If you couldn’t tell by your dwindling bank-account or having to sit across from your racist uncle, the holiday season is upon us and that means you’re sure to hear the sleigh bells ring (or … dreidels spin?) whether you’re listening or not. Never to be a Grinch (that’s later this month), I decided to try my best to kindle my holiday spirit with a film from Disney+. After all, what better way to celebrate the most commercial of all holidays than with the most commercial of all companies? The film was released to the new streaming service on-launch November 12th, 2019, and received a mixed-to-negative reception from critics. Despite that, it’s difficult to fault Disney for premiering their service with such films as Noelle.
Bill Hader has been on a hot streak, so-to-speak, in-terms of likability (and box-office success), and Anna Kendrick has enough charm to go around. And, although Miss Congeniality director Marc Lawrence doesn’t have the best track-record, Noelle plays well in his wheelhouse.
The film follows a young-girl named Noelle. As the daughter of Santa Clause, Noelle has been tasked with making Christmas cards and keeping up her Christmas spirit, whereas Santa’s son Nick must don the hat and big-red coat when old-man Kringle’s stocking’s finally stuffed. The problem is, Nick doesn’t want to be Santa, whereas Noelle feels far more enthused and up to the task. Stressed out, Nick wants nothing more than to be freed from his shackles, so, when Noelle makes a comment that he should “take the weekend off,” he takes it to heart. Nick runs away in-search of freedom, leaving for Noelle, who’s blamed for Santa’s disappearance, to try and find him.
The film is Christmas schlock through and through, which can either be to its benefit or its detriment, depending on how you approach such fare. In-retrospect, despite my childhood affection for so many Christmas-themed films, so few of them actually can stand stand the test of time. Will Farrell remains a blast in Elf, but have you ever went and re-watched The Santa Clause? Or that other Tim Allen movie where a husband and wife decide to skip Christmas and are harassed by their neighbors until they conform? If you’re asking yourself, where does Noelle land, I would say it’s somewhere closer around The Santa Clause. Which makes sense, given that they’re both Disney films, after all.
The cast is talented and they do their best with a very simple and very formulaic story-line, with Anna Kendrick having to carry the bulk of the weight. Her dialogue, like many others, isn’t without the occasional cringe and the jokes rarely land, but, at the very least, everything goes down easier with her as the lead.
The music also provides unique and enjoyable riffs on the Christmas theme.
The most glaring issue about Noelle as a whole is that the story-line and its characters are generic and safe. I feel that, from the name alone, most can already predict the premise of this film. They need a new Santa. Nick doesn’t want to be Santa. Noelle wants to be Santa, but Noelle’s a girl! I don’t have an issue with a new, progressive re-imagining by any stretch, but the resolution felt so straightforward and ham-fist that it became difficult to engage in the characters and their progression. Noelle’s entire development as a character feels subdued and under-cooked, a apt description for Nick’s apprehension to become Santa Clause as well.
It doesn’t bode well either that the “fish out of water” story of an elf or, in this case, the daughter of Santa, has already been committed on other occasions, with this film doing little to stand out among the herd.
I find myself with very little to say about this film, and, maybe that’s for the best. Despite the fact I recognize its many faults, I can’t bring myself to hate it. I believe it’s a film suited to be forgotten and, personally, I found little more to it than the average Hallmark television Christmas movie (albeit with particularly likable yet misused talents). Despite that, it’s a film that came and went and kept me engaged in spite of itself, a check-your-brain-at-the-door type film that coasts on charm and enthusiasm for a superficial, easygoing movie.