Back in 1990, Chris Columbus directed what is arguably America’s favorite non-animated Christmas movie: “Home Alone.”
In 2020, he returns to helm America’s 479th favorite Christmas movie: “Christmas Chronicles 2,” which is sadly more in line with his less celebrated films, such as “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” and “I Love You, Beth Cooper.” It is mercifully not as bad as “Pixels.”
What’s weird is that Columbus did not direct the 2018 movie that kicked off this franchise, starring Kurt Russell as a slick and more physically fit Santa Claus. He jumped onboard for a crackpot sequel. While the original (helmed by by Clay Kaytis) was standard-issue — Santa loses all the presents, kids help him save Christmas, etc. — it was a lot better for its simplicity.
In the unnecessarily long new film, an elf-turned-human with a New Zealand accent sends the Pierce children (Darby Camp, Judah Lewis and Jahzir Bruno) back to the North Pole through a wormhole in Cancun. And that’s the normal part!
That elf, named Belsnickel (the character’s origins in German folklore do not make the name any less annoying), had been set to take the reins at the North Pole, but got banished and forced into a human body.
Now, Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) enacts his revenge on the boss and Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn, reading lines) by stealing the star from the top of the North Pole tree and using a time machine to send Santa back to 1990 Boston. Like ya do.
The action-adventure aspects of “Christmas Chronicles,” with sleigh chases and a reindeer fights, are cluttered. More appealing are the real-world storylines, such as the siblings dealing with their mom getting serious with a new beau.
And when the sleigh lands in Boston, Santa and young Kate Pierce discover a Logan Airport filled with miserable travelers. Russell then goes full “Beetlejuice” and magics the angry crowd into performing a song called “The Spirit of Christmas.” A revelation in this sequence is moving, albeit shamelessly sentimental.
The rest is husband-and-wife duo Russell and Hawn standing in front of a green screen.
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