Most of the main players return for this sequel to the Santa flick that gave Netflix a big hit two years ago. Having said that, I cannot think of many of their original Christmas content that hasn't gone down well. They have certainly done their homework, and worked with people who know what viewers will expect.
Young Kate (Darby Camp) is unhappy. She is having to spend Christmas in a warmer climate, with her brother (Teddy, played by Judah Lewis), her mother (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), her mother's boyfriend, Bob (Tyrese Gibson), and Bob's young son, Jack (Jahzir Bruno). So she takes the opportunity to sneak away when she can, but young Jack accompanies her. The two children end up on a cart driven by Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), who then throws them all through a wormhole, which is all part of his plan to get to Santa's Village and ruin Christmas. Why does he want to do that? That all comes out as the slim plot unfolds, with Kate and Jack doing whatever they can to help Santa (Kurt Russell) and Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn).
Directed by Chris Columbus (you can say many things about him, but an unsafe pair of hands he is not), The Christmas Chronicles 2 gives you everything you might want from a sequel to the first movie, without taking any risks. Columbus also co-wrote the movie with Matt Liberman, the main writer from the first movie, and it's a very enjoyable and amusing family film. Like so many other films that Columbus has helmed. But other films from Columbus are missing one vital ingredient that this has; Kurt Russell.
Yes, that's right, much like the first time around, this Christmas movie is absolutely lifted up by a turn from Russell that shows him to be the Santa we never knew we wanted. Having been an acting legend for decades, especially to fans of John Carpenter movies, Russell has the look and age to play Santa, but the baggage and cool factor to add a different kind of magic sparkle. He always has a twinkle in his eye, and genuinely seems to relish the adventures that divert him from his usual Christmas schedule.
Having Goldie Hawn play Mrs. Claus (following on from her cameo in The Christmas Chronicles) is another major plus. This isn't just a Christmas movie, this is a family affair. These stars are having a whale of a time, and viewers are simply lucky enough to watch their chemistry infuse the whole film with a warm glow. Very few people could compete with these adults, but fair play to the younger cast members for trying their best, and being helped along by the script. Camp is, in many ways, the least of the leads, but she's the unwavering heart of the film, dealing with her own complex issue as she loses herself in another Christmas adventure. Then you have Bruno, stealing a lot of his scenes with a wonderful comic turn. Dennison makes a great villain, blinded by his rage for much of the runtime, although perhaps not beyond some kind of redemption. The other characters have much less screentime, but everyone does good work.
The many CGI elves are designed for fun, rather than realism, the reindeer all look fine, the many small wonders in Santa's village are a treat, and there's nothing here to stop this becoming a new Christmas favourite for a while. Yet it is lacking something. If it wasn't for the casting, this wouldn't play half as well as it does. It's also just not quite as good as the first film, because it lacks the impact of first seeing Russell play his Santa so perfectly, and it repeats a number of tricks. If the first film was a shiny new toy, this is the party gift that seems fun at first, but is then placed in a drawer and forgotten about until someone asks you to bring it round for their Christmas party.
An easy option if you're wanting some fun for all the family, but I don't think it will become an annual tradition.