Review: Klaus (2019)

Klaus

Rating

Director

Sergio Pablos

Screenplay

Sergio Pablos, Jim Mahoney, Zach Lewis

Length

1h 36m

Starring

Jason Schwartzman, J.K. SImmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Norm MacDonald, Joan Cusack

MPAA Rating

PG for rude humor and mild action

Review

Every film feels the need to embellish upon the works of the past. Klaus attempts to re-interpret the magical origins of the Christmas gift-giver Saint Nicholas, a ubiquitous figure in winter’s holiday festivities. The film takes the audience to places it hasn’t been, but is that enough for persnickety moviegoers who sometimes reject creativity re-engineering.

Once a dark horse for the Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, Klaus has become something more than that and if you’ve seen the film, you can understand why. Klaus is the story of a young dilettante who is forced into being a mail man in his father’s postal organization and is wholly reluctant to live up to his potential. Daddy ships him off to a remote wintry locale to use the skills that he should have learned to revitalize the town’s postal services.

Voiced by Jason Schwartzman, Jesper wants nothing more than to get out of the hell hole and return to his cushy life of privilege, but if he gives up, he will be disinherited and forced to live on the street. When happenstance results in a letter he was holding for a small child reaching a mysterious woodsman who makes toys, the story of Santa Claus finds a new origin. Or does it? As expected, everything starts crumbling around him in the most predictable way possible and whether he can save his own hide or the hides of those in this community remains to be seen.

The most delightful vocal work in the film is by Joan Cusack as the leader of one of the village’s two factions who have been warring Hatfields & McCoys-style for as long as any of them can remember. Schwartzman’s lack of emotional detail and clarity to his performance make him an incomplete hero, one that the story must forcefully push forward. J.K. Simmons voices the huntsman, Rashida Jones the school teacher saving up to get out of town, Will Sasso as Cusack’s chief rival, and Norm MacDonald as the haranguing ferry boat captain who eggs Jesper on all give generally solid performances.

The art work is stylized for the most part and sometimes quite inventive, but the overall look of buildings and the town’s miserable attitudes seem like a mirror universe version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and a lot more predictable. This sweet and endearing film tells a solid, if predictable narrative and audiences of all ages could welcome it into their homes as a regular holiday tradition.

Klaus is a film that’s both magical and mundane, a fascinating concept that succeeds, but does so with some caveats. While the vocal work is sometimes uneven and the writing can be hackneyed in parts, there’s no question that younger audiences and their parents will be delighted with this creative exploration of the secret origins of Santa Claus.

Review Written

May 11, 2020