Wednesday 25 November 2020

The Christmas Chronicles 2 (Movie Review)

Kurt Russell returns for another round of family-friendly adventuring in the Netflix Christmas film, The Christmas Chronicles 2. This time around, Christopher Columbus takes over the director's chair, and he brings with him some of that Home Alone experience and Harry Potter magic. But a bigger budget or a grander script doesn't always translate into a better sequel, as is often the case with these Netflix movies.

Set two years after the first movie, we once again catch up with the Pierce family, who are busy vacationing in Mexico with their mum's new boyfriend (Tyrese Gibsons). But Kate Pierce (Darby Camp) isn't having any of it, choosing to sulk and make her displeasure known at any given opportunity. She makes a silent wish to Santa Claus, to get whisked away from the unpleasantness of it all, but gets more than she'd bargained for when a disgruntled former elf (Julian Dennison) seizes her discontent as an opportunity to set in motion a plan that would ruin Christmas for everyone.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 is another surefire hit with families and kids this holiday. Kurt Russell continues to shine as Santa Claus, much like he did in the first one, proving that the endearing qualities he'd displayed were far from a fluke. And Goldie Hawn proved to be his on-screen equal as Mrs. Claus, with the true-life couple sharing a chemistry that never once felt unnatural, even though they'd spent the bulk of the movie on separate adventures of their own.

Other additions to the cast include Jazhir Kadeem Bruno, who we recently saw in the Robert Zemeckis The Witches remake, and Tyrese Gibbons, who was looking all tall, black and muscly. The former blended quite nicely with proceedings, while the latter stuck out like a sore thumb. Blame it on the ubiquity of The Fast and Furious franchise these past few years, but I just couldn't separate his appearance here from that other role.

And with that, I transition into my biggest issue with The Christmas Chronicles 2, which was its over-reliance on CGI and spectacle. The movie leaned more heavily into its high fantasy through line, but in so doing, it loses most of the human drama at the heart of the first movie. The first film was more grounded in reality, so that by the time the magic started to happen, it felt even more magical. But here, a significant portion of the film looked like it must've been shot against a green screen, with the actor's performances and my emotional involvement suffering as a result.

The first film also had some edge to it, not being afraid to populate its tale with criminals and prostitutes, and an overall darker-than-usual approach that made it feel like it was not your typical Christmas story, which was one of the things that had surprised me at first and endeared me to it the most. This one by comparison feels like it has been scrubbed clean of all that edge, leaving yet another generic adventure story that would no doubt appeal more to the little ones.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 might be what most families need this holiday, a much-needed escape from the various horrors of 2020. Except it fails to improve on its predecessor in any significant way, while also losing much of what made that first movie so great to begin with. The result is a film that feels more like a Chronicles of Narnia knockoff than an actual The Christmas Chronicles sequel.

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