Sunday, December 20, 2020

Movie Review: Klaus

When it comes to Christmas movies, I find myself sticking with the classics. It’s A Wonderful Life, Home Alone, A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

On a recent plane ride I did check out the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street and found it a bit…bland. I don’t know what it was but a lot of it felt very forced and artificial.
By no means was it bad but I’m not overly fond of remakes and Mara Wilson’s character being wise-beyond-her-years got tiring very quickly. However, I’ll give high marks to Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle in the film. The man made a remarkable Santa Claus.

 But last night after we finished dinner and my Dad decided to go to bed early, my Mom & I turned on Netflix searching for something holiday-themed that we could watch. Now I might have been tempted to see if Home Alone was available (It wasn’t) but then I remembered a Christmas film that came out last year that I had missed but told myself to catch the following year. That movie was Klaus.

The film stars Jason Schwartzman as Jesper Johansson, the spoiled son of a Postmaster General, exiled to the faraway island town of Smeerensburg. He’s given the task of posting 6000 letters within the span of one year or he’ll be cut off from the family fortune (and silk sheets).

 From here Jesper meets a wild array of characters in Smeerensburg, a city which serves as a battleground for the warring Ellingboe & Krum families, from the ferryman Mogens (Norm Macdonald), the teacher-turned-fishmonger Alva (Rashida Jones) and the mysterious woodsman/toymaker Klaus (J.K. Simmons).

 The story is an unusual, unexpected but nonetheless enjoyable origin story for the legend of Santa Claus as Jesper & Klaus begin delivering toys to the children of Smeerensburg as well as some much-needed civility to the adults.

I’ll admit I didn’t go into this film with high expectations but by the end, I felt like I had watched a brand-new Christmas classic and one that if I didn’t watch again this year, I would certainly be watching again for years to come.

The film was made by director Sergio Pablos, a veteran of certain films from the Disney Renaissance like Aladdin, Hunchback of Notre Dame & Tarzan. While Disney seems content these days just by milking nostalgia via their live action remakes of classic animated movies, Pablos has gone a different and more daring route by doing something original and you can certainly tell that there’s a lot of love going into this film.
It comes as no surprise that a lot of studios turned it down as being “too risky”.

And despite being made by some Disney veterans at no point do all the characters break into song to explain their motivations or any other aspect of their life. Oh sure there's some songs that play throughout the film but at no point was I saying, "Oh Christ, do we really need a musical number here?"

The character designs are delightfully quirky without becoming hard to look at and the performances from the cast are all top notch. The characters are very likable and don’t go the familiar route of making references that are already outdated by the time of release. The movie also has a very good pace and at 97 minutes, it never feels cramped or like they’ve run out of story.

So if you already know what happens when a bell rings, are tired of seeing Harry & Marv come within inches of death via Kevin McCallister or need a new reason not to watch a movie starring Chevy Chase, turn on Netflix and watch Klaus, the perfect gift for your viewing pleasure this Christmas season.

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