Here we are, with the last Christmas movie of 2021, but is it a good one to end on?
The latest attempt to deliver a nice bit of Christmas cheer to families is this tale of a boy seeking magic in a faraway land, and the cast and special effects work together to tell a familiar tale with a twist.
Maggie Smith is the relative visiting children who she then decides to entertain with a story. That story is all about Nikolas (Henry Lawfull), a boy who lives alone with his father (Joel, played by Michiel Huisman) in a kingdom that seems to have lost all sense of hope and joy. The King (Jim Broadbent) asks people to travel far and wide in an attempt to bring something that will lift the spirits of his citizens, and that is when Joel heads off on a long journey. He wants to keep his dad safe, but also wants to find the secret magical location where elves live, as described to him by his deceased mother.
Director Gil Kenan has mostly worked with material that has a healthy portion of the fantastical in it. Arguably best known for Monster House (an animated film loved by many, although I just found it decidedly okay), Kenan is a dependable pair of hands and he has certainly been given a cast capable of helping to lift the material.
Aside from Lawfull, who is perfectly fine as the wide-eyed boy with good intentions, and Broadbent, a lot of fun, you have a wide variety of roles for people like Kristen Wiig (gleefully playing an evil relative), Sally Hawkins (a powerful elf who resents the presence of any humans in the elf village), Toby Jones (a kind elf), Stephen Merchant (voicing a mouse named Miika), and Zoe Margaret Colletti (a pixie who cannot lie). Everyone is wonderfully earnest and happy to deliver a message all about Christmas spirit, and that is before I even mention the lovely, mischievous, turn from Maggie Smith, who gets to appear intermittently as her young audience question her about the tale they are being told.
Based on a book by Matt Haig, the script co-written by Kenan and Ol Parker plays out exactly as you expect it to, which is no bad thing when you are being comforted by archetypes and beautifully landscapes covered in snow, and this is a safe choice for those seeking some wholesome entertainment for all during the holiday season. It doesn't do enough to become an instant new favourite, mainly because the lead character is just a bit too bland, but it should be a welcome viewing option for the next year or two.
There are moments of magic, there are thrills, there's a helpful reindeer, you have children helping to fix a mess made by adults, and a talking mouse. What more do you need?
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