"The Christmas Chronicles"

Actor Kurt Russell takes on the iconic role of the Jolly Old Elf himself in “The Christmas Chronicles,” now streaming on Netflix.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a post on Facebook about how 1980s Kurt Russell was overrated. The reaction I received was pretty impressive.

I avoid making divisive posts on my Facebook. It’s a place I can connect with family and friends, and generally the only posts I make are photos of my amazing fur-baby, my adventures in baking and many, many book posts. Insulting Kurt Russell though … whew, you would think I would have insulted Donald Trump or your mama. Seriously.

While I absolutely adored “Overboard,” I’m not much of a Kurt fan. Apparently, the rest of the world is, though.

I kept seeing posts pop up about Netflix’s “The Christmas Chronicles,” a new holiday movie in which Russell stars as Santa Claus. Everyone thought it was a delightful movie. Well, the elves drew a lot of flack, but the film itself seems to have won over a lot of viewers.

Now here’s my question, would the film have such a following if Russell wasn’t in it?

Watching “The Christmas Chronicles,” I feel a bit like I’m watching Jack Burton in a Santa costume, although toned down. That’s Russell’s character in “Big Trouble in Little China,” which I’m thankful to say I’ve only seen once. Add in the fact he looks like R.J. McCreedy — Russell’s character from “The Thing” — and 1980s’ Kurt Russell is quite present in this film.

The film starts off quite Hallmark Christmas movie-like. Kimberly Williams-Paisley is a widowed mother of two kids, Teddy (Judah Lewis) and Katie (Darby Camp). Teddy is a car-stealing rebel, who’s got a huge chip on his father following the passing of his father (Oliver Hudson). The children’s relationship is fractured, and their mom is just trying to get by. She works a lot of hours and is struggling to hold her family together.

This is the moment a Hallmark movie would introduce a love interest for Mom. “The Christmas Chronicles” goes a different route and offers us a slightly sarcastic Santa who’s forced to work with the children after they manage to catch him in the act and ultimately make him crash his sleigh. They have just one night to save Christmas.

It’s a theme that’s been used in numerous Christmas movies, so it’s really nothing we haven’t seen before. In fact, it’s a movie I probably would have loved as a kid. It’s full of hijinks, magic and a Santa Claus who can do anything. It’s delightful in the moment. It’s also not memorable. It feels like so many other Christmas movies we’ve seen before.

Overworked mom? Check.

Little kid who believes in Santa and goes to great lengths? Check.

Older sibling who’s rebelling, possibly breaking the law and has no time for family? Check.

It’s a story about saving Christmas, but it’s also a story about fixing a broken family. It’s a Christmas movie. It could even be called a good Christmas movie. For some, it might even be a Christmas movie that becomes a regular part of their annual Christmas viewing. Is it something that sticks with you after you’ve turned off Netflix? No, not really.

Some friends asked me if I liked the movie, especially after my recent Russellgate snafu. I said it was pretty good, but it’s just a standard Christmas movie. The only reason it’s on anyone’s radar is Russell. It’s why a lot of people, including in my household, clicked on it. There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you, but I’d rather not bill “The Christmas Chronicles” as the holiday event of the season.

There are things that work, and Russell is the main one. His jokes hit because it’s Kurt Russell saying them. This isn’t “A Christmas Carol,” but there are ghosts of Russell’s past. This is Jack Burton 30 years down the road. There’s a musical number in a jail that has shades of Elvis (a 1979 role and his first with director John Carpenter). Add in the fluffy family stuff and the fact it’s a holiday film, and it’s hard not to feel a bit warm and fuzzy watching it. There’s even a cameo that shouldn’t be a surprise, but it’s wonderful anyway.

In the spirit of saying nice things about Russell and this movie, I won’t say a lot about the really weird elves. Seriously, these CGI creations are what you would get if an Ewok mated with one of DreamWorks’s “Trolls.” I know Santa, and he needs elves, but these guys felt like they were in a completely different movie.

Bottom line: “The Christmas Chronicles” is cute, and it’ll satisfy that hankering for a holiday movie, especially if you’re a Kurt Russell fan.

Steve Wildsmith was an editor and writer for The Daily Times for nearly 17 years; a recovering addict, he now works in media and marketing for Cornerstone of Recovery, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Blount County. Contact him at wildsmithsteve@gmail.com.

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