REVIEW: ‘The Christmas Chronicles 2’ is a Worthy, Global-Minded Holiday Sequel

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Christmas Chronicles 2

The 2018 Netflix holiday original The Christmas Chronicles set out to give us a Santa Claus that was more than just a sweet old elf. Kurt Russell’s take on the iconic man with the bag was hip, fun, and Daddy AF, to be honest. The Christmas Chronicles 2 sets out with that same mission of taking the classic character and bringing him into 2020. The result is a delightfully good time and an expansion of the Santa legend that is subtly smart, with a broadened and contemporary perspective.

In The Christmas Chronicles 2, two years have passed since Kate and Teddy Pierce saved Christmas and a lot has changed in those two years! Kate is a teenager, with all the angst that comes with the age, and is not at all happy about sharing her Christmas with her mother’s new boyfriend and his son Jack. Fearful of the changes that seem to be looming on the horizon, Kate decides to run away and finds herself pulled back into the magical world of Santa and the North Pole. This time, she’s got Jack to help and the new threat of a mysterious and magical troublemaker to conquer. It will take both of them, with the help of Santa and Mrs. Claus, to set things right!

Appropriately, this holiday romp is written and directed by Chris Columbus, who wrote the book on holiday mayhem with his film Home Alone and defined magic for a generation in the Harry Potter franchise. Kurt Russell returns as Santa Claus and is joined by Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus. The Christmas Chronicles 2 stars Darby Camp, Jahzir Bruno, and Julian Dennison.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 is a worthy sequel to its predecessor. It hits a lot of the same notes, balancing Russell’s magnetic Saint Nic with a world built on Minion-reminiscent elves and plenty of cheesy humor for the kids. It boasts the same impressive, if not unexpected musical numbers and carries just enough heart to keep it grounded. On its face, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is as simple and sweet a holiday film as one could ask for. But the best bits are in the details.

This time around, we’re invited into Santa’s world! Not only are we treated to the sights and sounds of the North Pole and Santa’s village, but we’re introduced to the larger world of magic in which Santa operates. Like with the first film, The Christmas Chronicles 2 dedicates a great deal of time to explain how the legend of Santa is possible. Any doubter will surely be satisfied by explanations of how Santa’s elves can create the latest video game craze or how Kurt Russell manages to stay so trim on a diet of decadent sweets. Even so, the entire film is steeped in traditional sensibilities, which are a welcome break from more wild and colorful interpretations of the North Pole. The almost rustic and cozy vibe feels homey and warm while the icy white wilds of the North Pole hint at dangers. It’s everything a child or child at heart could ask for in a winter adventure.

Beyond space and place, The Christmas Chronicles 2 adopts a very global mindset to approaching the lore of Santa Claus. Many Western viewers have an understanding of Santa Claus that is limited to what we’ve seen in Hollywood and what Coca-Cola has been advertising since the 1920s. Furthermore, most American viewers have a few cultural and historical blindspots when it comes to understanding the Yuletide season itself. Let’s be real here: most all media is a little limited, a little whitewashed, and we could all benefit from that bigger scope.

In this film, we’re given a rarely seen look at the origins of the legend of Saint Nicholas. Before the reindeer and the toy shop, Saint Nicholas was a bishop that helped the poor. He was of Greek descent and lived in Asia Minor during the time of the Roman Empire, around what would be Turkey today. In the film, this moment of storytelling is brief, but the significance of lifting Santa Claus out of his Scandinavian and European aesthetic and dropping him into the Middle East — his place of origin — cannot be understated. More importantly, this moment in the story connects Santa’s Middle-Eastern origin to the Christian story of the star of Bethlehem in a beautiful and historically mindful blend of the legends.

Similarly, The Christmas Chronicles 2 gently nods to the long history of Yule (which inspires our modern-day Christmas celebrations) that existed long before Christmas was every Christian-centric. The film incorporates old pagan figures, such as the Icelandic Yule Cat, into the landscape of the film. Yule Cat is portrayed as a co-conspirator against Santa for a portion of the film, but what the viewer gathers is that Yule Cat is just as much a part of the North Pole and its magic as Santa. The two share a space, just as they did and do in the history of Yule.  Keeping with this theme Belsnickel, the mischievous counter to Saint Nicholas in German folklore (and of some fame, if you’re a fan of The Office), is also heavily featured in the film. Though the character has been entirely reimagined and recreated, for purposes of the plot, it’s significant to see such a wide range of cultural and historical references thoughtfully combined in a mainstream Christmas film.

Christmas Chronicles 2

It may be presumptuous to call The Christmas Chronicles 2 “woke,” but it absolutely must be praised for fearlessly expanding on its characters. In the first film, the appearance of Mrs. Claus (played by Goldie Hawn) was little more than a fun Easter egg for Kurt Russell fans. In the sequel, she’s not only given a larger role but the very idea of who Mrs. Claus is shown like never before. Mrs. Claus distinctly possesses her own magic, surpassing in some areas that of Santa. Her magic takes on the appearance of ancient healing and hearth magic. Would it be a stretch to call Mrs. Claus a witch? Absolutely not and it’s amazing!

Once again, Kurt Russell absolutely makes the film and Goldie Hawn matches him in every scene. The pair is irresistible and it’s a delight to see so much fun imbued in their performances. Even though characters like Mrs. Claus and Santa seem very surface level, at first glance, the combination of the writing, the lore, and the work of Russell and Hawn give the impression that we are barely seeing the tip of that iceberg. This is a world that I would happily explore again and again, with these leads as my guides!

For all that it gets right, The Christmas Chronicles 2 does have some flaws. Of course, all of the North Pole magic must be contained by the bookends of a fairly bland story. It’s a holiday film, so small family dramas and reconciliation by way of the power of love and acceptance are to be expected but did it have to be so vanilla? Honestly, I could care less about what happens to the characters left behind at their resort getaway. This critic would urge any viewer to take those scenes for what they are, use them as an opportunity to refresh your mug of cocoa, and just enjoy the magical parts.

Once again, The Christmas Chronicles films rise to the task of providing a vibrant and fresh holiday option that is perfect for families. It’s smart enough to appeal to the adult viewer, exciting and fantastical for the kids, and warm enough to thaw the heart of any grinch. The way that The Christmas Chronicles 2 acknowledges such a diverse history and culture of the winter holidays is proof for this critic that there is a light at the end of the 2020 tunnel. I can happily recommend The Christmas Chronicles 2.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 is available November 25, 2020 exclusively on Netflix.


 The Christmas Chronicles 2
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Once again, The Christmas Chronicles films rise to the task of providing a vibrant and fresh holiday option that is perfect for families. It’s smart enough to appeal to the adult viewer, exciting and fantastical for the kids, and warm enough to thaw the heart of any grinch. The way that The Christmas Chronicles 2 acknowledges such a diverse history and culture of the winter holidays is proof for this critic that there is a light at the end of the 2020 tunnel. I can happily recommend The Christmas Chronicles 2.