As much as I usually fight the retreat of Halloween and the onset of the holiday’s tooth and nail, this year I have been welcoming it with open arms. November is a great time for streaming services, like Netflix, to release their new and original holiday content. In the last three years, I have been eyeball deep in the ridiculous story of The Christmas Prince (c’mon Royal Baby!) and this year, Netflix is releasing a new animated feature film, titled KLAUS, which tells us about how the legend began. Grab the tissues, you’re going to need them.
KLAUS was written by Zach Lewis, Jim Mahoney and Sergio Pablos and directed by Pablos (who also did the voices of Pumpkin and Olaf). This has a pretty great cast with Jason Schwartzman as Jesper, J.K. Simmons as Klaus, Rashida Jones as Alva, Neda Margrethe Labba as Margu, Will Sasso as Mr. Ellingboe, Joan Cusack as Mrs. Krum and Norm McDonald as Mogens.
The story follows spoiled and lazy Jesper, the rich son of a royal postmaster who runs the post offices of a country far in the north. When Jesper purposely fails at becoming a postman, he is sent away from his cushy life and silk sheets to Smeerensburg above the Arctic Circle, a frigid and forgotten island where everyone in town hates each other and it is known for its brawls. There is a feud between the Ellingboes and the Krums that have gone on for generations and they consider it a proud part of their heritage. The town is filled with mayhem, vandalism and creepy-ass children who stab snowmen with carrots as they look you straight in the eye. There’s also a teacher in the town named Alva who has given up on trying to teach the children and instead sells fish in an effort to escape.
Jesper needs 6,000 letters mailed through Smeerensburg within a year if he hopes to ever leave and go back to his rich life but no one in town will cooperate until he meets an old hermit in the woods named Klaus. When Klaus sees that a child in town is sad and trapped by the feuds, he sends a toy to make him smile again. From there, everything snowballs as the children begin to forget their ingrained hatred and begin to work together to be “good children” to earn presents from Klaus.
The animation style of this movie was off-putting at first. It is so sharp and jagged (something so opposite of your average round and bubbly Christmas animation) that it seemed more like a Halloween film at times. The voice audio is a bit strange because it seems so much louder than it should be; so much so that it almost doesn’t seem like it belongs in the movie. The voice acting is great but sometimes the voices don’t match the characters. Jane Cusack seems way too young to be the character of Mrs. Krum, even though she does a wonderful job. There are some dark and creepy moments that set the tone for this town, especially when Jesper first arrives. While I never got used to the animation, I will admit that this movie is visually beautiful with a story that is wonderful and even better sound mixing. My favorite moments of the film are the quiet moments when all you hear is the sound of the wind, the swinging and clacking of birdhouses and the rustling of leaves. The music is varied and sweeping from dark and ominous to hopeful and climactic.
We get to see a background story for Klaus that isn’t full of magic but loss, isolation, and hope. The character development in Klaus is quite drastic but not unbelievable. We get to see Jesper, Klaus and Smeerensburg transform through selfless acts as kindness begets kindness. It takes you on a rollercoaster of feelings unlike most holiday movies. Sure, films, like It’s a Wonderful Life, hit you in the feels pretty hard but those are few and far between. Most of the time it’s all the magic of Santa Claus but KLAUS skips the magic for a down to earth look at the consequences of our actions (mostly). The end is a beautiful bow to tie on the story with just a touch of the holiday magic that we have all come to know.
All in all, KLAUS might be one of the best and most unexpected holiday films that I have seen in years. This will satisfy the creepy and the jolly in your life with a beautiful story, strange visuals, hopeful moments, plenty of laughs and a few tears. KLAUS arrives in theaters November 8, 2019 and will be available to stream on Netflix November 15, 2019.