Russell returns for kid-friendly adventure in ‘Christmas Chronicles 2’

The Christmas Chronicles 2 / Courtesy

Kurt Russell’s back as the super-hero Santa Claus in Netflix’s “Christmas Chronicles 2,” the promised sequel to the original that debuted two years ago on the streamer.

I’m a fan of Christmas movies, and the type of Christmas specials I grew up with on network TV. In that spirit, I quite enjoyed the movie, which is an heir to those stop-motion mini-movies, starring Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa, Claus, Frosty the Snowman and other Yuletide characters.

As much as I liked the film personally, I’d stop short of actually classifying it as a quality movie. That said, average movies can still be enjoyable if you’re in the right mood.

“Christmas Chronicles 2” is certainly fun, and kids of a certain age will no doubt look back fondly on it in years to come, just like I do of those Rankin-Bass specials. However, its pleasure for adults will come more from watching their kids enjoy it than what they get out of it themselves.

Mrs. Claus (Russell’s longtime partner Goldie Hawn) joins Santa for the full movie this time around, and the original film’s Kate (Darby Camp) and her prospective step-brother Jack (Jazhir Bruno) help the magical couple battle disgruntled former elf Belsnickle (Julian Dennison) whose out to undermine Santa and replace him.

The Chris Columbus-directed feature does boast some nice mid-level special effects and kiddy-style action and adventure that’s eye-catching. The plotting is predictable, though. You can guess almost every intended turn and twist a mile before it happens.

Perhaps the movie’s best sequence is a time-travel bit that allows Kate to reconcile some issues she’s having with her widowed mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), whose boyfriend (Tyrese Gibson) is about to propose.

Again for a fun family movie night, the movie’s an O.K. choice, but don’t expect anything truly magical.

2020 1 hr. 52 min
Grade: C-

Skylight Cinema screens Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Director Frank Capra’s tale of the selfless savings and loan officer George Bailey is a classic film for any season, but particularly during Christmastime.

In honor of the unofficial kickoff to the Yuletide season, the Skylight Cinema in Bentonville is playing “It’s A Wonderful Life” on the big screen at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Jimmy Stewart’s Bailey really did have a wonderful life, even if it took an attempt at suicide for him to notice.

After being wrung through the wringer by Clarence, the angel, Bailey learns his life of putting others first pays off when his friends bail him out of financial ruin on Christmas Eve.

I’m not sure if there is a more romantic moment on film than the telephone scene where Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are cheek to cheek on the phone, talking to George’s old buddy Sam Wainwright. The romantic tension is palpable.

The movie is also streaming on Amazon Prime, and NBC will broadcast it at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

New In Local Movie Theaters

  • The Croods: A New Age (PG) 1 hr. 35 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Rogers Towne, Bentonville Starlight, 112 Drive-In

112 Drive In

  • The Croods: A New Age – 7 p.m.(PG) 1 hr. 35 min. (watch trailer)
  • The War with Grandpa — 8:45 p.m.(PG) 1 hr. 34 min. (watch trailer)

Classic Corner

Let’s face it, 2020 has been a year most of us would like to forget.

If not for the upcoming Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season, I’d be more than willing to fast forward until spring when a Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be ready for the general public, but I don’t want to miss out on Christmastime even if it’s in semi-quarantine.

Despite the fact that it’s going to be a very Covid-19 Christmas this year, like the old tune says, I need “a little Christmas. Right this very minute.”

While there no is such time-spanning remote control to zap us past the coronavirus, I’ve always thought of movies as a way to travel to the past, future, or someplace I’ve never been and experience events, places, and characters mined from the depths of other’s imagination.

Simply put, the best movies whisk us away to another world — if only for a couple of hours — where we can pack away our everyday troubles and experience another reality, even if it’s only in our own mindspace.

I love movies of all sorts, but it’s no secret that I love old movies the best. Films from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s float my boat, and while the best of them might be judged as hokey from a modern point of view, I guess I’m just the sentimental type.

That’s why Christmas movies from decades past are my favorites. Though I wasn’t around during Hollywood’s golden age, I grew up with them, watching on TV.

In pre-school and into my grade-school years, my local stations in Memphis would air at least three old movies between them a day at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

I’m not sure I ever hit the classic-film trifecta in a single day, but with just four channels to pick from, I watched a lot of old movies as a kid in the summertime or holiday breaks with my baby-sitters, my grandmother, friends and by myself.

While many fine and acceptable Christmas-themed movies have been made since 1960, I’m of the opinion the very best were made before, and while Covid has us locked down to a degree, you’d only be doing yourself a favor to watch or revisit a few of these cinematic chestnuts with your family during the holiday season.

Watching these old movie won’t cure the coronavirus, but they might warm your heart and get you in a more Christmasy mood.

A Christmas Carol (1938)

I’d argue that the first version of “A Christmas Carol” that you see is the one that becomes your favorite. For me that’s MGM’s 1938 version with Reginald Owen as the mean old miser. Many critics prefer the 1951 British adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ classic titled “Scrooge” in the United States, starring Alastair Sim. Both are excellent and well worth watching. —Streaming on HBO Max

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

“The Shop Around the Corner” is a tight, beautifully shot romantic comedy by Ernest Lubitsch, starring old friends Jimmy Stewart and Margret Sullivan as pen pals who fall in love with each other through their written words, but unknowingly dislike each other as co-workers in a department store. It’s set during Christmastime, and it inspired remakes “In the Good Ol’ Summertime” (1949) and “You’ve Got Mail” (1998). — Streaming on Amazon

Holiday Inn (1942)

“Holiday Inn” stars Big Crosby and Fred Astaire as romantic rivals for the hand of lovely Marjorie Reynolds. The 1942 film introduces several Irving Berlin standards, the most of important of which is “White Christmas,” the best-selling song of all time. While I wouldn’t name it as the best movie of all time, it’s probably my favorite. — Streaming on Amazon

Going My Way (1944)

“Going My Way” was nominated for 10 and won seven Academy Awards in 1944. It stars Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley a priest sent to take over a parish from the elderly Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), but in a kindly way. The film climaxes during a children’ s Christmas concert when Father Fitzgibbon’s 95-year-old mother arrives to visit her son, whom she’s not seen in 45 years. If you can keep yourself from shedding a tear during that scene, your heart is smaller than the Grinch’s. — Streaming on Amazon

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

“Meet Me in St. Louis” is a musical dramedy about a Midwestern family struggling with a move to New York City. It stars Judy Garland and introduces the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which she sings to soothe her young sister Tootie (Margaret O’Brien). — Streaming on Amazon

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Cary Grant stars as Dudley, an angel sent to assist Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) with a crisis of the soul after he prays for divine guidance. However as Dudley attempts to nudge Henry in the right direction, the angel begins to fall for Julia (Loretta Young), the Bishop’s wife. I’ve begun to enjoy this film more and more over the last decade. I would not argue with anyone who opined that it is the BEST Christmas movie. It’s an enchanting film with some wonderful moments. — Streaming on Amazon

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

When a charming, elderly man (Edmund Gwenn) named Kris Kringle steps in for an inebriated Santa Claus to save the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, he quickly charms himself into the full-time gig. The film stars Maureen O’Hara as Macy’s parade director, and Natalie Wood, in her film debut, as O’Hara’s daughter. John Payne plays the lawyer taxed with proving that Kris is the one and only, real Santa Claus, and how he does is a genius piece of writing that I will not spoil. Gwenn won an Oscar for his performance as Kringle. — Streaming on Disney +

White Christmas (1954)

“White Christmas” is a 1954 remake of sorts of “Holiday Inn” with Danny Kaye playing the hoofer to Bing Crosby’s crooner. Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen are a sister act that hook up with Crosby and Kaye for Christmas at a Vermont ski resort owned by Crosby and Kaye’s general from World War II, but there is no snow. What will they do? Put on a show, of course. — Streaming on Netflix