Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

Not your mother’s St. Nick

Arts | Kurt Russell’s bad boy Santa is a hit with fans but feels a little wrong
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 11/30/18, 02:25 pm

Not to be outdone by Hallmark, Netflix has released a slate of Christmas movies, and one in particular is getting lots of love from fans.

#ChristmasChronicles is absolutely the Christmas movie we needed,” one fan wrote on Twitter. “It goes up there as [one of] the best ones over the decades.” Another viewer tweeted, “Instant Christmas classic! Great story, best Santa, can’t wait to see it again.” The movie currently has 87 percent positive audience reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.

The Christmas Chronicles stars Kurt Russell as a smoldering St. Nick who’s out to teach a bickering brother and sister how to work together. The movie follows a time-tested plot formula: A grumpy protagonist, in this case teenage boy Teddy, helps Santa Claus out of a predicament and finds his or her Christmas cheer, usually with the help of an elven sidekick (check) and an overly cheerful companion (Teddy’s younger sister, Kate).

Russell is not your mother’s Santa, unless your mother had a crush on Kurt Russell in the 1980s. He chews out the kids who slow down his Christmas Eve deliveries, steals a car, and complains that popular drawings of him make his rear end look big.

“I’m not playing him as a jolly, old elf,” Russell told Parade. “He’s a real person.

Russell’s character still brings plenty of Christmas cheer, but in a disjointed way that makes you wonder what he’s really up to.

The actor also said he intentionally played up Santa’s authoritativeness in crafting the character.

“Santa’s got an element of intimidation to him,” he said. “You watch kids going up to the … Santa Clauses in the malls, and there’s a big part of that that involves intimidation. They’ll keep their eyes down.”

The Christmas Chronicles version of St. Nick could have come from Greek mythology—a flawed deity with intense but limited powers and, of course, good looks. He takes the humans for a wild ride, and they learn lessons along the way.

The movie has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments—like the CGI elves doing The Floss—along with the tenderhearted sentimentality expected from a Christmas flick.

Sadly, the strongest characters get the least screen time. Teddy and Kate’s parents, played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Oliver Hudson, Kurt Russell’s real-life son, have an enduring, sacrificial love for each other and their children. Dad is a lion-hearted leader whose devotion to his family crescendos at Christmas, while mom works tirelessly behind the scenes to care for everyone under her roof. But Teddy and Kate can’t fathom how much they are loved until someone more powerful comes down to their level to show them. It’s a lesson the movie shares with the true story of Christmas, in which God comes down to His people to help them accept His gift of love.

Facebook/Dorotheum Facebook/Dorotheum The Dorotheum auction house

Heist hype

Three men managed to remove a valuable painting by French impressionist Pierre Auguste Renoir from its frame and leave a Vienna auction house with it on Monday night. Bidding on the landscape painting, one of Renoir’s lesser-known works, was scheduled to open Wednesday night. The work has an estimated value of $136,000 to $181,000.

Theft of art and cultural artifacts is a booming business, especially in conflict-prone areas like the Middle East. Dealers and investigators often say the stolen art trade is the world’s third-largest black market after drugs and arms trafficking, though Interpol says it’s impossible to quantify. Last week, Muse reported on a stolen Byzantine-era church mosaic that was recovered and returned to Cyprus. And reports circulated earlier this month that one of the Pablo Picasso masterpieces stolen from the Kunsthal Museum in the Netherlands in 2012 had been found buried under a rock in a Romanian forest. But the painting turned out to be a fake, buried by a performance art troupe from Belgium. That story, and this narrative of the Kunsthal heist, make great reading for art lovers. —L.L.

Hoop dreams

The NBA is expanding in Africa, attracting young talent to a new training center in Saly, Senegal. Plans are also in the works for a pan-African basketball league, as well as NBA preseason and regular season games on the continent. —L.L.

In memory

This week, Hollywood mourned the loss of two notable creators who produced very different content. Academy Award–winner Bernardo Bertolucci, director of Last Tango in Paris and The Last Emperor, died at age 77 of cancer in Italy. And Steven Hillebrand, creator of Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants, died at age 57 of Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. —L.L.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • CJ
    Posted: Fri, 11/30/2018 03:14 pm

    I’m surprised a WORLD review of The Christmas Chronicles does not mention that the 11 year old cusses (gets it from Mom apparently), the older brother steals cars and they both lie to and repeatedly disobey their mother. I admit that I hop-skipped through the movie after that non traditional beginning and I suppose it was a set up for their character change but, really, parents wants to know these things before watching with the kids. 

  • news2me
    Posted: Sun, 12/02/2018 05:20 am

    I'm surprised when someone from World actually watches some of this stuff so they can "warn" us. God doesn't say you can watch it because you review movies. He says NOT to put something like that in front of your eyes. There are plenty of non-Christian reviewers that warn people. And there are plenty of movies for Christians to review without watching the bad stuff. Isn't this degrading the reviewer's mind as this person continues to watch some of this stuff? 

  • DS
    Posted: Fri, 11/30/2018 10:13 pm

    Sounds like they modeled Santa a bit like Tolkein's Gandalf (as opposed to Jackson's Gandalf). A kind, elderly man with a quick, hot temper, limited powers, and of course, a big(ish) beard. But I don't think that Gandalf would have, like the article says, "chews out the kids who slow down his [mission]". Also, I can't imagine Gandalf wearing red, riding a reigndeer-drawn sleigh, stealing anything, or complaining about the way fans (particularly hobbits) would draw him (I think he would be amused). I'm not trying to say that they should have made Santa more Gandalf-ish, but there are a few similarities, definitelly more than Classic Claus. Also, I like that they seem to be making him seem more human.

  • Xion's picture
    Posted: Sat, 12/01/2018 04:03 am

    From the time I learned Santa wasn't real and 50 years beyond, I haven't liked the guy.  We taught our kids that Jesus was real, but Santa is not.  He's just a guy who pretends at the mall.  Our kids had interesting encounters with "believers" in the secular mall marketeer.  Even so, I don't mind watching sappy Christmas movies.  Our perennial favorites are Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation.  I'll watch this one next.

  • news2me
    Posted: Sun, 12/02/2018 04:27 am

    Did you watch those WITH your kids?