The Christmas Chronicles 2, which just dropped on Netflix, reverses direction from the original … more on that later.
St. Nick or Not St. Nick? The First Movie Said ‘No.’
In a recent post, I pointed out that most of today’s Christmas movies are nearly or entirely free of any reference to Christmas being a Christian holy day. And, in 2018, I noted that the Santa Claus in Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles made a point of saying that he’s NOT St. Nicholas.
Or, is he?
There are many steps between the conception of a movie and its final emergence, and many people who want to have a say, from producers to financiers to network executives and so on. So, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly whom to credit or blame for things in the final version of a movie.
That being said, writer/director Chris Columbus has been behind many hit movies, including Gremlins, Goonies, Home Alone and Harry Potter — and was a producer on 2016’s The Young Messiah — and likely would be listened to in any project. He told Risen magazine:
Everyone’s own particular version of faith is a bit private, it’s something you carry with you from the moment you are actually aware of what faith you are being raised in. For me, I was raised Catholic. All my children were raised Catholic. They all went to Catholic high schools. We attend Mass regularly. Last year my daughter was married in the Catholic Church. So, I’m still very attached and committed to the Church itself. Faith does play a big part in all of our lives.
In 2018, Columbus was a producer on The Christmas Chronicles, a rollicking, good-natured adventure romp introducing Russell as a leather-coated Santa Claus taking siblings on a wild Christmas Eve ride. There was just the littlest mention of faith, as I noted:
There is one scene where the kids wind up in front of a Gothic-style church, commenting that they haven’t been to church since their father died (hinting they went before). And, that’s the last mention of anything vaguely connected to Christianity — but it’s more than a lot of these movies offer. If only, at the very end, they’d mentioned going to church on Christmas Day, but … alas. It’s all about the presents.
There was also a passing reference to St. Nicholas:
Asked his name by the police, Santa says that he prefers St. Nick, but admits he’s not a real saint, because “guess it’s who you know.” No mention is made of the fact that there is actually a St. Nicholas, and the most important person he had to know was Jesus (also not mentioned).
St. Nick or Not St. Nick? The Sequel Says ‘Yes.’
How things have changed. Columbus is now director and co-writer of The Christmas Chronicles 2. Not only is St. Nicholas mentioned, but Mrs. Claus (again played by Russell’s longtime love, Goldie Hawn) tells a story about how he started out as a bishop in 312 A.D. in Asia Minor, now called Turkey — just like the real St. Nicholas.
This bishop is described as having been known at the time as St. Nicholas. We don’t know the exact year of the saint’s canonization, but it would definitely have been after his death. You may call someone a “living saint,” but at least in the Catholic Church, they don’t exist.
Mrs. Claus says he was “a bishop who discovered the joy of giving.” In a flashback, Bishop Nicholas is seen putting coins in shoes and fruit in stockings (later customs associated with the eve of St. Nicholas’ feast day, on Dec. 6, and Christmas).
Then, the tale veers into magical forest elves (presumably still living in Turkey, because Santa Claus has to head back there to find them at one point) who present Bishop Nicholas with a sliver of energy from the Star of Bethlehem. Encased in crystal, it gives him his own magic, keeps him from aging, and powers the eventual Santa Claus Village at the North Pole.
(Sadly, there is no mention in the movie of the story of Nicholas slapping the heretic Arius at the Council of Nicaea, more’s the pity.)
From there, we go into standard Santa lore, with a workshop, toymaking elves and reindeer that can only fly if people have the Christmas Spirit (the equivalent of clapping your hands to save Tinkerbell in Peter Pan). And, as in the first movie, the crisis caused by a lack of Christmas Spirit, this time at an airport, gives Russell’s Santa an excuse to whip up a huge song-and-dance number.
Christmas Comes, Santa or No Santa (Obviously)
That’s about it for any quasi-religious references in the sparkly rollercoaster ride that is The Christmas Chronicles 2. Like the original, it’s mostly harmless fun that doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. It also perpetuates the idea that, without presents and Santa, somehow Christmas doesn’t happen — which is, of course, ridiculous. Even the Grinch found that out.
Still, It’s Fun …
Kurt Russell again is a delight as Santa, and this time around, Hawn gets more than just a cameo, and she’s charming.
But, this version of Santa Claus does contradict what was said in the first film, with no attempt at retconning (that’s short for retroactive continuity, the act of changing the established past to explain later events), and it does bring a bit more of the Christian truth of Christmas to the fore.
Is this because Columbus plays more of a role this time? Maybe.
If so, providing there’s a third edition (and I have a feeling there will be, and it will involve long-lost children, perhaps Claus offspring, but that’s just a guess) and Columbus stays on, maybe even Jesus will get a mention.
Jesus name-checked in a Christmas movie — imagine that!
Some Content to Watch For
For parents, there is a (non-bloody) attack on a reindeer, lots of high-flying hijinks, the bumpy road to a blended family (between two people made single by death, not divorce), and some drug-crazed elves.
Don’t miss a thing: Subscribe to all that I write at Authory.com/KateOHare.