An alternate telling of the Santa Claus myth, told mostly from the perspective of a lazy postman, accidentally creating a worldwide phenomenon. While he selfishly schemes to make a large-scale mailing operation, he accidentally spreads good-will and cheer, making the world a far better place, despite his motives.
This is one of those movies that screams production quality, something that Netflix used to have in spades but have slowly been more hit-and-miss with over the years. The closest movie that comes to mind with this is The Emperor’s New Groove, in both positive and negative ways.
If this was made back in the mid-2000s there’s no doubt this snarky selfish lead would have been another David Spade role. Luckily those days have passed, and we have a great cast packed with stars. Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones and Joan Cusack, to name a few, fill up this run-time with great performances. If they were ever to do some sort of sequel I would hope all these guys could get back together for it, because they really do have good chemistry and seem to have had a great time making it.
This film looks disgustingly good, so much so I had to look into the team behind it. There’s no way Netflix could have made something this pretty without some expert help. Turns out this is the brainchild of Sergio Pablos‘ studio, which explains a lot, as he’s been an animator on some of the most impressive cartoons in terms of animation ever made, like Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tazan and Treasure Planet. This animation quality is almost too nice, it almost feels wasted on the small screen, with a stronger final sequence I would have killed to see this in cinemas.
By no means is this perfect, and it’s the cliche parts of the story that hold it back. While the acting is always top-notch, the snarky dialogue and over-done elements like the liar reveal segment at the end of the second act make it really feeling more like an late-90s or early 2000s movie. It’s very much a standard story about a bastard learning to become a generous guy. Unless he delivers an enourmous amount of letters he’ll be cut-off by his father, and thrown out of the lap-of-luxury. Finding a kind ex-toy maker in the woods he cooks up a scheme to trick children into writing letters to him, begging for toys.
It’s so tedious seeing everyone react so hurt and surprised that he actually had a motivation to start the scheme, but he’d already told them all earlier in the movie that he had a personal reason. Even if they did think he was selfish, him and Klaus had already bonded over the happiness of children several times, magic spirits of the forest clearly endorsing him as someone doing the right thing. It seems so strange that they bother to treat him poorly when he’s already given up his fortune to come back and support them.
The music is really strange too, it’s all real pop-music styled entries, which really clash with the unique animation. If you were told this was a Disney movie you would beleive it off look alone, but as soon as you hear normal music for jokes it puts you more in the mind of a Dreamworks or Illumination film.
I think the fact the film can be treading so much worn-ground and still be a great time is a testament to it’s quality. Toy Story 4 of all films beating this at the Oscars is a tragedy, especially looking at the medium-competition it had. Seeing the town get better and better every passing day is very heart-warming, and seeing how quickly the postman softens up is refreshing. He had definitely forgotten about his selfish motivation at one point, and it was lovely.
Definitely give this one a watch, it’s a real treat. It makes mistakes, but don’t all movies. If you wanted a nice nostalgic film but don’t want to keep rewatching old films this is a nice happy medium. A really nice way to end the Netflix collection of Christmas movies, next up is some more grown-up seasonal tales.
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