THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES 2 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander Wallace heads north for Christmas.

I was sold on the first Christmas Chronicles movie as soon as I heard that Kurt Russell was playing Santa Claus. I learned this from Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 (I’m young, I know) that the man had swagger; Escape from New York and The Thing solidified that when I watched them later. He’s what made many people like the first movie. But he was not the only thing that installment had going for it.

The first Christmas Chronicles had a legitimately touching relationship between brother and sister, and the lingering presence of a missing father that affects everyone in this family. There’s a rollicking chase through Chicago that reminded me strongly of a scene from The Blues Brothers. There’s the comedy of seeing every adult react to Santa Claus with either “are you high?” or “am I high?” There’s the way that the movie imbued the traditional Santa Claus myth with a certain science fictional rigor in places. So the logical question to ask is: does the sequel hold up?

Where the first movie had a strong emotional core about bonding, The Christmas Chronicles 2 goes with a feeling of not belonging, as Katie feels abandoned by her family on holiday in Cancun as her mother is falling in love with a new boyfriend, whose son replaces Teddie as a deuteragonist. The idea of exploring the concept of belonging works in a Christmas movie, but I was greatly disappointed by the loss of the relationship between Teddie and Katie that formed the core of the original.

The film also focuses more on the elves than the first movie did; it is with no pleasure that I say that they aren’t nearly as funny as Chris Columbus believes them to be. They’re clearly a way of following the Minions trend of a wide variety of cute creatures for kid appeal and merchandising revenue, and I’ve always liked more human-like elves anyway. A certain plot element that makes them a complication for Santa Claus and his companions comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really build on the portrayal of the North Pole from the first movie.

The North Pole, and how it is fleshed out, does provide one of the best aspects of the film. We see Santa’s village in all its cozy yet glistening glory, with a very nice tree in the center of it. There’s magic galore, and a display of how Santa has improved his operations to meet the twenty-first century. It is easily the most magical portion of the film, with that certain sense of wintery wonder that all good Christmas movies need to one degree or another.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 tries to expand the myth of Santa Claus further by going back to his origins as Saint Nicholas in Asia Minor. I thought this was a very interesting decision that was ultimately not as fleshed out as it could have been; more generally I want a Christmas movie that makes that conflation better. Its emotional impact is dented by its affiliation with the elves, which, as I said, I don’t find to be particularly amusing.

The villain in this movie is a good idea; he explores one of the ways the North Pole social order could go bad. Ultimately, though, he didn’t work well either. His writing feels generic ‘bad boy in a children’s movie’ and there isn’t much done with his relationship with Santa Claus that isn’t likewise generic.

Overall, I regret to say that I was rather disappointed in this sequel. The Christmas Chronicles 2 seemed to forget everything that made the first movie great (the musical number here isn’t even as good! I loved the first one, as an aficionado of the blues, and want it played at December blues dances going forward), all its heart and all its thrills and all its wry modern takes on the traditional Christmas movie. Overall, The Christmas Chronicles 2 was simply a list of missed opportunities.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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