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.

Klaus - 1Santa.png
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. 

Klaus - 2FishGuts.png
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.

Klaus - 3Eyes.png
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. 

Klaus - 5Teacher.png
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. 

Klaus - 4Watching.png
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. 

Klaus - 6Toys.png
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.

Greatest Valentine’s Day Episodes

Okay, so, I’m going to die alone, but for those of you who aren’t, here’s a list of some of the best Valentine’s Day episodes of TV. Or, really, just the first 5 episodes I could think of that were good. I didn’t think of this until Monday, so cut me a break.

Runner Up: Galentine’s Day (Parks and Rec)

Why is this a runner up? Because it’s not a V-day episode…  and although most of it takes place at a Valentine’s Dance, it’s mostly about breakups.

ValentinesParksAndRec

Galentine’s Day is the 13th of February, and it’s a holiday made up by Pawnee, Indiana resident Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) to celebrate strong, independent women. Leslie’s widowed mother, Marlene (Pamela Reed), a guest at the Galentine’s celebration, tells the story of her first love, a lifeguard she met years before she met Leslie’s father, with whom she had a passionate affair before her parents made her break it off.

ValentinesGalentinesLeslie, with encouragement from Justin (Justin Theroux), a man she’s been dating, goes to find the lifeguard and reunite the lovers after all these years. Unfortunately, while Marlene grew up to be a civic leader, the lifeguard, Frank (John Larroquette), is just a barrel full of problems. He’s immature, unsophisticated, unemployed, and just generally is the worst. Marlene understandably wants nothing to do with him.

This leads Leslie to realize she doesn’t really like Justin. Meanwhile, her co-workers’ relationships are similarly dissolving. Tom (Aziz Ansari) is rejected by his ex-wife. April (Aubrey Plaza) breaks up with her boyfriend and his boyfriend. Ann (Rashida Jones) and Mark (Paul Schneider) are still together, but it’s clear Ann is looking to get out of the relationship… which leads Mark to get out of the show.

Message received: Love is a lie and everyone dies alone. Happy Galentine’s Day!!!

5) Operation Ann (Parks and Rec)

Okay, I had to make it up to Parks and Rec, both for lambasting Galentine’s Day and for not ever finding an episode of the show quite remarkable enough to get onto this list, despite how much I like the show.

Here’s the thing about Parks and Rec: Every single couple at the end of the show is basically perfect.

April and Andy (Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt), Leslie and Ben (Amy Poehler and Adam Scott), Ann and Chris (Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe), Tom and Lucy (Aziz Ansari and Natalie Morales), Donna and Joe (Retta and Keegan-Michael Key), Garry and Gayle (Jim O’Heir and Christie Brinkley), Ron and Diane (Nick Offerman and Lucy Lawless), even Craig and Typhoon (Billy Eichner and Rodney To). All of them are amazing. Which is why it’s so great to see where some of these relationships start to develop.

ValentinesBenLeslie.gifThis episode starts with Leslie having her first V-Day with a serious boyfriend, Ben. She makes an overly-elaborate series of puzzles involving multiple riddles that range from “weird” to “punishingly difficult.” Even Leslie admits, at one point, that it’s probably impossible for Ben to actually solve them all. In desperation, Ben asks Ron and Andy for help. Along the way, Ben finds out that Ron actually loves puzzles and riddles, despite his earlier objections to them. In the end, Ron intuits the final solution to Leslie’s riddle, saving Ben.

valentinesanntom.jpgMeanwhile, Leslie asks the office to help find a boyfriend for Ann, who is somehow single despite being sweet, smart, and looking like Rashida Jones (it actually gets explained later that she has some issues). At the same time, Chris, the perpetual optimist, is depressed because he has been dumped by his most recent girlfriend. At the end of the episode, Ann ends up hanging out with Tom, which proves to be a horrible mistake, and Chris realizes that he’s only single because he broke up with Ann for basically no reason aside from location. This leaves both of them in the position to get back together in the future, after they both grow a little bit.

Also, April and Andy are together, and they’re perfect, and I love them.ValentinesAprilAndy.jpg

 4) Anna Howard Shaw Day (30 Rock)

Much like Parks and Rec, even though I love this show it never made it onto the list. Only 2 episodes got nominated, and this is… not one of them, but it’s a natural fit to put it here. Too bad I don’t have a Leap Day list.

Valentines30Rock.jpg30 Rock is a show about putting on an SNL-like show called “TGS with Tracy Jordan,” which is filmed at NBC headquarters located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

30 Rock doesn’t have the perfect ending for everyone, but it has a solid happy ending for most of the characters. It also points out that, even if you don’t find love in another person, you can find it in your friends and family.

ValentinesLizLemon.gifAt the beginning of this episode, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) has set a root canal on Valentine’s Day, which she calls “Anna Howard Shaw Day” after the female civil rights leader born on Feb. 14, but discovers that everyone else has plans and thus she has no one who can drive her home while she’s under anesthesia. At the same time, her boss, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), meets Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks), the ultra-conservative woman of his dreams. Jack tries to woo her, including planning a celebrity party where he invites Jon Bon Jovi (Music Guy), but ends up snubbing him because he’s interested in what she’s saying. Naturally, they bang, and agree to go out again on V-day. On Valentine’s Day, Liz gets her root canal, telling the dental staff that she’ll be fine to go home. On the way out, however, Liz hallucinates that the nurses are her ex-boyfriends, leading the staff to call Jack to help. Jack agrees, but Avery assumes that it’s just an excuse to dump her after they’ve had sex. Jack counters by offering to have her come along, which impresses Avery even more with his kindness. Liz passes out, but at least she knows she has a friend.

At the same time, Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) is depressed because her stalker appears to have lost interest in her. Kenneth the Page (Jack McBrayer) is confused as to why she’s upset that her stalker has moved on, only for Jenna to tell Kenneth that her stalker is her longest relationship. Kenneth proceeds to send her threatening letters to show that he cares.

Basically, this episode reminds us that friendship is a kind of love, too.

ValentinesAnnaHowardShaw

 3) My Funky Valentine (Modern Family)

Modern Family was a show about how there are different, viable models of family structure than just the traditional Nuclear Family. It covered one family in three households.

Household 1 is the Dunphy family. Goofy dad Phil (Ty Burrell), his wife Claire (Julie Bowen), and their kids Haley, Alex, and Luke (Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, and Nolan Gould). Household 2 is the Pritchetts: Claire’s dad Jay (Ed O’Neill), his younger, hotter wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara), Gloria’s son Manny (Rico Rodriguez), and their baby Joe (Jeremy McGuire). Household 3 is the Pritchett-Tuckers: Claire’s brother Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), his husband Cam (Eric Stonestreet), and their daughter Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons).

valentinesmodernfamily-e1518492492912.jpg

This episode’s main focus is Phil and Claire. Phil has taken Claire to the same restaurant for most of their history together, so this year he decides to rent a hotel and have the two of them roleplay for the evening instead. Phil is Clive, a businessman, and Claire is Julianna, a housewife. As they flirt at the bar, Claire goes to the bathroom and removes all of her clothes, returning wearing just a coat. As they make their way up to the room, however, the coat gets caught in the escalator. Claire cannot get out of the coat withouthaving to run to the room naked, and multiple acquaintances keep showing up… all of whom just tell her to get out of the coat.

ValentinesClairePhil.jpg

Jay and Gloria go to a comedy club at the same hotel, which is fun until the comedian starts making fun of Jay’s age. They leave and run into Claire… who Gloria quickly helps, having realized the situation immediately, since apparently it had happened to her before. Claire and Phil go to their room… where it’s later revealed Phil screwed up the entire evening somehow by mis-using oil.

Meanwhile, Mitchell is depressed because he broke up his and Cam’s Valentine’s plans due to needing to work on a case, only for the client to settle, preventing Mitchell from delivering the best speech he’d ever written. Manny, who they’re watching while Jay and Gloria are out, is also depressed because he wrote a Valentine’s Day poem for a girl in his class, and another boy took credit for it. Manny and the couple go to the restaurant and confront the boy, with Mitch delivering a version of the speech he’d written. Unfortunately, the girl actually likes the other guy more, so Manny’s still single.

I love this episode because it emphasizes the show’s message of “every couple is different.”

2) Three Valentines (Frasier)

Already wrote this one, not doing it again. Still hilarious.

1) I Love Lisa (The Simpsons)

It probably says a lot that my number one pick is an episode about a girl taking pity on a boy, him taking it the wrong way, her having to break his heart, and them ending up friends… but, that’s for my therapist. Here’s the winner:

This episode is one of the best episodes of the Simpsons, and that’s saying something.

It’s Valentine’s Day in Springfield and Lisa’s class (Yeardley Smith) is giving Valentine’s ValentinesChooChooCards to each other. Unfortunately, Ralph Wiggum (Nancy Cartwright), who is not the brightest kid in the class… nor the most sanitary, doesn’t get a single card. Seeing him heartbroken, Lisa feels pity for him and gives him a card saying “I choo-choo-choose you.” This leads Ralph to fall in love with Lisa, who does not reciprocate. At all. This is made worse when Ralph and Lisa are picked to play George and Martha Washington in the school play.

Ralph’s father, Chief Wiggum (Hank Azaria), gets them tickets to a Krusty the Clown Live show, which Lisa desperately wants to go to. Unfortunately, Krusty starts talking to the audience, leading Ralph to proclaim his love for Lisa on live TV… which Lisa responds to by telling him that “I don’t like you! I never liked you and the only reason I gave you that stupid valentine is because nobody else would!” Bart (Cartwright) later uses a recording of this to show Lisa the exact moment Ralph’s heart rips in half.ValentinesRalph

Ultimately, Lisa tries to apologize to Ralph for being cruel, but Ralph focuses on his role as George Washington, leading him to give a stellar performance and the interest of multiple new women. Lisa finally gives him an apology card with a bee on it, saying “Let’s Bee Friends.”ValentinesBeeFriends

This is an amazing episode, even if it’s a bit heartbreaking, because that’s really just how it is sometimes. The girl you like doesn’t like you back. The thing you thought was caring was just friendship. And that’s okay.