Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Movie with Abe: Klaus

Directed by Sergio Pablos
Released November 15, 2019

Every celebrity deserves an origin story, especially if they don’t actually exist. Santa Claus and the holiday on which he works hardest have had no shortage of time in the spotlight. He’s appeared in films like “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Santa Clause,” and “Elf,” recognizable by his red suit and white beard, with other characteristics and ancestry up for modification depending on the specifics of the story. Most of those have presumed a supernatural or fantastical basis for his existence, rather than a perhaps simpler explanation: an actual person who has, over time and with the addition of new details over the generations, turned into an urban legend.

Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) is the son of the postmaster general who has never demonstrated much ability or ambition. When he ranks as the worst student at the postal academy, his father sends him to a remote post with a charge to mail 6,000 letters in a year or be cut off from the family fortune. Arriving in the northern island town of Smeerensburg, Jesper quickly realizes that his prospects are bleak due to the angry nature of all the residents, who either belong to the Ellingboe or Krum families, which despise each other. Jesper’s fortunes change when he meets Klaus (J.K. Simmons), a toymaker living alone in the woods, and hatches a plan to donate toys to the town’s children, which will prompt them to send letters asking for what they want.

While Santa wasn’t necessarily in need of yet another movie platform, this film cleverly presents the imagined events that, while admittedly spectacular, could theoretically have occurred and been mistaken for something that eventually morphed into the traditional narrative known today. Jesper is a relatable protagonist who is entitled and self-involved but represents a completely different kind of attitude than all of the residents of Smeerensburg, including Alva (Rashida Jones), a teacher who has given up all hope of making an impact on the children. It’s an affirming story that touches on coexistence, cooperation, and optimism in the face of the grueling negativity that so often dominates adult life and serves as a catalyst for conflict.

This film comes from Spanish director and animator Sergio Pablos, who previously worked on “Despicable Me” and its sequels, and serves as Netflix’s first official animated feature. It represents a marvelous commitment to innovative storytelling, using animation to illustrate its story and make it come alive. It’s a strong and affirming film that removes the religious element from a cultural institution, which widens its appeal to an even broader audience, one of children who will gaze in wonder and adults who will appreciate this fun and effective approach to a topic that many probably didn’t think had any fresh content left to deliver.


No comments: