Scalding Hot Takes: The Christmas Chronicles
One of the many many specious arguments as to why, actually, materialism and wild, economy-sustaining holiday spending actually represent the true spirit of Christmas mounted by the hilariously terrible Kirk Cameron vanity project Saving Christmas is that if you think Santa Claus is a peace-sign flashing peacenik you’re wrong.
In fact, one of the inspirations for what we now know as Santa Claus was a violence-prone, short-tempered motherfucker who didn’t think twice about going medieval on a heretic if he heard him blaspheming Jesus when loco of that hot mead.
Yes, Saint Nicholas beat the holy living fuck out of the heretic Arius on some Stone Cold Steve Austin type shit when he was loopy on that Jesus juice. That was only the start: Saint Nicholas then went Charles Bronson on the heretics of the time for teaching false doctrines in ways that would probably cause the Islam-loving lefties of today to shriek like little girls and run away to their safe spaces so they can mindlessly devour Tide pods, their comfort food of choice.
If your objection to celebrating Christmas through blind consumerism is that Santa Claus is, tragically and unforgivably, not “extreme” the same way popular comic book characters like The Punisher, Venom and Deadpool are extreme, then Saving Christmas wants you to know you’re wrong. And a pussy. And maybe you don’t deserve to celebrate Christmas the right, expensive way.
If The Punisher, Venom, Deadpool and Santa Claus had a four way fight to the death, the last man standing would be Santa after he pinned all three humiliated superheroes to the wall with reindeer antlers until the comic book anti-heroes all bled out.
Surviving Christmas wants us to know that Saint Nicholas was the furthest thing from a beta cuck soy boy SJW. He was no saint or warrior for social justice, except that he was a saint and a warrior for a very Christian brand of social justice.
The Santa Claus of the new Netflix Kurt Russell Yuletide romp The Christmas Chronicles is not a warrior for Jesus like the Saint Nicholas of Saving Christmas, who kept lists of of all the asses he kicked alongside his better known lists of naughty and nice boys and girls. But he is a Santa cut from a whole different cloth, not unlike the beardless, beach living Saint Nick of Santa’s Summer House.
In The Christmas Chronicles’ revisionist telling, Santa is not the morbidly obese, aged, twinkly-eyed, Coca Cola-loving gift-giver of the public imagination but rather a sexy, skinny scumbag Santa who fucks, whose whole vibe suggests that if he wasn’t enjoying an active and satisfying sex life with Mrs. Claus he wouldn't mind stuffing a few stockings and getting his candy cane licked by some of the lovely ladies he encounters on his yearly trek around the world.
This is a Santa Claus who isn't averse to “borrowing” cars and looks all too at home behind bars, or in bars. Many words have historically been used to describe Santa. Jolly. Paternalistic. Kind. Generous. Filled with the Christmas spirit like a child with a belly full of milk. One word that generally has not been used in connection with Santa is “virile.” That is until now.
Kurt Russell’s Santa Claus has a sexy, macho swagger that’s fun and alarmingly off-model, or perhaps fun precisely because it deviates so strongly from how we usually see this most defined of American holiday icons.
Ah, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Santa doesn't even show up for a good twenty minutes or so into The Christmas Chronicles and boy oh boy does the movie need, not just benefit from, the star-power of Santa, Kurt Russell and Kurt Russell as Santa Claus.
We open on a maudlin, tear-jerking, heartstring-plucking note, with a montage of old-school camcorder Christmas footage following the Pierces, a very boring white family, through the years. Then dad Doug Pierce (Oliver Hudson) dies a hero’s death and sulky teen son Teddy (Judah Lewis) descends into a nightmare underworld of car thievery and low-grade criminality while his sister Kate (Darby Camp) copes with the loss by retreating into insufferable precocity.
Having just suffered through Six Weeks, and its cringe-inducing dying little girl, who was a horrifying combination of obnoxiously precocious and inappropriately sexual, I was wary of other annoyingly wise-beyond-their-years child characters. Needless to say, I rolled my eyes when Kate mournfully tells her jerky older brother, “You used to laugh when I called you Teddy Bear. And I was your Katy Cat. But ever since dad died all you want to do is hang out with your wannabe gangsta friends!”
Katy Cat and Teddy Bear sound disconcertingly like romantic nicknames adults would give each other, not things siblings would call each other. Yes, things haven’t been the same for old Katy Cat and Teddy Bear since dad died. They clearly haven’t gotten over it, as every conversation seems to include at least one clunky reference to dear old dead being a maggot buffet six feet underground.
Things start to take a turn for the better when Katy Cat stumbles upon her brother hot-wiring a car and uses incriminating evidence of her brother committing a crime to blackmail him into helping her spring a trap so that they can catch old Saint Nick in the act of distributing presents and spreading joy. She, incidentally, is the “good” one.
It’s the Blair Witch Project meets Home Alone as these kids, left home alone for Christmas Eve so their nurse mom can work a much-needed shift set out to chronicle a mythical creature for posterity. They end up meeting the real Santa Claus (Kurt Russell), and through Christmas magic end up in Chicago, where Santa has tragically lost his magical hat and been separated from his equally magic reindeers.
Santa needs his magic hat and his reindeers and shit or Christmas will be ruined and worldwide Christmas spirit will plummet. Worst-case scenario, mankind will be so dispirited by the absence of Santa on Christmas that we will descend into a new Dark Age, although you could argue that we did that when we elected Donald Trump the leader of the free world.
When The Christmas Chronicles, which, despite its title, does not feature anyone smoking Chronic in blunts the size of Christmas trees, moves to Chicago it becomes an unofficial remake of Adventures in Babysitting, with Santa Claus taking the place of Elisabeth Shue as the overwhelmed grown-up struggling to survive one very crazy night in a city overflowing with violence and danger.
This is not your parents’ Santa. No, this is Santa with attitude (Santitude?), a Santa who isn’t above stealing a car for a good cause. He’s the kind of sassy Santa who indignantly asks of the conventional depiction of him as unhealthily overweight, “Does my butt really look that big to you?” Perhaps most audaciously, this Santa refuses to say “Ho, ho, ho!” the same way Jimmie “J.J” Walker, a mythical creature in his own right, adamantly refused to say “Dynomite!” when we did a Canadian panel show together a while back unless paid a large amount of money to do so.
True, Santa does communicate partially through Christmas cliches like “You’ve always had to do one thing—believe!” and “ The Christmas spirit is more powerful than you can possibly imagine!” but otherwise he’s got a whole lot more attitude than your typical Saint Nick.
I was insulted by Adventures in Babysitting ideologically and politically as well as a creatively. I thought it glibly depicted Chicago as a dangerous urban hellhole filled with threatening African-Americans that good, white suburbanites should steer clear of if they want to hold onto their wallets, cars and innocence.
So I was not charmed by the movie’s strong resemblance to The Christmas Chronicles producer Chris Columbus’ directorial debut but at least I figured that it would not be corny and tone-deaf enough to repeat the earlier film’s “Babysitting Blues” production number. Then, friends, came the big moment when Santa Claus, having ended up in jail on his big night, ends up performing the world’s longest and whitest blues number, backed by African-American sex workers doing double duty as sexy background singers and special guest “Little Stevie” Van Zandt on guitar.
Somewhere up in the big all-white blues club that is heaven, John Belushi’s “Joliet” Jake Blues from Blues Brothers, Michael Keaton’s Jack Frost from the film of the same name and Elisabeth Shue’s Chris Parker from Adventures in Babysitting, who perished not long after the events of the film in a tragic duck boat accident, are all simultaneously laughing, crying tears of joy and “rocking out” in delight as one very funky Santa helps spread the gospel that blues is really just funny novelty music for white people to sing in movies.
Santa Claus warns his unlikely human helpers that they’re running out of time to save Christmas but they’d have more time to work their Yuletide magic if Santa cut out the final two verses of his swaggering blues production number.
Then come the alternately psychotic and overly saccharine appearance of Santa’s elves, a CGI-animated bunch (The Christmas Chronicles was directed by Clay Katis, co-director of The Angry Birds Movie), a feral yet cuddly bunch who beat up a ring of ne’er do well car thieves and nearly cut off a young man’s penis with a chainsaw but also break into joyous dance upon learning that someone believes in Christmas.
The elves embody the bizarre tonal shifts of a movie that wants to be a grounded and grittier Santa Claus story but also is way too in touch with its inner Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium.
In gift-giving mode, Santa is glittery red blur, leaping into and out of homes like a CGI version of Super Mario.
In true Christmas movie tradition, Santa Claus, a superman with God-like powers of magic beyond the imagination of even Mr Magorium himself, has to rely upon two jackass kids to make Christmas happen. Or does he? At the risk of spoiling the film, it ends up coming out strongly in favor of believing in yourself, teamwork and Christmas.
The Christmas Chronicles concludes with the least surprising surprise cameo imaginable and Santa being given a choice of Christmas “classics” to watch, including It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas and The Grinch. The guest star positing it as a choice doesn’t specify whether it’s the Chuck Jones (good) or Ron Howard (absolute evil) version, which speaks to the way that even terrible Christmas movies like The Grinch, Christmas Vacation and Polar Express have been elevated to “classics” not due to their actual quality, or lack thereof, but rather because so many people end up seeing them every Christmas season because the demand for Christmas movies is always somehow even greater than the supply.
Will The Christmas Chronicles follow suit and become a Yuletide “classic” without being particularly good? Only time will tell but the fact that people who subscribe to Netflix won’t have to pay extra to see it certainly works in its favor as a potential Christmas perennial in the making. Even during the most expensive, consumerism-crazed time of the year we’re still naturally attracted to free stuff, and in my case at least, I got out of this raucous Christmas comedy what I paid for it, which was nothing.
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