“Was it as good as last time?”
Everything that mildly worked with 2018’s The Christmas Chronicles – the joy, the vast wonder, the childlike sense of belief – has been sucked away in Netflix’s latest listless and lifeless sequel The Christmas Chronicles 2, which is easily one of the worst holiday films I’ve seen in recent memory. The picture prefers empty plot and dull action over rich characters full of development, making for a grossly garish and mostly empty CGI laden adventure with a big hole where a heart is meant to reside. It’s almost shockingly bad, especially given the talent involved. I’m a sucker and tend to enjoy most cheesy holiday movies, but in all honesty, I’m not sure I could have disliked this film any less. What a stinker. To the naughty list it goes.
Those who’ve seen the first film undoubtedly remember the new look Santa Claus (Kurt Russell). He’s rough and rugged and appealing. But only the last few frames introduced us to Mrs. Clause (Goldie Hawn), who gets a more prominent role this time around. She’s like a warm and caring QVC host meets a comforting televangelist preacher; Santa remains the same as before, still a bearded and rock n’ roll depiction of the man in the big red suit. The two come across Kate (Darby Camp) once again and are introduced to her reluctantly eventual step-brother Jack (Jahzir Bruno). Unfortunately, Kate and Jack are mere ploys in the plot of the angry elf Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) to find revenge on Santa. And I assure you, the story is as deeply uninteresting and predictable as it sounds. It’s so very boring and formulaic.
While it is a Christmas film, I found it so hard to respect the depressingly lazy, self-congratulatory direction from Chris Columbus. It’s so uninspiring to watch a filmmaker basically karaoke his greatest hits to less dramatic effect, and it doesn’t help much that Columbus is working from an inept story incapable of hitting the high notes. Instead of focusing on crafting a unique sequel, he instead chose to expend all his efforts to pat himself on the back, adding cold and calculated homages and self-referential humor from the likes of Home Alone that’s both dead on arrival and completely devoid of real laughs. It should be complimentary when future films parrot other filmmakers’ efforts, and that’s why it’s gross to watch Columbus literally parrot himself here. Nearly every second has been phoned in. There’s no one home.
What I liked most about the first film was that it found no real need to put a face on the antagonist. It was about finding faith in the face of tragedy. This time though the plot revolved around a lame duck with a mild mix of lapsed faith and pressured by a big ticking clock. That should give time for us to know that the central pawns know how to play their gambit, and for whatever inexplicable reason, The Christmas Chronicles 2 feels as if it’s been forced to add unnecessary baggage to the gate, carrying terribly drawn elves and adding a comical bad guy who’s cheaply and poorly rendered. The Christmas Chronicles 2 is a hand-me-down film told with basic box store appeal. And It’s a boring, botoxed, entirely inexplicable picture for that reason.
“This is worse than I thought.”
Rating: 1.5 out of 5