If you were lucky enough to catch the first movie, you’ll remember what a spectacular Netflix film that was! Sweet, sentimental, funny, and it showcased Kurt Russell as the best Santa Claus ever! Well, here it is two years later and it’s sequel time, but will it be as good as the first?
A brief recap: brother and sister Katie & Teddy Pierce (Darby Camp & Judah Lewis) accidentally meet ol’ St. Nick (Russell) in Boston and together they help him find his wayward reindeer, improve the Christmas spirit in town, and come to grips with the loss of their deceased father. Well, it’s two years later and the kids are vacationing in Cancun, much to the chagrin of ‘Debby Downer’ Katie. She can’t stand the luxury digs and swaying palm trees right before Christmas, not to mention her mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) has the hots for a new beau named Bob (Tyrese Gibson) who has a precocious son called Jack (Jahzir Bruno).
Meanwhile, at the South Pole, sinister forces are at work with Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), an angry grown-up elf (who looks human) who wants to destroy Santa and Christmas. Why? He used to be a super-inventor little elf that never got the attention he craved from Santa, so it’s payback time! Using Katie and Jack as bait, Belsnickel gets Santa to rescue the two and sneak him into the secret and protective Santa’s Village where he plans on stealing the oh-so valuable Christmas Star, which powers the Village.
After Belsnickel causes a diversion by making all the elves go crazy, he steals the Star, but it gets destroyed in a tug-o-war with Santa. With Belsnickel on the run, Santa must get another Star from the ancient elves in Turkey, while Jack helps Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn) nurse an injured Prancer. But that inventive Belsnickel isn’t about to give up and snatches the new Star while sending Santa & Katie back in time to 1990 Boston. Uh-oh! While Santa lifts everyone’s yule spirit in a jazzy blues song & dance straight from the Blues Brothers, Katie meets a young man (Sunny Suljic) whom she seems to recognize.
Anyway, Santa and Katie retrieve the stolen Star from Belsnickel who has invented his own wicked cool flying sleigh. A ’55 Chevy tricked-out contraption with a blown engine, pulled by a team of creepy-looking hyena/pug-dog animals. Yucckk! If this story sounds kinda familiar, it should. It’s the same as the recent Jingle Jangle movie-musical, which features a vengeful inventor apprentice that finds redemption in the end. Whereas Jingle Jangle was pure fantasy, this movie is grounded in more reality, and who better to write and direct this kids tale than Harry Potter alumni, Chris Columbus (Gremlins, Goonies, the first two Harry Potter movies)
Along with co-writer Matt Lieberman (Scoob!,2019’s The Addams Family), this Christmas sequel is every bit as fun as the original, but suffers from sequelitis. Once you have whiz-bang, super-great movie, should you make a sequel or just leave it alone? Columbus and Lieberman have a good story here, but it’s not as great as the original. The plot holes are way too many, the story (while imaginative and original) is full of too many side plots that veer off and detract from the main story, and that’s why it’s a lengthy two hours. However, within all of this, you don’t have to worry about any dripping sugary-sweet dialogue or scenes! Thank God!Plus, you have the winning team of Russell & Hawn, so perfectly matched for each other as Mr. & Mrs. Claus, and Dennison as the British villain (uh. . .why is he British again?) who is remarkably restrained. Aside from the seasoned pro adults you have the kids who earn their butter in this sequel, and that’s where Darby Camp’s Katie really shines. She’s not a overacting cutsie Disney sitcom kid; she’s poised, polished, and gives a wonderful performance as a lonely child who has lost a parent. Likewise, Jahzir Bruno (who was recently in 2020’s The Witches), delivers a fresh comedic style to his Jack character, even breaking the fourth wall in a key scene for a hilarious laugh.
Streaming exclusively on Netflix
Rise of the Guardians (2012)
You’ve all heard about Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), but what do you really know about him? This CG animated feature film tells the sometimes sad story of Jack, a spirited and mischievous 300-year-old teenager with amnesia, recklessly spreading snow days to school kids, but resents that they don’t believe in him. Well, they can’t see or hear him, so there’s that. But there’s a bigger problem, super-evil Pitch Black (Jude Law), the Nightmare King, is giving all the children bad dreams and threatening the Guardians. But, who are they? Oh, they go by many names, but you already KNOW them!
Their leader is Nicholas St. North (Alec Baldwin with a Russian accent), a buffed and tattooed Santa Claus (he’s never called that!) that has Himalayan Bigfeet as his toy helpers instead of elves. There’s also E. Aster Bunnymund (Hugh Jackman), an Aussie-talkin’, 6’ft tall bunny with an attitude, tooth fairy Toothiana (Ilsa Fisher), and the drowsy & mute Sandy who communicates with dream-dust. Nick decides that Jack will be their new Guardian, even though there’s resentment in the group. Not to mention that Jack thinks it’s all a big joke to him.
But Jack soon begins to realize that this isn’t a joke when Pitch Black’s nefarious scheme of stealing all of Tooth Fairy’s collected teeth has a fateful impact on his new friends. As the children stop believing in Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, the more powerful and wicked Pitch Black becomes. Jack tries to stop him but, in an act of pure cruelty, Black shows Jack who he really is/was and how he died. This sets Jack into a tailspin that almost destroys his self-confidence.
But thanks to Jaime (Dakota Goyo), a little boy who can see and hear the ice spirit, Jack gets his mojo back and, with the help of Jaime’s goofy kid friends, they and the Guardians defeat Pitch Black. This ain’t your normal, typical, silly, Rankin-Bass type of Christmas fare. This is moody, dark, has a crisp and sharp style of storytelling with only a dollop of humor here and there, thanks to writer David Lindsay-Abaire (Poltergeist, Oz the Great and Powerful), adapting William Joyce’s book, The Guardians of Childhood & The Man in the Moon.