When The Christmas Chronicles debuted two years ago, Netflix reported that it racked up 20 million streams in seven days – a massive figure it claimed was equivalent to a $200m opening week. So it’s no surprise that the inevitable sequel looks – on paper at least – like a far bigger and sparklier holiday bauble.
Where the first film was produced by Chris Columbus, director of hugely successful family movies including Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and the first two Harry Potters, this time he’s in the director’s chair, too. Kurt Russell returns as a sweet but still kinda badass Santa, joined by real-life wife Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus: her cameo in the original has been expanded into a reasonably meaty co-leading role. It’s the first time these veteran Hollywood legends have starred together properly since 1987’s Overboard, something which parents – OK, grandparents – forced to watch The Christmas Chronicles 2 will probably appreciate.
Russell and Hawn make for an endearing duo, but The Christmas Chronicles 2 fails to funnel their twinkly chemistry into anything meaningful or even especially entertaining. The sequel reunites Russell’s Santa with Kate Pierce (Darby Camp), one of the kids who helped him save Christmas in the first film, by introducing a new threat to his festive mission. Belsnickel (Hunt for the Wilderpeople‘s Julian Dennison), a malevolent elf who’s assumed human form, wants to steal the star that powers Santa’s village in the North Pole so he can set up his own rival present-making operation on the South Pole. When Kate and future-stepbrother Jack (The Witches‘ Jazhir Bruno) become bored on a family holiday in Mexico, Belsnickel sneakily sends them down a wormhole to the North Pole so he can use them as his unwitting pawns.
Seeing Kate and Jack dazzled by Santa’s village offers some wholesome fun – even if the CGI could have been more convincing – but Columbus takes too long to inject any sense of menace. Eventually Santa and Kate take a sleigh ride to find Belsnickel and the missing star, while Mrs. Claus is left behind to tend to an injured reindeer. Jack is sent on his own, lesser adventure: to find a rare plant that will cure the local elves of temporary insanity after Belsnickel spikes the air supply. But there’s never any doubt that everything will turn out fine in the end, and the action sequences fall too flat to compensate.
Like a faulty set of fairy lights, The Christmas Chronicles 2 does supply flickers of light relief: Columbus includes some funny Home Alone-style slapstick, while Russell gets to duet with pop veteran Darlene Love in the middle of a busy airport. It’s a shame they don’t perform Love’s festive classic ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’, but ‘The Spirit Of Christmas’ – a new song written by The E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt – isn’t bad at all. But by the end, this overly sentimental and creaky sequel feels as wet and mushy as snow crushed under a reindeer sleigh.
- Director: Chris Columbus
- Starring: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp
- Release date: November 25 (Netflix)