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To all who would rather be elsewhere,
To all who are feeling alone,
To those who wish Christmases long past
Could somehow return when we’re grown,

To all who are missing a loved one,
To all who wish wishes were real,
To all who are hoping that Christmas
Can brighten a year so surreal,

I know well this plaintive nostalgia,
Yet bypassing cynics’ deaf ears,
I still wish you all Merry Christmas.
May smiles replace all your tears.
________________________

MPA rating:  PG

Two years ago, Netflix delivered The Christmas Chronicles, with one of the more fun incarnations of Santa Claus delivered by the incomparable Kurt Russell. In true commercial Christmas fashion, we now have a sequel to the family-friendly romp, but whereas the first film borrowed heavily from Adventures in Babysitting for its plot, the second film leans a bit more on Gremlins and The Santa Clause 3, with mixed but still enjoyable results.

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Teenagers Teddy (Judah Lewis) and Kate Pierce (Darby Camp) are still True Believers two years after their previous adventures with Santa Claus (see first movie), but Kate is now depressed having to spend Christmas in Cancun with her mother’s new boyfriend (Tyrese Gibson) and his young son Jack (Jahzir Bruno). While Teddy was the one with the character arc in the last movie, he’s quickly sidelined in favor of Kate and Jack, who are suddenly whisked away to the North Pole by a mysterious ne’er-do-well (Julian Dennison of Hunt for the Wilderpeople) with designs on Santa’s Village.

The first film was a hodgepodge of admittedly likable ingredients from other movies, and its sequel is much the same, though there are still spurts of inspiration. We get to see more of the North Pole this time, a sprawling collection of specialized toy and candy shops populated by impish elves, which should capture any child’s imagination without the creepy qualities of, say, The Polar Express. And following the first film’s example, this one again includes an exuberant musical number of pure Christmas spirit (featuring Darlene Love) that is worth the price of admission.

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It’s rather predictable and not quite as good as the first movie, feeling even more like a farrago of Christmas-themed elements that don’t always fit naturally. The antagonist Belsnickel is particularly meh for the most part, though Dennison does his best to channel cartoonish malice. I did enjoy the new cast members, such as wide-eyed Jahzir Bruno and the larger role for Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Clause, though it was weird seeing Tyrese Gibson as a family man compared with his swaggering ladies’ man role in the Fast and Furious films. I also liked how the story expanded on the series’ Santa mythos as well, even if it also tosses in time travel for a sweet yet contrived reason. The Christmas Chronicles 2 probably won’t become a holiday staple, though there are rumors of a third film in the works, but it’s a diverting watch to remind the world of what a great Santa Claus Kurt Russell is.

Rank:  Honorable Mention

© 2020 S.G. Liput
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A very Merry Christmas to everyone!