I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES: PART TWO
We’ve come a long way since the days of television airing the same Christmas specials each year. You know, the annual watches of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS and the Rankin-Bass stop-motion features. These titles will help prime you for the spirit of the season, most definitely. But we’re always itching for new films made with the same merry ingredients.
2018’s THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES is a worthy contender, in my book. Kurt Russell was made to wear the white beard and red suit just as much as the zipper tank and an eyepatch. His Santa is haggard-looking — the kind that would sip a brewski at a biker bar but also gives the warmest hugs. The first film’s journey was pretty standard stuff, but Russell’s character’s charm kept the spirit alive. Plus, it ended by introducing Russell’s real-life wife, Goldie Hawn, as Mrs. Claus. Adorable.
Netflix’s next outing with St. Nick, Mrs. Claus, and their helpers – THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES: PART TWO – cooks up another tasty batch of witty holiday family entertainment. It may be maddeningly predictable; however, there’s no denying that it’s also diabetes-inducingly sweet. You will cherish the new characters and eat up the giggles along the way.
In PART TWO, everyone’s back to save Christmas once again. But don’t worry! The filmmakers are not recycling the film’s first plot and packaging it as new. They’re just recycling material from other holiday entries where you have one character upset by all the jolly going around and wanting to intercept Christmas, Grinch style.
Set two years after the events of the first movie, the sequel reunites the Pierce family — siblings Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy (Hailee Steinfeld-lookalike Judah Lewis) and Mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). This time, however, they are joined by the son (THE WITCHES’ Jahzir Bruno) of Mom’s new boyfriend (Tyrese Gibson). They’re spending the holidays at the beach, and Kate is having a hard time accepting her mom’s new relationship.
Enter troublemaker Belsnickel (HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE and DEADPOOL 2’s Julian Dennison), a mysterious figure with a backward hat who plots to destroy the North Pole. Kate’s relationship with Santa Claus may be Belsnickel’s ticket to success. Finding out who Belsnickel is and why he wants to end Christmas are answers you’ll have to find out. (But you’ll piece it together rather quickly.)
One thing is obvious after watching PART TWO: Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn are some rad grandparents. Their love radiates on film, sharing little moments that are authentic to boot. When Kate and Bruno’s character, Jack, are magically transported to the North Pole, how Hawn’s Mrs. Claus welcomes them plants a lasting smile. It only grows more prominent as she gives the kids a tour of the village, which Kate and Jack are quick to question why it’s not called “Mrs. Claus’ Village” instead of Santa’s Village because it’s all her work. Santa humorously pauses but doesn’t deny the children have a point.
If you thought the elves were cute and funny in the first film, expect plenty more to pop up this time. How they communicate with Santa using Elvish language is a nice touch that carries over. A scene of them falling under Belsnickel’s spell offers a few chuckles.
Despite all the good feels, one wishes director Chris Columbus, who produced the first entry, had more vision to share. The look of the sequel will get you by. But considering it’s coming from the filmmaker who gave the first two HARRY POTTER movies a classic polish, a lot of PART TWO looks cheap and likely was a mere paying job for Columbus.
THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES: PART TWO is a pleasant-enough follow-up, with a thimbleful of creative ideas at play (most notably Santa’s origins). It also has a great message that’s important to hear every year around this time. So, don’t let the seasonal schmaltz fool you. There’s a sled-load of humor and holiday magic to keep the coals from piling up too high.
THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES: PART TWO is now playing in select theaters and will be available to stream on Netflix on November 25.