Released Nov. 22, 2018
Unrated (equal to rated PG for peril and mild language) – 1hr 44min
Directed by Clay Kaytis
Starring Kurt Russell, Darby Camp, Judah Lewis, Kimberly Williams-Paisley
Young Kate (Camp) and her older brother Teddy (Lewis) have been having a tough year following the death of their firefighter father – Kate has grown attached to a digital camcorder full of home movies and Teddy steals cars (I suppose we all cope in our own way). Their mom (Williams-Paisley) has been working a lot of extra hours at the hospital, and such is the case on Christmas Eve when the two are left home alone. Kate blackmails her brother to assist her in a plan to catch Santa (Russell) on video, kicking off a series of events that threaten to ruin Christmas.
It’s like a 90’s live-action Disney movie and a Hallmark Christmas movie had a kid that spent a lot of time in its room watching Big Trouble in Little China on repeat. When it grew up, it still wound up in the family business, but never forgot what it really wanted to be.
The Christmas Chronicles takes some time to get to the yuletide action, and every minute it spends doing so is another ill-advised Russell-less minute being just another made-for-TV Xmas movie. The actors do a fine job of portraying the kids at the center of the story, but the script doesn’t do the kids any favors in making them much more than typical caricatures. They tend to exist only to do what needs doing to move the film along to the next scene, but that’s also standard operating procedure for this kind of movie – it wasn’t made for its adroit examination of complicated characters.
It was made for its unique interpretation of Santa Claus, and that’s where it excels. Kurt Russell gets to be as Kurt Russell-y as he wants to be, and as such, this might be the closest we get to seeing him reprise his beloved role of Jack Burton, with his effortless charisma, penchant for devil-may-care adventure, and tendency for finding his way in and out of dicey situations. This instantly became my favorite iteration of ol’ Saint Nick and is honestly a more believable interpretation of someone who tasks themselves with achieving the impossible on an annual basis. The classical ‘aw-shucks’ jolly versions of Santa always seemed a bit too lackadaisical to believably get the job done. You know who can always be counted on to get the job done his own way no matter what? Snake Plissken, that’s who.
That seems to be the singular reason for The Christmas Chronicles to exist, or at least for it to be more than just yet another Santa movie. It does have the vibe of a film made from a script discovered buried in a storage room container for 15-20 years, with its odd inclusion of a camcorder as a major plot device, the seeming absence of everyday technology, or its rather vapid insistence that the fulfillment of material desires is one of the cornerstones of the Christmas experience (but I suppose it is though – isn’t it?). It’s not interested in tackling any difficult questions or considerations, and that’s fine – it wants to deliver a fun family holiday experience that also works as a showcase for legendary screen icon Kurt Russell, and it does, provided you just run with it (and its ridiculously adorable toy-store-ready Minionesque elves).
The Christmas Chronicles gets a rating of