Review by Adam Donato
These days, Netflix churns out Christmas movies like it’s the Hallmark channel. The latest comes from Gil Kenan who switches holidays after directing Monster House and Poltergeist. The supporting cast is where it’s at with this movie. Maggie Smith, Toby Jones, Sally Hawkins, Kristen Wiig, Joel Fry, Jim Broadbent, and Stephen Merchant all get a chance to shine in this movie. Newcomer Henry Lawfull comes off a minute role in the Les Miserables TV miniseries to star in this movie.
Lawfull plays a boy named Nikolas who goes on an adventure with his pet mouse to find Elfhelm and bring back hope. All of this is a story told by Smith’s character to Fry’s children on Christmas Eve. This cliche is very tired and feels entirely unnecessary in connection to the story. It’s nice to have Smith as the narrator throughout, but everytime the movie cuts back to real life, the pacing comes to a grinding halt. The story within the story is also not very fresh. It’s saved by good performances and solid special effects.
The tone is the weirdest part of the movie. It’s a Christmas movie so it is supposed to be a generally feel good type of movie. It’s obnoxiously sad throughout the majority of the movie. It deals with the loss of parents with Christmas as the solution. They heavily rely on Merchant as a talking mouse for the majority of their comic relief. Seldom is he at all funny and is the most cringe character in the movie. Besides that, the movie is too dark for its own good.
Obviously, the story is an origin for Santa Claus. There’s a million of these and while this one is certainly well made, it doesn’t stand out well at all. It takes way too long for the adventure to get off the ground. When it’s time for the third act, it feels like there is a severe drop in the stakes. Yes, the goal of the story is to bring back hope to the people, but the main character shows zero affinity for his town or his people. Why anything happens at the end feels less of a natural progression of the characters in the story and more of a shoehorned fulfillment of the tired origin story.
It’s really not that bad at all. The supporting cast is enough to keep this Christmas flick afloat. There’s a lower bar for Netflix movies as it’s much less of a commitment to click on an app than it is to go spend money at a theater. The target audience will surely enjoy this movie and not care about its flaws. Its prime form is to be thrown on in the background this holiday season.
A Boy Called Christmas hits Netflix on November 24.