Sunday, 11 April 2021

Holiday cheer most welcome in fun ‘Christmas Chronicles’



‘THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES 2’ ON NETFLIX

Considering the frustration felt by many during these challenging times, you may have noticed some leaders keep insisting that we cancel holiday celebrations with family because, after all, let’s end this awful year on a down note for everyone.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, we could have a contest for the officeholder most qualified to be crowned the Grinch. But in the holiday spirit, why not skip the doom and gloom if only briefly. Since this column is about seeking enjoyment, let’s relish the Christmas spirit.

A good start would a family evening for a viewing of the Netflix movie “The Christmas Chronicles 2” starring a most appropriate and delightful Kurt Russell as the hip jolly resident of the North Pole.

While the original 2018 “The Christmas Chronicles” included Chris Columbus as one of the producers, the notable writer and director brings his family-themed creative talent this time to directing and being part of the writing team.

With Columbus at the head, a family amusement to cheer as welcome relief from our current malaise is to be expected from the talent behind the holiday film “Home Alone” and comedies that featured adolescents.

In the original film siblings Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy Pierce (Judah Lewis) had a Christmas Eve plan to catch Santa Claus on camera which nearly derailed Christmas on a wild night before they joined with Santa and the Elves to save Christmas before it was too late.

Two years later, the siblings are spending Christmas in Cancun with their widowed mother Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and her boyfriend and maybe future husband Bob (Tyrese Gibson), who has a young son Jack (Jahzir Bruno).

Now a cynical teenager, Kate broods over the fact that Christmas is just not same in a tropical environment at a glorious beach, and she’s not quite enthused about her mom’s new relationship since she fears the memory of her deceased father is fading away.

Meanwhile, older sibling Teddy has settled down from his more rambunctious ways and enjoys sipping tropical fruit drinks while relaxing near the ocean’s edge. Unlike Kate, Teddy doesn’t miss the winter environment back home in Massachusetts.

The youngest child is possible future half-brother Jack, a nice kid apparently suffering anxiety over just about anything unfamiliar, but who will soon be tested on adapting to big surprises in store.

A former elf named Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), bitter that he felt ignored by Santa and Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn) and then unwillingly turned into human form, is ensconced at the South Pole plotting revenge.

Feeling alienated from her family, Kate decides to run away back to Boston at the earliest chance, which comes when Claire and Bob take advantage of an overnight trip to the Mayan ruins.

During the parental absence, Kate and Jack are signed up for Kids Club activities, but they both get duped into a golf cart ride supposedly to the airport by Belsnickel and end up instead thrust into a portal with a fast trip to the North Pole.

The kids are Belsnickel’s ticket back into Santa’s Village where his dastardly plans include theft of the Christmas star that powers the North Pole and launch of a chemical attack that turns the cheerful elves into destructive gremlin-like maniacs.

A magical troublemaker, Belsnickel is hell-bent on destroying the North Pole and bringing Christmas to a permanent end, even if it means unleashing bedlam with a fierce Yule Cat that brings harm to Dasher, one of Santa’s beloved reindeers.

Aside from the amusingly bad behavior of Santa’s wayward elves, Santa and Belsnickel compete in an aerial sleigh ride race with nice digital effects that also would please the youngsters.

Time travel takes Santa and the kids back several decades to Boston’s snowbound Logan Airport on Christmas Eve as holiday travelers wait for delayed flights and Kate ends up in a jam for what a sales clerk believes is her attempt to pass counterfeit money.

Keep an eye out for throwaway bits of humor like the village’s cinema featuring “Bad Santa” while the elves run rampant and Santa and Mrs. Claus dozing off while the elf language version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” plays on the television.

Cynics might think of “The Christmas Chronicles 2” as little more than Yuletide pablum, and while it may not be the most inspired holiday fare of all time, it does have heart and enough cuteness and humor to offer seasonal enjoyment.

Moreover, Kurt Russell brings playful gruffness to his St. Nick when confronting Belsnickel, charming banter with his real-life partner Goldie Hawn, and joyful rocking of a Christmas song in the Boston airport, all of which reflect being right for the part.

Will Christmas be saved once again? Here’s guessing that you may already know the answer, but that would likely be the case for any other similar holiday film.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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