It isn’t very often I review a Netflix movie. In fact, I’ve only done two: Bright and The Irishman (although I saw The Irishman in cinema, during its limited release) two films at VERY distant opposites on the quality scale.
This isn’t because I consider Netflix films any lesser than others, streaming is the future of all home media in my eyes, no matter how much I love the cinema, I just very rarely put time aside to sit and watch it, and when I do, it’s generally to re-watch a film I’ve already seen.
But, with a free day, and a chance to escape the confines of the cinema, I thought I’d look to Netflix, to review from the comfort of my armchair; and after lamenting the lack of great modern Christmas films, I thought I’d check out their latest animated Christmas offering: Klaus.
A lazy, rich heir to a postal empire is forced to show his worth to the family business; by establishing a post office in Smeerensburg, a winter-y wasteland occupied by warring families who often destroy each other and the town. He soon stumbles across a mysterious toy-maker, and his fortunes begin to turn around.
Okay, first off, this film is absolutely beautiful. It utilises hand-drawn animation, rarely seen in the age of computer animation, and is brought to us by classic Disney alumnus animators, and you can tell, because the animation is very reminiscent of Renaissance era Disney films, it looks THAT good.
It comes across as a film made with genuine passion and warmth, from people who are experts in their field. They may not have the budget or corporate juggernaut they had at Disney, but by God do they still have the heart.
I also appreciate how it incorporates several aspects of different Santa folk tales, rather than falling back on the usual tale of magical, immortal old man with flying reindeer and elves. This Santa (Klaus, as he is referred to) is a woodsman, who lives in the forest, making birdhouses.
There is more to it, but to detail it would venture into spoiler territory, and something tells me that I’m going to recommend this film, so I won’t give anything else away.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film with such genuine heart and warmth such as this; even the undesirable characters turn over a new leaf, and the more icy aspects of our lead character are melted away by his association with this lonely woodsman who hands out toys to miserable children.
The tone of the film is reflected very well in its visual style too; it starts off surprisingly dark when Jesper arrives in Smeerensburg, he even finds a gallows in the city square, that kind of dark, but as the town begins to clean up its act after Klaus’ acts of kindness, the animation softens, and the character models become sweeter and more complimentary.
The voice cast is impressive too. Jason Schwartzman plays Jesper, and is channelling his inner Ryan Reynolds, lovably quipping his way from spoiled brat to Christmas hero. Oscar winner J.K. Simmons lends his voice to Klaus, delivering a guarded, yet emotive performance as this lonelier interpretation of jolly old St Nick. The likes of Joan Cusack and Rashida Jones round out an extremely strong voice cast.
It is not only easy on the eyes, but bound to thaw even the coldest heart through its heartfelt character developments, deftly combining the classic Christmas tale with aspects of Romeo and Juliet to wrap up a sure-fire modern Christmas classic.
A beautifully animated, engagingly emotive and skilfully voiced film wrapped up neatly in a lovely little bow, Klaus may just end up being a modern Christmas masterpiece, and certainly makes for essential Yuletide viewing.