A sequel filled with squandered opportunities will keep the kids quiet for a few hours, at least
By Diana Beechener
A few years after she and her brother helped save Christmas, Kate Price (Darby Camp: Big Little Lies) has lost the spirit of the season. Furious that her widowed mother now has a boyfriend, and apoplectic that he’s dared take them to Mexico for the holidays, Kate has decided that her family is terrible and Christmas is ruined. She doesn’t want to sing carols with mom’s boyfriend Bob (Tyrese Gibson: Black and Blue), she won’t let her brother cheer her up, and she is cruel to Bob’s son, Jack (Jahzir Bruno: The Witches), who tries to befriend her.
Upset that she can’t be in Boston, Kate makes a new Christmas wish: She wants to run away from her awful family who insist on being nice to her and giving her an expensive vacation. Truly, she’s in a heartbreaking situation.
When Santa (Kurt Russell: Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood) doesn’t immediately answer her wish, Kate takes matters into her own hands, planning on running away. But instead of a ride to the airport, Kate (and Jack who follows her out of the resort) are snatched by Belsnickle (Julian Dennison: Deadpool 2), formerly Santa’s favorite elf who was cursed to be human after betraying the elf code.
Kate and Jack find themselves transported to the North Pole via wormhole, where Belsnickle uses the kids to gain access to Santa’s Village. Though Santa is thrilled to see Kate again, and introduce her to Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn: The Christmas Chronicles), he’s soon dealing with the chaos waged by his former protégé. Kate, famous for saving Christmas, decides to stick around and save it again—and maybe stay permanently as Santa’s successor.
Filled with garish colors, silly CGI critters, and goofy plots, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is a pale imitation of the first film, but one that’s sure to entertain little ones or those decorating while this plays in the background. Director Chris Columbus (of Home Alone fame), took the helm of this sequel which stuffs in lots of bright and shallow activities, but loses a bit of what made the first so special.
Russell still has an affable, fun take on Santa Claus. His gruff, funny St. Nick is extremely watchable, especially when he’s orchestrating a holiday musical number in a busy airport. Joined by Hawn, who had a cameo in the last film, the duo is a fantastic reimagination of an iconic couple.
Camp gets the thankless job of acting like an entitled brat for about 90% of the movie. In the first film, her Kate was a starry-eyed believer, dragging her teen brother through the adventure. Now, Kate’s the sulky teen who needlessly mopes and is awful to just about everyone who isn’t magical. Instead of showing real emotional growth, the film just makes her insufferable, which isn’t a great look for a protagonist.
The real failing of the film, however, is the plotting. Russell and Hawn have a fantastic, easy chemistry (which isn’t surprising since they’ve been romantic partners for decades). Instead of capitalizing on their magnetic presences, the film splits them apart, sending Russell on an adventure and leaving Hawn at home to feed a reindeer and bake cookies. In film, it’s rarely a good choice to focus on child actors when seasoned veterans are available. This is proven true as Columbus forces dozens of B-plots and kiddie friendly antics into an already bloated script.
Dennison, who is a scene-stealer in films like Deadpool 2 and The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, is left with nothing much to do but sneer. He can’t be truly menacing because it’s a kid’s movie, but he’s not allowed to be funny either. So, he’s the not-so-subtle mirror to the Kate character, to show her what her behavior can do.
In spite of its flaws, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is ultimately an innocuous film. There’s plenty of antics, Russell sings, and kids learn a Valuable Lesson™. It’s not a classic, but if you’ve already seen Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, this is a perfectly good thing to watch while baking cookies.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 is available on Netflix.
Fair Holiday Fare * PG * 112 mins.