Netflix Mini-Review: Sex Education (Season 2) – Relationships Are Complicated All Over

The British Comedy about the complications of teen sex returns with some relationship advice.

SUMMARY

At the end of the last season, Otis (Asa Butterfield) finally achieved arousal for the first time in his life after kissing Ola (Patricia Allison), who becomes his girlfriend. Having sexual impulses for the first time in his life, Otis quickly becomes addicted to masturbation. Meanwhile, at the school, an outbreak of chlamydia leads the school governors to hire Otis’s sex-therapist mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson), as a consultant on sex-education curriculum. Maeve (Emma Mackey), Otis’s partner in sex therapy, deals with both her return to the school as an elite academic and also the return of her drug addict mother (Anne-Marie Duff). Hijinks and issues ensue.

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So many plotlines.

END SUMMARY

While the last season of the show was mostly focused on overcoming personal issues to make the connections to start a relationship, this season goes into all of the effort that relationships take to maintain. Most of the characters start the season in a new relationship: Jean is dating Ola’s father Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt), Otis is dating Ola, Maeve is reuniting with her mother, Otis’s best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) starts dating the new student (Sami Outalbali), etc. Everyone naturally has their own issues: Otis has no sexual experience, Jean is used to her independence, Maeve’s mom abandoned her in the past, Eric still has feelings for Adam (Connor Swindells), etc. This gives everyone a number of interesting issues to explore and the show does a good job of covering all of them.

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She’s a strong independent woman and an FBI treasure.

One thing that the season, and the show, does well is try to handle both the obscure and the common issues that people have in relationships, particularly sexual issues. The biggest issue that every relationship faces is honest communication. It hurts sometimes to tell your partner what you really think, but failure to do it hurts you both and can be the downfall of a relationship. The season also does a good job of addressing several other issues ranging from sexism to sexual assault, resulting in a tragically humorous scene in which a group of girls realize that the only thing they have in common is “unwanted penises.” It does drive home the point that one of the things that can help friends get through their troubles is also communication and empathy. 

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Everyone has stuff that they need to talk about and friends who need the same.

The downside to the season is that it honestly just doesn’t feel as creative or original as the last one. It certainly explores different territory, but the dialogue never feels as fluid and the performances never quite feel as passionate. I will say that it gets better towards the end, but at the beginning I was feeling a little let down. The soundtrack did help me get through it, though, because damn does this have a great soundtrack.

Overall, not a bad continuation, even if it dips a little for me. There is one thing at the end that did flat-out tick me off, but I’ll see how they handle it next season.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – The Witcher (Season 1): Toss a Coin to Your Netflix

The fantasy series that became a hit game series gets adapted to the small screen.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) is a Witcher (oh, that’s why they named it that!), a monster hunter who was the subject of magical experiments that make him basically an unstoppable force of badass. Also, he sits in tubs a lot, which is apparently a big thing on the internet. Geralt travels from village to village slaying monsters, often accompanied by a bard named Jaskier (Joey Batey) and occasionally interacting with the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra). 

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They call him the White Wolf. Guess why?

Cirilla (Frey Allan) is the magical princess of the kingdom of Cintra which has been destroyed by a neighboring kingdom. Cirilla’s grandmother, Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May), tells her to find Geralt in order to survive. 

END SUMMARY

The Witcher is a series of 8 books, both novels and short story anthologies, by Andrzej Sapkowski which I have never actually finished. I promise I’m getting around to it, nerds. This later led to a series of three video games which were extremely popular. Rather than adapting the novels, however, the video games were a continuation that picked up after the events of the last book. This series was adapted from the first two books of the series, which is probably a good decision since there’s both more material and a lot less potential for angry video game fans trying to burn the writers at the stake.

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They did put him in a tub for the fans, though.

I genuinely enjoyed this show, because it delivered pretty much exactly what I was looking for. It has some creative world-building which contains frequent magical oddities or anomalies. It’s the kind of world that has cursed princesses or half-hedgehog princes who just show up out of nowhere and people who live for hundreds of years. It also is the kind of world where, as is frequent in fantasy fiction, the humans (especially the ones with power) are often more horrifying than the actual monsters. 

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Though the monsters are quite… monstrous. 

The structure of the show follows three different, occasionally intertwining, plots centered on the three protagonists: Geralt, Yennefer, and Cirilla. In an interesting twist, the stories are not happening at the same time, something that appears to have irritated some viewers, but it allows the writers to better convey that Geralt and Yennefer both live for centuries and therefore have difficulty making human connections. Geralt is at least 90 years old at the start of the series and Yennefer is far older, with years or decades passing between episodes. We see a young Yennefer trying to form bonds, but that really fades over time. Cirilla’s plotline, which is in the “present,” takes place in a relatively short time period and, appropriately, involves her trying to make more personal connections.

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The two nigh-immortals do connect with each other, of course.

The performances in the series are all extremely solid. They’re often very over-the-top and even a little corny, but that’s in line with the kind of show this is. Cavill does a great job portraying a relatively stoic anti-hero, something that involves a great deal of grunting. Yennefer probably has the largest character arc and the most powerful emotional moments, which Chalotra capitalizes on. The most notable supporting character is Jaskier, who not only provides the comic relief but also composes the song “Toss a Coin,” which is so mercilessly catchy that I imagine you’ve heard it already even if you didn’t watch the show. 

Overall, I recommend this show if you haven’t given it a try yet. It’s not Game of Thrones, but it is entertaining.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Mini-Review: Carole and Tuesday (Season 2) – Music Has Power

Carole and Tuesday, the show I like for reasons I can’t quite determine, returns for a second season and takes on celebrity and politics.

SUMMARY 

Carole ( Miyuri Shimabukuro/ Nai Br.XX / Jeannie Tirado) and Tuesday ( Kana Ichinose/ Celeina Ann / Brianna Knickerbocker) have come in “second” in the Mars’ Brightest contest after Tuesday’s stalker injured her too much to play guitar. Their performances have made them fairly prominent celebrities and they are primed to start their full-fledged careers as musicians, but things start to get complicated when Tuesday’s mother, Valerie (Tomoko Miyadera / Rachel Robinson), adopts a strict anti-immigrant stance in her candidacy for President of Mars. While the girls mostly stay out of it and focus on releasing their first studio album, Valerie’s supporters and backers start trying to enforce her policies early, causing a rift among the Martian population. 

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Reminder: Carole is an orphan immigrant from Earth.

At the same time, the deuteragonist, Angela (Sumire Uesaka / Alisa / Ryan Bartley), experiences an even more meteoric rise in her career, only for her life to be derailed by mounting tragedies. Though her music surpasses even Carole and Tuesday in terms of popularity, she slowly starts to lose herself. However, along with a number of other musicians, she ends up finding herself by joining Carole and Tuesday in “the Seven-Minute Miracle,” an event that shapes Mars forever.

END SUMMARY

Interestingly, this season worked even better for me than the last one, and for completely different reasons. In the last season, one of the best things about the show was how we saw people rewarded for all of their hard work as individuals or teams. We got to see Carole and Tuesday struggling and risking so much in order to try and achieve their dreams, which made it all the better when they did finally get some kind of victory. Good is rewarded. Effort is rewarded. Dreaming is rewarded. It’s the kind of message that can inspire someone to take risks and try to find their passion. This season gave us a message of hope in a different way. We see people working past personal difficulties, trying to overcome the adversity they find within themselves and their conflicted relationships. We see people trying to deal with heartbreak, with losing faith in a parent, and with losing faith in people in general. However, the series says that there is always hope that people can, and sometimes will, realize that they can do the right thing. The key is that this revelation doesn’t come from arguing or fighting, but from love and empathy, two things music can inspire.

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They do a good job making it clear that Valerie sacrifices her principles for power. 

The music in the season is as good as the first, as is the character development. The setting is pretty much the same, but the relationship between Mars and Earth is explored further. We get to meet a number of new characters that are interesting and yet somehow relatable. For the most part, the show wraps up all of the dangling plot lines satisfactorily, but if they decided to continue it there’s plenty of ways to go forward. Still, I enjoyed this series and I am happy with how it stands now. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Mini-Review: Seis Manos (Season 1) – It’s the Mexican Kung-fu Epic You Deserve

Three Kung-fu students fight against a Satanic Mexican drug cartel in order to avenge their master.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Isabela (Aislinn Derbez), Jesús (Jonny Cruz), and Silencio (the silent one) are students of Sifu Chiu (Vic Chao) an ancient Chinese Kung-fu master who moved to the Mexican town of San Simon. One day, their master is killed by a mystically-empowered initiate of the Santa Nucifera cult/cartel who then goes on a rampage destroying much of the town. The three then vow revenge upon Santa Nucifera and their leader El Balde (Danny Trejo). They are aided along the way by DEA Agent Brister (Mike Colter) and Federale Investigator Garcia (Angelica Vale).

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They’re… mostly helpful?

END SUMMARY

This show is basically a series of exploitation films nested inside of a TV show and I mean that in the best way. They clearly know it too, as the show is animated like it was filmed in the 1960s and played on a VHS in the 90s. It’s got some static at points, some sound errors, and even a few times where the edges of the “film” are caught in frame, all of which gives it more of the feel of an old Kung-fu movie. 

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Also, wind always make stuff flutter dramatically. Always. 

Much like Avatar: The Last Airbender, a lot of care was put into the various styles that the characters use to fight. Isabela, a defensive person who wants to protect people, uses Hung Ga (also the Earthbending forms from Avatar). Silencio uses Bak Mei, the aggressive “white eyebrow” style, which becomes literal as he becomes more violent. Jesús uses drunken boxing, because he’s a party dude. It’s one of those little touches that allows the show to better utilize visual storytelling. 

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I mean, you can kind of get a feel for them just off of this shot. 

One of the most interesting things about the show is watching how the characters and the series itself blend Mexican and Chinese cultural elements. It’s interesting to see the two compared and contrasted through the actions of the different characters in the series. It’s also neat to see the supernatural martial arts elements from Wuxia films matched up against the kind of supernatural elements seen in old-school Mexican Lucha films, represented by El Balde and his minions. 

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Plus there are cute references everywhere. 

Overall, I recommend this show if you like exploitation films, either Eastern or Western.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Mini-review: The Dragon Prince: Book 3 – And We Have Lift-off

The series has finally pushed the pedal to the metal just in time for what appears to be the beginning of the second act. 

STORY SO FAR

Xadia is a magical land, but humans naturally screwed it up. For that, all the other races  (mostly elves) banished them to the far side of the continent with the only way back guarded by the Dragon King, the most powerful being in existence. That worked for a millennium and change, but then humans somehow killed the Dragon King, forcing the elves to attempt to assassinate the human leaders. One of the assassins, Rayla the Moonshadow elf (Paula Burrows), is sent to kill a human prince named Ezran (Sasha Rojen), but stops when Ezran’s step-brother Callum (Jack DeSena) discovers that the Dragon Prince was not killed with his father, but stolen as an egg. The three go to return the Prince to his mother in hopes of ending the looming conflict. In season 1, they managed to get out of the human kingdom and hatch the prince, now named Zym. In season 2, they managed to get to the Breach, the only passage to the land of the elves, but Ezran was forced to return in order to take over the throne from his late father. Meanwhile, Ezran’s Father’s Royal Advisor Viren (Jason Simpson) has been plotting with the banished elf Aaravos (Erik Todd Dellums) to start a war between all the human kingdoms and the magical lands.

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They’re all adorable. 

END RECAP

Rather than doing a summary and trying to avoid spoilers, I’m just going to say that this season finally started to pay off all of the clearly elaborate world-building that the creators put into this show. Every level of this world has been worked out and it pretty much all meshes perfectly together, something that allows a fantasy show like this (or like Avatar: The Last Airbender) to play out without having too much exposition. Yes, we get a lot of history lessons, but it’s mostly in the context of explaining how different cultures view similar events, so that doesn’t feel too forced. 

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Explanations on how magic works are reasonable, since humans can’t really use it.

The main thing this season confirms is that the last two seasons have been mostly a set-up so that the show can finally start accelerating and moving at a faster pace and on a grander scale. As a consequence, those episodes had often felt very slow and limited, but the investment is paying off now that all of the events and characters are starting to converge. In a way it does remind me of Avatar, in the sense that the show spent so much time focused just on our main group but still seeded all of the global-scale events that will eventually take place. 

I also like that they maintained Viren’s status as being the antagonist, but not a crazy and over-the-top evil one (at least until the end of the season). He is misguided and he is allowing power to corrupt him, but it’s also made clear that he does have reasons for why he believes the current state of the world cannot stand (even if they’re bad reasons that lack empathy). The fact that he so often comes off as reasonable is one of the show’s best strengths because it shows how what starts off as casual species-ism quickly devolves into violence when given actual power. 

Overall, this season made the show actually feel like it’s starting to live up to its promise and has set up the next season to be even bigger. The action sequences were better, the character interactions are more natural now, and the stakes are sufficiently high to justify more extreme decisions. Also, one of my ‘ships came in, so that was nice.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review – Green Eggs and Ham: Wait, How Does This Exist and Why Is It GOOD?

I don’t know what to say except that somehow this show is actually pretty good. 

SUMMARY

Animal rescuer Sam-I-Am (Adam DeVine) steals a priceless Chickeraffe (half-chicken, half-giraffe, all Seuss). However, while at a diner, his bag gets mixed up with failed inventor Guy-Am-I (Michael “Yes, that Michael Douglas” Douglas). From there, the two get mixed up in wacky adventures trying to return the Chickeraffe while pursued by BADGUY agents McWinkle (Jeffrey Wright) and Gluntz (Jillian Bell). Along the way there’s a billionaire with fake hair (Eddie Izzard), an overprotective mom, Michellee (Diane “Yes, the one from Annie Hall” Keaton) and her wild daughter, E.B. (Ilana Glazer), a Goat (John Turturro), a Fox (Tracy Morgan), and a Mouse (Daveed Diggs), all under the Narrator’s (Keegan-Michael Key) watchful gaze.

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No pants anywhere. Very Seuss.

END SUMMARY

There’s a show of Green Eggs and Ham. Let me write that again: There is a show, a television show featuring 13 half-hour episodes, based on a book that famously only has 50 words in it. In the most recent season of BoJack Horseman there’s a gag about a TV show being made based on a “Happy Birthday, Love Dad” greeting card and apparently it’s well received. That was supposed to be a commentary on the fact that we’ve adapted all the books and Hollywood has had to move on to cards. This show is apparently presented completely unironically on the same streaming service and… well, it’s impressively good. 

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It’s cause for celebration, I guess.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be heralded as a revolution in animation, but I genuinely enjoyed watching it. The main characters have a surprising amount of depth, the world that it takes place in is probably the most Seuss-ian of any that’s been put on screen (and yes, I’m including the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas), and the show actually ties into the original story of Green Eggs and Ham. Each of the episodes is focused on one of the things that Sam-I-Am tries to pitch in the book (“Fox,” “Train,” “Box,” “Rain,” etc.) and in each one of them he pitches eating Green Eggs and Ham to Guy-Am-I based on that particular thing, just like in the book. That’s actually an example of what this show nails: It manages to be true to the spirit of the original book while also expanding and explaining it. 

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And the added characters are amazing.

The theme of the original story of Green Eggs and Ham was that you should not be afraid to try new things, however, the persistence with which Sam-I-Am tried to pitch the foodstuffs to the character now called Guy-Am-I led to the story being accused of telling kids never to take no for an answer. Naturally, not obeying someone’s wishes about not wanting to do something is not a great lesson. The show manages to subtly change this. Rather than not accepting Guy-Am-I’s wishes, each time Sam accepts the rejection, then brings up the eggs in a different context in the next episode, but always allowing Guy an out. It makes the message clear that you can respect someone’s wishes and still try to convince them to step out of their comfort zone once in a while. It’s a tough balance, but I think they pulled it off.

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Super hard to stay mad at him.

The show’s writing is unbelievably creative, somehow managing to have the slapstick and inane feel of Dr. Seuss while also being clever and, at times, genuinely touching. There are some very sad and pensive moments in this show, something that you would never expect from a show involving green eggs and ham. In fact, the reveal of exactly what the food represents is an unbelievably touching moment. Still, the humor, particularly the commentary by Key as the Narrator, is pretty funny and works on a similar multi-generational level to things like The Muppet Show, encouraging parents to watch it with their kids. 

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I somehow laughed at “We’re the BADGUYS!!!”

Honestly, though, this show almost single-handedly restores my faith in human creativity, because even if we are, in fact, reduced to the point of claiming to be inspired by greeting cards in order to get a show greenlit, someone can still add and adapt it enough to make it work as a solid narrative. I recommend this to anyone with kids, and anyone who is a kid at heart.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review – Klaus: You’ve Seen it Before, but It’s Still Heartwarming

I’m a sucker for a good story of the power of kindness to overcome anything, and that’s what this is.

SUMMARY

Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) is the lazy son of the Postmaster of… I’m guessing Norway. Spoiled and perpetually unproductive, his father sends him to the island of Smeerensberg above the Arctic Circle with the condition that if he doesn’t process 6000 letters in a year, he will be kicked out of his family. Unfortunately, Smeerensberg is populated by two warring families, the Krums (led by Joan Cusack) and the Ellingboes (led by Will Sasso), who don’t send mail. The only other people in the town are the sarcastic and abusive ferryman (Norm Macdonald) and the embittered teacher-turned-fishmonger Alva (Rashida Jones). One day he runs into a woodcutter who lives far from the town named Klaus (J.K. Simmons) who has a massive collection of elaborate toys everywhere. Desperate to fill the letter quota, Jesper convinces Klaus to give toys to any of the kids that write him letters, and a legend is born.

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Aside from when Goldberg played him, this is probably the biggest Santa.

END SUMMARY

I don’t know how to say this aside from just being honest: This movie got to me. It’s cheesy, it’s cliché, it has almost everything in it that we’ve already seen from all of the other “true story of Santa Claus” films, but… it worked on me. I just loved everything about it. 

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Even the unnecessary fish guts.

Part of it has to be attributed to the animation style. The bulk of the character design is put into the expressiveness of the characters, with huge, exaggerated eyes even by most animated standards (aside from Ducktales and any anime derived from the Uncle Scrooge style [which is most of them]). It helps that when emotional moments are to be found, the shot always takes an extra beat to let the characters process. Rather than just having an emotion, we see the feelings start to spring forth from the characters, letting us take that short journey with them. While the adults are done well, the main thing is how well they animate the innocent joy that children get from receiving simple kindness. One of the things that animation will always have an edge on live-action filmmaking is that they can always exaggerate expressions to sell a scene, and this film capitalizes on it perfectly.

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I mean, they somehow nail “hopeful disbelief” and that’s not a normal expression.

Another part is that the story, while it absolutely is cliché, with beats being drawn directly from the guide to screenwriting, is played sincerely. There’s no irony about any of the story elements or any of the archetypes. Seriously, we have the selfish main character who learns the value of kindness, we have the love interest who tells them up front they’re never going to be together, we have the stoic old man who everyone is afraid of that ends up being kindly… This movie could just be called Stock Character: The Movie. But, throughout it, even though the characters are stock and the story is derivative, it still manages to grab you on an emotional level. Yes, you know what’s going to happen at any given part of the story, but when these elements are treated with depth and respect, we remember why these tropes became so used in the first place: They work. 

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Yes, we have the “pessimist who learns to believe again” and it was heartwarming.

That’s the main thing that this movie nails: Sincerity. One of the most repeated lines in the film is that “a true act of goodwill always sparks another.” That’s basically Klaus’s mantra, and it is shown to be true throughout the movie. Even though Jesper is selfish in his desires at the beginning, watching Klaus’s sincerity believably changes him for the better. It’s not all at once, though, nor even in a montage, because he’s still focused on what he wants. It’s only when he is forcibly shown how much joy he’s bringing to others, even if it is inadvertent, that he realizes that spreading happiness is a reward far greater than his own hedonism. While this message would normally ring hollow, it instead comes off as just as powerful as that mantra should be. One small act begets another, which eventually makes the world a better place. All it takes is a little effort. 

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We have the “cynic learning the value of kindness” scene and yes, I was teary-eyed.

It also helps that, in a rarity for this kind of film, nothing in the movie is explicitly magical. Quite the opposite: everything from the Santa Mythos is shown to be derived from mundane misunderstandings that the children have about Klaus. For example, the children see Klaus and Jesper wreck a cart pulled by reindeer, but they misinterpret it as the reindeer flying and landing. Additionally, rather than just being the unflinching paragon of goodwill that Santa usually represents, Klaus is given a more tragic and realistic backstory for why he does what he does. He’s not trying to just do good for the sake of good, although he does believe in it, he’s doing it in memory of someone else. Much as we have idealized Santa, Santa himself was acting based on his ideal vision of another. 

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Bad things happen to even the best people. 

I also have to give credit to the score. Music is always a part of making sure that the audience is experiencing the full emotions of a scene, and this film uses it perfectly.

Overall, I know I’m a sucker, but I love this movie. Everything about it is hopeful and stands for the idea that, no matter how bitter or divided we are, one day we can all come together. It just takes effort and caring.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.