The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two
Chris Columbus returns to the directing chair with a rather overstuffed sequel
Chris Columbus (the director not the Genovesean explorer) has had an ability to craft Christmas classics. His most famous Christmas movie is undoubtedly Home Alone (1990), but other semi-Christmas movies such as Gremlins (1984) have also become household names. After a grueling 80s and 90s, however, Columbus decided to take a step back from the directing chair after completing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). Since then, the American has only directed four films, the last being the poorly received Pixels (2015). His production company has been hard at work however, having a Netflix deal and producing surprise hit The Christmas Chronicles (2018). Seeing the popularity that that film had, Columbus has jumped back into the director’s chair with his trademark enthusiasm for The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two (2020).
The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two follows our young girl protagonist from the first film Kate (Darby Camp), who is not enjoying spending the holidays at a beach resort with her mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and her new boyfriend (Tyrese Gibson). She makes a wish for Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) to whisk her away again, and she somewhat gets this granted taking her potential stepbrother Jack (Jahzir Bruno) along with her. We see them arrive in the North Pole where we meet Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn), and find out about the nefarious plans of a want-to-be Santa usurper (Julian Dennison).
The first Christmas Chronicles proved to be a predictable yet well-crafted Christmas film, which could really have been titled any shuffling of Christmas themed words. It had a simple premise of going from point A to point B, and the charm from the committed Russell helped make it an enjoyable and escapist watch. With The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two Columbus, who also co-wrote the film, seems to want to dig into the characters and world-building, creating a seeming Santa universe with various rules, lore, and history. The enthusiasm with which Columbus is constructing this world is rather contagious, each original creation seems to shudder with the childish excitement that made his previous films such nostalgic watches. However, Christmas Chronicles: Part Two is perhaps overcomplicating itself too much. The intense amount of exposition that is continually dropped on viewers becomes rather drab and unengaging after a while. Do we really care about labor rules for elves? Or about Santa’s exploits with magic in Turkey? Columbus misdiagnosed our enjoyment of the first film for genuine interest into this Santa universe.
The result is a film that feels a bit overstuffed and that is taking itself a bit too seriously in comparison to the first. That’s not for the lack of talented performers, Russell is great again, finding the right balance between playing his character straight and winking at the camera, while Hawn (teased in the first film), does good work in trying to dispel the clichèd matronly image of Mrs. Claus (though it is a lot of heavy lifting to in one movie). Meanwhile Camp proves again that she’s not a one-hit wonder after her breakout in Big Little Lies (2017-2019) as the young girl with incredible music taste; she’s a performer to watch out for in the future. Dennison tries his best to play the villain, but, unlike Russell, he seemed confused about what kind of film he was in, really digging deep into the dramatic and serious elements of his character, which are frankly laughable. This made the conflict at the center of The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two to lose its weight and enjoyment, leaving viewers only with the promise of the charismatic Russell.
In the end, Columbus and his enthusiastic dive into the Christmas Chronicles world proves to be misguided, slogging his script with lore and elf history that viewers couldn’t have a minor interest in. The villain and confrontation at the core of the story is messy and unconvincing leaving a slew of charismatic performances as the potential salvages of the rather forgetful Christmas Chronicles: Part Two.