Mladen and Del review ‘A Christmas Chronicle 2’
“The Christmas Chronicles 2” Starring Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Julian Dennison, Jazhir Bruno, Darlene Love, and others. Directed by Chris Columbus. 115 minutes. Rated PG. Netflix.
Kurt Russell as Dexter in “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.” Charming and prescient. Russell as Jack Burton in “Big Trouble in Little China.” Funny and athletic. Russell as Snake Plissken in “Escape from New York.” Kick-ass awesome and honorable. Russell as MacReady in “The Thing.” Perfect and human. Russell as a demigod in the second “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Nicely two-faced. Russell as Santa Claus in “The Christmas Chronicles 2?” Yup, he pulled it off.
I’ll let Del, the artistic, detail-oriented plot summary know-it-all blowhard describe “The Christmas Chronicles 2” storyline below. But, it’s enough here to note that Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn) do PG battle, with support from a couple of kids, to save Christmas and the soul of an elf gone bad.
“Chronicles 2” is a neat story with good enough acting by everyone, with one exception: Russell. He’s the standout in this film. And, I’ll be damned, if his singing – that’s right, singing – isn’t good, too.
You’ve probably registered by now that I consider Russell one of the world’s greatest actors. It’s possible that merely his presence in “Chronicles 2” is enough to make me put on rose-colored glasses before I review the film. Not so. It’s clear that Russell had enthusiasm for his role. It’s that enthusiasm that carries the film. Russell’s Santa Claus is what the former St. Nick ought to be, a tough guy with a big heart.
We meet Santa as he mushes his flying reindeer in low-level pursuit of the dastardly Yule cat, an intimidating creature with, as it turns out, a coward’s will. Santa is as adept at maneuvering his sleigh as Plissken a glider, MacReady a flamethrower, or the Guardian’s demigod a planet. Russell’s and Darlene Love’s vocals in “The Spirit of Christmas” is boosted by their addictive fervor. The uplifting song, backed by a troupe of dancers, rocks.
Be patient with Mrs. Claus. Hawn seems a bit, I don’t know, stiff, uncomfortable, somewhat slightly off when we’re introduced to her character, but she gets better as “Chronicles 2” moves along.
The principal children in “Chronicles 2,” Kate and Jack are portrayed adequately by their actors. Belsnickel, the wayward elf is OK, too. I didn’t consider any of them unlikeable or unsympathetic, but they weren’t all that likeable or sympathetic either.
By the way, it seems that you don’t have to watch the original “Chronicles” before watching “Chronicles 2” to enjoy the latter. There’s enough backstory in “Chronicles 2” to satisfy curiosity about “Chronicles 1.”
I don’t recommend that religionists, particularly soulless evangelical muthers and counter-progressive Catholics who support imbecile lame duck poser president Trump and his immoral, nonwhite people-hating administration, watch this film. The movie has “Christmas” in its title, but Christ plays no significant role. In some ways, “Chronicles 2” is a Santa origin story and it uses the star of Bethlehem to help carry the plot.
I have no urge to put “Christ” back in “Christmas” as will be displayed by yard signs and bumper stickers sure to go up in the next couple of weeks in my part of Florida. For me, Christmas is about presents, the company of family, and good food. For the “Chronicles 2,” Christmas is the time of year for all people everywhere to come together to share good will and express hope for a better future. Hear, hear … as long as I get presents.
Russell gets an A+. “The Christmas Chronicles 2” is B-ish. “Elf” remains my favorite Christmas movie with real people and “Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer” my favorite animated Christmas film.
Del, take it away. Try to avoid the pedantic, will you?
Hmphf. Mladen telling me not to be pedantic is like Hitler telling Stalin not to be mean.
It was my suggestion we review “The Christmas Chronicles 2,” folks. That’s right. I went out on a limb, after having once been stung by our deviation from the sci-fi/horror/action formula by reviewing “The Jane Austen Book Club,” aka “Plan 9 from Palo Alto.” I still have sympathy stomach cramps after that one. While “Christmas Chronicles 2” was nowhere near as bad, it is no “Reservoir Dogs.”
Because Mladen was too lazy to review the plot, I’ll fill you in:
Kate Pierce (Darby Camp) is now (because she also starred in the original “Christmas Chronicles” released in 2018) a typically entitled teenager who is pissed because her mother (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) dragged her and her brother, Teddy (Judah Lewis) to Cancun for the Christmas holidays along with new boyfriend Bob (Tyrese Gibson) and his son, Jack (Jahzir Bruno).
(Sheesh, is that enough parenthesis for you?)
Kate would rather be home for the holidays with her friends, the snow, and her angst. Mom moving on in life after Dad shuffled off this mortal coil was not part of Kate’s unified field theory and like every other teenager in every other movie in which a parent passes on, Kate wants to punish Mommy Dearest for allegedly “forgetting about Dad.”
She hatches an evil plan to catch an early flight back to the frozen wasteland of home, but things go off the rail when Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), an elf who has fallen from grace, snatches Kate and young Jack as part of his own evil plan. Via wormhole they’re transported to the North Pole and left in the cold for Santa (Kurt Russell) to rescue. Santa carries them through the protective shield surrounding Santa’s Village (Mrs. Claus’ Village?) and Belsnickel hitches a ride inside so that he may steal the Christmas star, a kind of lodestone for the Star of Bethlehem that powers the village and makes our capitalistic, consumer-driven Christmas hell possible.
What ensues is a series of mildly amusing vignettes barely held together with a gristle of plot. Suffice it to say that along the way snotty Kate will learn not to be such a selfish, moody brat. All the other trifling conflicts get wrapped up in a sparkly red bow. Spoiler? Well, no. These movies are as predictable as the depressing deficit in my checking account at the end of each month.
I won’t tell you “Christmas Chronicles 2” is a bad movie. It’s not. It’s stupid and irritating and has plot holes bigger than a collapsed Christmas star, but it’s not bad, not like “The Jane Austen Book Club.”
But it did irritate me. Every year, starting about mid-November, we’re inundated with so-called Christmas movies about those people … the ones with halogen teeth and taxidermed eyes who live in a Norman Rockwell vision of Christmas where the snow is virginal and the trees decorated in symmetrical splendor. Everything is “Stepford Wives” perfect, and the characters manage their tiny holiday peccadilloes with such gentle dexterity you wonder if they’ve ever stubbed a toe or broken a nail.
C’mon. We all know our teeth are yellowed, our eyes bloodshot, the snow will turn to muddy slush and the tree looks like it was decorated by a tweeker. But that’s OK because life is life. Let’s have a Christmas movie where Uncle Bob has to change his underwear because he made the mistake of trusting a fart.
It’s possible. I recommend “The Homecoming,” a 1971 movie starring Richard Thomas and Patricia Neal. It was the genesis of “The Waltons” TV series that aired for nine years starting in 1972. The story is about a Depression-era family in rural Virginia waiting for the father to come home on Christmas Eve during a blizzard. It accurately and effectively portrayed the desperate poverty of those years, and the simple yet heartfelt hopes and dreams of the people who endured that terrible time. It was way better than any frothy confection from The Hallmark Channel or, in this case, Netflix.
“Christmas Chronicles 2” is way too preachy and precious for my tastes. I watched it, I didn’t hate it, and Kurt Russell was awesome (the kid who played Jack was also awesome). But before watching a “Christmas Chronicles 3” I’d want to get my blood sugar levels checked.
People who enjoy the occasional sip of feel-good holiday movies will get their eggnog’s worth from “Christmas Chronicles 2.” Just don’t expect a shot of rum in that glass.
I grade it a B-.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.
On my way to the office this morning I stopped by a local convenience store to pick up a bottle of Diet Pepsi. I had five hours of work ahead of me before I could enjoy the Christmas “holiday.”
The convenience store was open. A tired elderly woman hugging a bag of something – maybe what would pass for her Christmas dinner – struggled to get the door open and then hurried off down the sidewalk. I don’t know why but I had a sneaking suspicion she didn’t have a place to live, and this would be the highlight of her day.
I went inside just as another vehicle, a pickup truck, pulled up. A man got out and headed for the front door. He was grinning ear-to-ear. Good for him.
I found a Diet Pepsi in the cooler and returned to the register. The cashier was doing something in another part of the store, but he stopped and went behind the counter to ring up my soda. I had seen him before because I had stopped at this story many, many times before.
“How did you get so lucky to work on Christmas morning?” I asked, chuckling.
“We all have to work,” he barked back, not happy. “All of us. Nobody gets the day off.”
I made some kind of consolatory noise and he continued, “No day off, no extra pay, not even a $5 gift card. Cheapest company I ever worked for.”
He was angry.
“In 65 years I never had to work on Christmas. This will be the last time. I’ve got to get out of this place.”
He handed me my change and said, “But YOU have a nice Christmas.” I picked up my Diet Pepsi and left as the grinning man headed toward the angry cashier.
I’d like to say there’s a moral to this anecdote, or some kind of silver lining, just something that carries it to a higher level than mere observation on a working Christmas morning, but the fact is, life is life, and that’s what it’s like these days.
And I just thought I would share.
Image courtesy of Kylie_Jaxxon of Flickr under the auspices of a Creative Commons license.
Author’s note: Contact me at [email protected]. To read more of my opinion and humor pieces, visit delstonejr.com . I also write fiction – horror, science fiction and contemporary fantasy. If you’re a fan of such genres please check out my Amazon author’s page. Print and e-books are both available, and remember: You don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle e-book. Simply download the free Kindle app for your smart phone or tablet.
Greetings from Stockholm, where I am receiving the Nobel Prize for chemistry. I thought invite you, but only people with IQs above 185 are allowed.
I have been very busy the past year. I not only conquered my fear of flying but obtained my commercial airline pilot’s license, which enabled me to ferry the president and his concubine aboard the Concorde on a fact-finding tour of Bali.
And that little weight problem I grappled with last year? Not only did I get back into shape, I recently posed for the Mr. November foldout of the Undergear catalog. Good thing my washboard abs were honed to a glistening edge by my personal trainer, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
My goal for the coming year is to occupy the top 10 positions on the New York Times best seller list – simultaneously.
My wife, Carolyn Murphy, the supermodel, finished that shoot in Milan and came home to complete her doctorate’s – magna cum laude, of course – in quantum mechanics. She will complete her Grand Unification Theory aboard the International Space Station, once she’s finished carving that sculpture of the president into Mount Rushmore.
Our daughter, Zelda, recently won the best actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Juliet Capulet in James Cameron’s new movie, “Shakespeare vs. The Terminator,” which grossed over $2 billion in worldwide ticket receipts. Now it’s back to Oxford – assuming they grant her tenure. If not, she’s been asked to serve a term as prime minister of Japan.
Meanwhile, our son Abercrombie defeated the Russian Federation representative for the world chess crown and recently established radio contact with the Antareans, a race of superbeings who inhabit a distant planet and have promised to share their secrets of immortality and galactic peace with humanity. He’s a clever scamp. Now if I could only get him to make his bed!
Even the family dog, Clytemnestra, has news. She received a presidential citation for leading the passengers and crew of a grounded cruise liner to safety, and recently disarmed a gang of thugs trying to make off with the Spode. If you see her story on “60 Minutes” pay close attention to the tile in the entryway – it’s Tuscany, and I quarried, cut, polished laid it myself (with a little help from Bob Vila).
Lastly, our house has been declared a national sanctuary by federal wildlife officials after a rare orchid, thought to have been extinct 100 million years ago, was discovered growing in our back yard amidst the kiwi grove.
Well, enough about me and my family. How was your tawdry, hollow shell of an existence for the year?
This column was originally published in the Dec. 3, 1997 edition of the Northwest Florida Daily News and is used with permission.
About the author:
Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”
Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.
As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.
Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at delstonejr.com .