Christmas with the Kranks”, “Jingle All the Way”). Here he teams with animator turned director Clay Kaytis. Their film follows a brother and sister whose relationship has soured since the death of their father.
For Kate (Darby Camp) and her older brother Teddy (Judah Lewis), life at home was a joy especially during Christmas time. Their fireman father (Oliver Hudson) was a fountain of Christmas cheer that always overflowed to his wife Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) kids. But when he is killed in the line of duty his family begins to crack under the weight of grief.
That’s pretty much the setup for what is the bulk of the story. Kate and an disinterested Teddy craft a plan to catch Santa in the act of delivering his goodies. Things don’t exactly go as planned and (as is often the case in these things) their actions unintentionally threaten to derail Christmas. But after meeting Santa face-to-face, the three join up to try and save the night before it’s too late.
Don’t be mistaken, there is still the sentimental sappiness you expect from these types of movies. Not the Hallmark Channel variety (thank goodness). But the kind that flows from the insatiable yuletide spirit the majority of these movies embrace. As a festive person I’ll admit this usually works for me. But I can see where certain Scrooges in the audience might not be as forgiving.
“The Christmas Chronicles” is a fun, spry holiday movie that should fit nicely onto your Christmastime watchlist. Just don’t go in expecting it to break new ground. It’s predictable and it strikes nearly every familiar Christmas movie chord. At the same time it has an undeniable charm not to mention it’s a little bizarre. I mean Kurt Russell Santa on the lam for grand theft auto? Who wouldn’t watch that?
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS