Ah, Christmas. A time of joy, of family, of eating way too much food. Christmas movies are one of life’s simple pleasures, and even though you only get to watch them once a year, there’s a definite space in everyone’s heart for their favourite one. Netflix has well and truly jumped on the Christmas bandwagon, releasing their first movie in mid November. Named Klaus, it’s a testament to the origin of that infamous character we all know and love: Santa Claus.
Although it does ignore the religious aspects of Christmas, Klaus takes a darker turn. When a spoiled, rich postman arrives on the tiny island of Smeerensburg after a challenge set by his father, the luxuries he has become accustomed to are no longer within his reach. The island is split in two – two warring families rule the land, and it’s people are equally as hostile and violent. However, when he ventures north of the main town, he finds a cabin full of toys, and a strange man with a long white beard.
It’s easy to tell where this movie is going from about 10 minutes in: even the name gives quite a lot away. What isn’t expected, however, is the heart that comes along with the story. An animated movie doesn’t usually deliver half the punch that this one did (asides from Up, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish). This one seemed to capture the essence of Christmas and bottle it, drizzling it (somewhat sparingly in some parts, I might add) across the landscape of the movie.
Jesper the Postman is half annoying idiot, and half big hearted idiot. He’s selfish, terse and privileged, swanning around in his carriages with butlers and whatever he wants on demand. Yet, by the end of the film, he is compassionate, caring and giving – amazing what the power of Christmas can do.
Klaus himself is a big, hulking man, whom Jesper (at first) thinks is an axe murderer. His thought process is self-explanatory: the first time we see Klaus, he is shrouded in shadow, dragging around a huge axe and looking ominous in the soft moonlight. It’s all very horror-esque, yet somehow, beautifully shot.
As time goes, Klaus is revealed to have a harrowing back story which explains his need to make children happy – this is rushed and not quite fully realised by the end, which could have had more of a wallop than the expected fizzle that happened.
Rashida Jones plays a teacher-turned-fishmonger, who desperately wants to get off the island. The only explanation for the involvment of her character is as a pointless love interest for Jesper, which has no chemistry nor merit. It’s thrown into the mix because it could be, not because it should have been. Annoyingly, the character of Alva had so much potential – something that really could have bolstered the movie in the realm of classic, rather than ‘nice enough’.
The story, however, is what makes this movie shine. It’s beautifully written and captured in gorgeous artwork by Torsten Shrank and his team, which only adds to the efficacy and joyousness of the plot. Despite being based on every other Christmas film ever made, it’s a solid example of what the magic of Christmas can do when it’s done right.
Further side plots are also utilised in ways that only add to the movie, rather than take away. The narrative with the indigenous family is a breathtaking exploration of how Christmas brings people together, despite the fact that they aren’t even speaking the same language. Also, it somewhat clumsily explains the origin story of Santa’s elves, even though it is slightly unnecessary.
Some aspects, however, were jarring. The music chosen to back up some of its most poignant scenes was pop songs and strange Christmas covers, which felt as though they were thrown in just because it’s Christmas. It wasn’t needed, and overall it lowered the tone to be slightly less Christmassy than its full potential.
Even though it is a lovely story, some aspects of it don’t quite gel. It seems rushed in parts, handing over the Christmas magic for quick and efficient storytelling which doesn’t always work. It doesn’t shine in all of its plot lines, by the end forfeiting carefully crafted storytelling for cheap ‘surprises’ – but it works, and it is one that children worldwide will love.
As far as Christmas movies go, Klaus isn’t the best. Yet, it is a beautifully written and animated story about the origin of that wonderful man we all know as Santa Claus. It’s also got the weirdest soundtrack ever, which immediately makes it worth a watch. Merry Klausmas!
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