WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
When Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) distinguishes himself as the postal academy’s worst student, he is stationed on a frozen island above the Arctic Circle, where the feuding locals hardly exchange words let alone letters. Jesper is about to give up when he finds an ally in local teacher Alva (Rashida Jones), and discovers Klaus (J.K. Simmons), a mysterious carpenter who lives alone in a cabin full of handmade toys.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
I have a shortlist of Christmas movies that I will watch over and over again, whether it's Christmas or not and no matter how old they are – Ron Howard's 2000 classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas is one of them.
Netflix's newest animation offering for the festive season, Klaus is now on that list – this modernised origin story of the fantastical tale of Santa Claus is absolutely beautiful and has enough magic to reignite the belief in Father Christmas.
What made this film enjoyable for me is how director/co-writer Sergio Pablos has taken a story old as time and given it a facelift that isn't afraid of ridiculous sight gags and bleakly funny lines of dialogue, unlike the typical big-studio animated feature that has tried to put sensitivity upfront at all times in recent years. And all the while, there's plenty of comedy for the Netflix film's target audience (kids), there's also sarcastic quips and self-aware, darkly comedic lines of dialogue very obviously meant for the adult viewers.
While Klaus is predominantly digital, it somehow creates a feeling of nostalgia, not because it is actually a period piece but because it appears to have been influenced by the final years of Walt Disney's traditional, hand-drawn animation – think Hercules and Tarzan. According to the film's IMDb, Pablos – who is known for his work on the Despicable Me franchise – used CGI lighting techniques with hand-drawn animation to create a unique animation style for the story.
The writing (by Pablos, Zach Lewis and Jim Mahoney) of the film keeps things very simple. While it does not provide much character development aside from the two main characters – spoiled brat and postman, Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) and well-built, white-bearded woodsman Klaus (J.K. Simmons) – it quite smartly answers every question you've ever had about Santa, including how he got his reindeers, where the naughty list came from and why he travels on a sleigh.
At the very top of what makes this film so great is the stellar cast. Not only do Schwartzman and Simmons do their characters justice, the supporting roles from Joan Cusack as matriarch Mrs Krum, Rashida Jones as Alva and Will Sasso as patriarch Mr Ellingboe are what makes this magical tale so believable.
And to round it all off the lesson and conclusion of this film is moving in a way that highlights something adults all too often forget: Children's acts, even when driven by greed, can set an example for adults. For their innocence, overlooks grudges and in turn, undoes mistakes of the past. Or in other words: "A true act of goodwill always sparks another.