Kurt Russell decides to put on the boots and the red coat and go a little wild in this strange Christmas film.
SUMMARY (Spoilers if you don’t know how Xmas specials work)
Teddy (Judah Lewis) is a kid who is just starting to break bad after losing his father, but he still loves and looks after his little sister Kate (Darby Camp). On Christmas Eve, Kate, who has video of Teddy stealing a car, blackmails him into trying to catch Santa Claus (Kurt “Call me Snake Burton Claus” Russell). Despite Teddy being sure that Santa doesn’t exist, they succeed in finding him and sneaking onto his sleigh. Unfortunately, they spook Santa and, despite the fact that he once survived a trip through a Stargate, Santa crashes the sleigh, losing the reindeer and Santa’s hat that is the source of his magic. Together, the three have a series of wacky adventures to save Christmas and some lessons are learned.
So, this is basically a gritty-ish reboot of every “X saves Christmas” movie. We’re in a world where Santa is a myth, despite the fact that it’s implied he delivers most of the presents in the entire world. In fact, people seem downright motivated to ignore incredibly obvious evidence that he is, in fact, the real Santa Claus and therefore magical. Santa is even completely open about his existence and the existence of magic and elves and whatever else is required for the movie, but people still deny him. This set-up is cliched and f*cking stupid, but it’s also tradition so we’re going with it. Additionally, almost every other standard Christmas film trope (and there is literally a page of them) is invoked at some point. It wouldn’t shock me if the people that make these use that trope page as a checklist.
The kids, too, are pretty standard stock for a movie like this. There’s the bad kid who needs the spirit of Christmas to get all up inside him so that he can learn that he’s headed down a bad road and then there’s the adorable one that has the “heart of truest believer” or whatever version of that phrase the film used. They bicker when they need to, they’re stupid when they need the plot to be stretched, they make up with the cute scenes when the movie needs you to feel things, and they learn valuable lessons about stuff because this is a Christmas movie.
However, Kurt Russell is… just so damned charismatic as Santa Claus that I actually enjoyed it anyway. He’s not the sweet old Santa from Ernest Saves Christmas (Played by Douglas Seale) or the goofy Santa of Santa Claus: The Movie (Played by David Huddleston) or even the wisecracking snarker Santa of The Santa Clause films (Played by Tim Allen). Kurt Russell’s Santa is basically what I imagine it would be like if R.J. MacReady or Jack Burton actually became Santa. He’s a smart-ass, he’s a bad-ass, he’s a little bit dirty, he manipulates situations so well people barely realize it, and he NEVER tries to be subtle. Also, he doesn’t look like the traditional Santa as much as he looks like the guy who regularly tells you about all of the medical benefits of LSD or gun ownership when you come into his shop. A running gag in the film is people pointing out that he doesn’t look like the traditional Santa Claus popularized by Coca-Cola, something that annoys him greatly.
Overall… this movie is surprisingly fun. Look, is it a masterpiece of cinema? No. Is it cliche as hell? Yes. Is it going to change your perspective on life or the universe? Not unless you take a log of Ecstasy beforehand. Yes, an actual log of it. But, this movie’s enjoyable. It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s got all the stuff you kind of want to see if you like Christmas films, and it’s got Kurt Russell doing mostly whatever he feels like doing. Grab some eggnog, put some bourbon in it, turn the fire on, and watch it.
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