Director: Christopher Columbus
Look, I polished off at least 3/4ths of a bottle of wine while watching this, but it seemed great at the time - both the wine and the movie.
Stuart had vouched for the first Christmas Chronicles back in 2018, and it was genuinely much better than I figured. Kurt Russell as Santa is just a good idea. The Christmas Chronicles 2 ups the budget, expands the concepts, and adds Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus. And, again, it just works. I'll refer you to the link above for what I think this series does that makes it a cut above 90% of the "Santa" genre of movies of the past 20 years or so.*
This installment, of what I assume will be a once per two years thing for a while, sees Kate Pierce from the first movie in Cancun with her mom and brother from the first film. Mom is now dating Tyrese Gibson, who flew everyone down - but Kate has understandable feelings about (a) not being home for Christmas and (b) fears of Mom forgetting Dad (who had passed before the first movie). Now, the set-up on this one is... a bit wonky. I don't see even the drunkest parents leaving their under-18 kids alone in Mexico for 24 hours, especially one as sensitive as Tyrese's son, Jack.
But an elf-gone-bad has set the whole thing up, and he hi-jacks Kate and Jack to the North Pole so he can use them as a distraction to get into Santa's Village and EXACT ELF REVENGE.
The movie splits into Jack learning he can be courageous (he's a bit of a wiener at the film's outset), and works through Kate's far more complex situation with the power of Christmas multiplied by the power of time travel.
This film builds on the terrific design from the first film - giving us a wider view into Santa's village and the workshops contained therein. I dig the scale and decision to roughly ground things - the elves (which look like Finnish Magwai) kind of scuttling around everywhere, but not living inside cupcakes or anything. It looks weirdly practical, and I very much enjoyed the "let me check my biases" moment as the kids ask why the village isn't named after Mrs. Claus, credited with the design of the town.
Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus is, honestly, as much of a kick as Russell as Santa. It does not hurt to have two people with decades of cohabitation together playing a couple of several hundred years, but Hawn's sunny disposition and capacity for indicating depths with a glance is well served here in telling the adult audience a lot that might be going over the kid audience's heads.
The kid actors aren't threatening anyone to nab Oscar nomination slots, but Columbus is no slouch when handling kids, and between a good script and getting the most out of his kid actors, he manages to also let Kate have moments of growth and insight - non-verbally! She, like, listens and processes and does not have to say out loud what she's learning at each step.
But, yeah, this isn't a heavy drama or anything. There's plenty of goofy good stuff. You can't go wrong with Darlene Love showing up to join in the requisite Santa musical number (I think Jamie heard me gasp when she first appeared for what I assumed was a cameo).
It's just weird how far we lower the bar for Christmas content that anything remotely competent (this *is* Chris Columbus, who brought us Harry Potter, Home Alone, etc...) and isn't just indicating what they would like to convey, but actually delivering those messages like a real movie comes off like Avengers: Endgame.
PS: I found the flying hyenas delightful
*I do like Fred Claus more than you'd figure