Essays · Movies

‘The Christmas Chronicles 2’ Brings Cheer by Any Means Necessary

The sequel continues its presentation of a gruff, badass Santa Claus in the form of Kurt Russell, and we require his forceful feeding of good cheer more this holiday than ever.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 Netflix
Joe Lederer/Netflix
By  · Published on November 24th, 2020

Because 2020 is not 2018, The Christmas Chronicles 2 hits a little differently than its predecessor. Two years ago, we thought we were in the thick of it, but little did we know how much funkier and complicated our lives could become. What was once a quaint, silly treat is now a life preserver buoying us toward a hopefully brighter future.

‘Tis the season to remember why we wake every morning. We require motivation to put on our pants one leg at a time and hit the streets of the new day. The deeper into the year we sink, sometimes despair can entrench itself within. Elections, pandemics, families in lockdown — it can all be a bit much.

Christmas movies are designed to inject much needed holiday cheer into the hearts and minds of their viewers. They can target any number of poisonous sour notes within the human condition and work their magic by freeing the soul of their toxicity. The process is infinite, not finite. Folks need many reminders over their lifetime and depending on the year, we crave that cheer harder.

The original Christmas Chronicles found the Pierce family in crisis. After their patriarch’s death, Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) could barely hold the household together. Her son, Teddy (Judah Lewis), turned to a life of boosting cars. At the same time, his younger sister, Kate (Darby Camp), desperately tried to maintain her dead dad’s humanitarian optimism via the Christmas spirit. While teetering on the precipice of misery, Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) tumbled down their chimney, rekindling their purpose as a family.

Life is a series of sequels. There is no happily ever after. It’s all a work in progress. Santa is not free from these kids, and he will never be. That’s the job.

If the world demands more of Kurt Russell’s sexy, svelt, and gloriously bearded St. Nick, then the next internal battle must fall upon the Pierces. In The Christmas Chronicles 2, Teddy is no longer the problem. He’s happy to spend his holiday on a beach in Cancun while his mom plummets into bliss with her new boyfriend, Bob (Tyrese Gibson), and his tagalong son, Jack (Jahzir Bruno). With these interlopers in play, pulling the Pierces away from their snowy holiday home tradition, Kate bubbles with animosity.

Her faith in Santa saved the day last time, and it was a faith deeply rooted in the memory of her father. Kate sees Bob, and her mother’s happiness in his arms, as a threat. A second death for her father is on the horizon, and she will scorch Cancun with a furious tantrum if it means scaring off these familial trespassers.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 takes the Thor: The Dark World sequel approach. As Thor came to Jane in the first film, and Jane came to Thor in the second film, Kate can’t wait on Santa to plop out of the fireplace. She’s gotta bring her battle to him.

Were the brief glimpses of the North Pole your favorite part of the last movie? Well, you’re in luck. The sugary fantasy setting consumes nearly the entire runtime of the sequel.

The hurt tormenting Kate is mirrored in the film’s protagonist, Belsnickle (Julian Dennison). As we learn in an extensively strange origin flashback, the grumpy Gus was once Santa’s top toy mechanic. As the popularity of Santa grew across the world, requiring more and more toys for children, Belsnickle felt dismissed by big red. The hunger of humanity is never quenched, and when it took precedence over Belsnickle’s feelings, the mischievous elf grew venomous.

In Cancun, Belsnickle encourages Kate to run away. When she obliges, along with eager-to-please Jack, he magically catapults them to Santa’s village, where they nearly freeze to death before rescue. Here is where Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn) shines, nursing the ailing kids and fawning over their very presence.

While Santa is happy to see Kate again, he’s a little concerned to see the motherly desire on his wife’s face. Bringing children joy through presents is one thing; having the brats around the house 24/7 is something else entirely. He’s a dude who leaves his work at work.

The odd rapscallion nature of Santa Claus is a large appeal of the Christmas Chronicles franchise. His mission is Christmas cheer, and he’ll achieve it by any means necessary. If triple-A batteries need to be stolen, they will be stolen. If bodily possession is required, he will kidnap your nervous system and make you his dancing puppet. Darlene Love, watch out. You’re all his, and we’re the richer for it. The Christmas Chronicles 3 better be a full-blown musical.

Kurt Russel plays St. Nick with Snake Plissken never too far below the surface. Christmas happens on his terms. He knows who is naughty. He knows who is nice. He knows what’s best, dammit. Thankfully, Mrs. Claus holds his reins and gives him a good tug to keep him on track.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 may or may not be better than the first film. It’s honestly hard to reconcile. The sequel robs its audience of more time with Santa invading our realm, and the North Pole simply is not as visually arresting or particularly interesting as director Chris Columbus (Home Alone) clearly wants it to be. It feels like a big blue-screen box. And the charm of the CGI elves that populate it only goes so far.

However, the unease in which Santa slinks through his village, as Kate and Jack call him out for not giving Mrs. Claus enough credit in her contribution to annual Christmas cheer, is tantalizing. More Goldie Hawn is always a good thing. Their real-life relationship sings in their cinematic roles. The Clauss are smitten with each other, and it translates into the warm and fuzzies.

We gravitate to holiday flicks this time of year because we need to see hurt healed. If George Bailey has purpose in It’s A Wonderful Life, we have purpose in our life. If Scrooge can shed his humbug, we can shed ours. If Kate can recognize her mother’s happiness as her own, then we can do the same in return.

Whether The Christmas Chronicles 2 surpasses the original, or even lives up to the bonafide classics we watch on repeat, does not matter. What matters is that the sequel reflects and even ignites a glimmer of love when we need it most. As the year dies, the next year seeks a jump start. Kurt Russell provides. Always.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)