If you’re making a movie ambitious enough to have Kurt Russell as Santa Claus then make the movie about Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. In theory the idea is pure genius and Russell is a big enough star that people of all backgrounds will watch just to see how it turns out. It turns out it’s a dud.
I have the feeling that The Christmas Chronicles started out as a very different movie. From the get-go it has all the tropes of a Lifetime Christmas movie. There’s a happy, middle-class family with the usual set of hyper-realistic drama. This family isn’t just having normal troubles; one of their children is stealing cars with his friends because he misses his father. Things like that which are just absurd enough to suspend your disbelief.
But Kurt Russell is Santa Claus! Unfortunately he doesn’t even show up until a half-hour into the movie. When he does though, the whole tone changes and the movie becomes infinitely better. That’s probably because Russell is acting on a level light years ahead of the rest of the cast. It’s not that their bad actors either, but they performing a made for TV movie while Russell is making another memorable character. There’s a huge difference.
Even once Russell’s Santa shows up it’s still not enough to get the movie back on track. The story keeps finding ways to get rid of him for long stretches of time, which makes no sense. A little tweaking would have made all the difference. Simply make the whole movie from Russell’s perspective and everything changes. The audience wants to know about him, not these cookie cutter family drama types.
There are hints that Russell inhabits a very unique world. His sleigh is filled with all kinds of gadgets and he seems to follow a very strict set of rules. More than that he has a pretty solid worldview and isn’t afraid to guilt the kids for ruining Christmas for half the globe. I want to see that movie. Imagine Tim Allen’s Santa Claus rebooted with Kurt Russell. That’s one that would get watched over and over again.
Instead the audience gets this mostly by-the-book story with one truly compelling character. It’s just not enough to sustain multiple viewings, I struggled with the first one. Still, there are ways to get it back on track. Do a sequel following only Russell and you’re golden. He’s a talented enough actor that he can make anything watchable. The fact that he was willing to even do this movie says volumes. Let’s hope he’s willing to do more VOD things in the future because it really does let him spread his wings a bit.