Released 11/12/2019                              Rated: G

This movie was super cute. I’m considering it becoming a new Christmas staple in my holiday line-up. It made me laugh, it’s got heart and a good message, it made me tear up, it’s got some crazy star power behind it, and if the only thing wrong with it is some CGI moments, then I’d call it a win.

Noelle Kringle is helping her brother Nick prepare for his first Christmas as Santa after their father has passed. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, and Nick is feeling the pressure considering Christmas is fast approaching and he just isn’t getting the hang of being Santa. When Noelle suggests he take the weekend to get away and breathe, she doesn’t for one moment think that he won’t return to make Christmas happen. But when Santa goes missing and the North Pole gets thrown into chaos because of it, it’s up to her and her grumpy nanny Elf Polly to track him down in the most unlikely of places and bring him back.

So like I said before, this movie was super cute. I loved all the references to popular Christmas songs. Noelle saying “I see Mommy kissing Santa Claus,” because her father actually is Santa. The phrase “Oh my garland,” instead of “Oh my God” makes it around a bit. This movie is full of stuff like that. And Snowcone is the most adorable baby reindeer ever!!!! Noelle “disguising” him as a puppy to blend in with downtown Phoenix was so stinkin’ cute! But what’s awesome is that they don’t just pile on sap, which is how I feel a lot of similar movies tend to end up. There’s real heart here. Noelle learns the true meaning of Christmas throughout her trip, and makes some discoveries about herself in the process. But what really killed me (in a good way) were the scenes of Noelle interacting with the little deaf girl in a shelter. One of Santa’s “powers” is the ability to communicate with everyone around the world. And Noelle realizing that not only can she understand the Michelle’s signing, but she can reciprocate it is brilliant. I teared up when Michelle calls her Santa after she’s accidentally woken up the entire shelter. She’s so confident about it, too, that it gives Noelle the confidence she needs to finish out her night.

Now the worst part, per usual, is the moments of CGI. I’m gonna break this down a bit. The reindeer themselves are not bad. The moments of Snowcone in the window are obviously green screen, but otherwise he’s fine. It’s the multitude of times throughout the film that the reindeer clack their antlers together that doesn’t work. The motion just doesn’t feel fluid enough to be realistic. But the absolute worst moments are the twice we see the reindeer at the outlet mall. There are people lined up on either side of the reindeer tossing food at them. First of all, why would you throw food at a deer? That’s ridiculous. It’s just this endless raining of birdseed. And secondly, if the reindeer are just standing there, stock still, why would you continue to do it? And I’m not going to lie, I was TERRIFIED that we were going to get another instance of Chet from The Santa Clause 2. [shudder] Anyway, it’s painfully obvious that the reindeer aren’t actually there. (Children are not going to pay attention to something like this, but I can’t NOT see it.) It made me cringe. But like I said, it’s a very quick moment; not long enough to ruin the whole film.

Despite my long-windedness about the CGI, this film is great. I laughed out loud so much. Anna Kendrick is perfect. Shirley MacLaine is a joy. I don’t know much of Bill Hader, but he felt spot on, too. This movie really is a treat. Definitely check it out.

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