Somewhere deep in the bowels of the Soviet-style bunkers that serve as Netflix headquarters, a single raven caws and coughs up a tightly rolled scroll. The Netflix majordomo hurries to unravel it. The raven caws but once a month, at midnight on the day of the fullest moon, and no one has discovered where the scrolls come from. But heed them they must. With a stricken face, the Netflix majordomo silently reads the most recent declaration.
“Well?” the Raven Master asks, his voice booming so loudly it rattles the door of Noah Centineo’s holding cage.
In answer, the majordomo simply holds out the small strip of parchment. “We must obey it, sir,” he murmurs. “We have no choice.”
The Raven Master does not respond. He takes the parchment, crumples it in his gloved fist, and lets it fall to the floor, its intricate calligraphy is still visible: KURT RUSSELL AS HOT SANTA.
If that’s not exactly the process of how The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix came into existence, I have to imagine it’s pretty close. Nothing about the movie’s plot or themes is original; all the elements (and most of its jokes) can be traced back to a different, usually better, Christmas movie. Even its title, The Christmas Chronicles, seems as though it should have been slated for a different project, or that it was pulled from a random Christmas movie name generator. But this is the Christmas movie where Kurt Russell plays a hot Santa, and if my gut as to internet meme-ability and the depravity of Twitter is any indication, we’re going to get thousands of “Santa Claus is daddy” tweets by New Year’s.
Produced by family movie pro Chris Columbus, this Netflix jaunt begins with a montage home video footage taken by the only family in 2018 that still uses a camcorder (maybe these videos are the titular chronicles?). By the time the movie begins in earnest, it’s revealed that the Christmas-loving patriarch is dead, the daughter is disillusioned with the holiday, and the son is hanging out in parking lots with preteen “thugs.” They’re a family in need of a Christmas miracle, in the form of a mother forced to work an overnight shift in the emergency room on Christmas Eve so that that older son Teddy (Judah Lewis) is forced to stay in to babysit sister Kate (Darby Camp).
After setting up a video camera to catch Santa in the act, Teddy and Kate hear sleigh bells and decide to run outside to upgrade their guerrilla footage with shots of Santa’s sled. Lo and behold, the sled takes off with them inside, and, shocked by the presence of two hitchhiking kids, Santa pulls some Fast and Furious maneuvers and ends up losing his magic hat — and Santa can’t magically deliver presents without his magic hat.
What follows, after a few diner-related shenanigans, is an inexplicably thorough encounter with the Chicago P.D. that ends with Santa in a holding cell. And, I swear to Saint Nick himself, Santa magicks everyone in jail with him to play backup while he performs a full musical number. We also get several Minion-esque babbling elves, speaking elvish, that seem already poised for merchandising domination (look for their Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons Thursday).
Is this movie good enough to join the Christmas lexicon or become a holiday tradition? Absolutely not. Columbus’ filmography already includes much better options: Gremlins, Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which all definitely qualify as Christmas movies even if Santa never appears (hey, if Die Hard counts…).
But what kind of Grinch would I be to berate a new cheesy holiday movie about two siblings going on a Christmas-related adventure in which, I repeat, Kurt Russell plays a hot Santa? Make some cocoa for the family, and spike yours if you have to, but remember what the holiday is about: watching mediocre, predictable movies with the people you love.