Klaus (2019)

Movie Title: Klaus

Year Released: 2019

Rated: PG

Runtime: 1h 37min

Genre: Animation, Family

Director: Sergio Pablos

Writer: Sergio Pablos, Jim Mahoney, Zach Lewis

Starring: Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Neda Margrethe Labba, Sergio Pablos, Norm Macdonald, Joan Cusack, Sam McMurray

Review: After proving himself to be the worst student at the academy, a postman named Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) is sent to a frozen town in the North where he discovers a reclusive toymaker named Klaus (J.K. Simmons).

Klaus is another new holiday film, and I think time will be kind to it, as it's got all the makings of a Christmas classic. In the same vein as A Boy Called Christmas, this is an atypical Santa Claus origin story. In this film, Santa Claus aka Klaus is a reclusive woodcutter in the frozen island town of Smeerensburg. Sent there to be the town's new postman, is Jesper Johansen. Jesper is a spoiled, entitled man who tries to get by on his father's postal empire while doing as little work as possible. Fed up with his son's lack of motivation, Jesper must go to Smeerensburg and deliver 6,000 letters within a year or be cut off from his family financially. Speaking of being cut off, but Smeerensburg is cut off from the rest of the world as a frozen, desolate dead zone inhabited by feuding families adhering to ancient traditions that perpetuate hate. Essentially, Jesper's task is almost impossible, if not for a little holiday cheer to bring the town together.

The film is beautifully animated, and writer/director/animator Sergio Pablos decided to use a 2D animation style to evoke nostalgia from the likes of classic '90s Disney films. This movie feels like a '90s Disney movie. There's a lot of heart, holiday cheer, and fun for children, but it is also tonally darker at times that caters more towards adults.

We meet Klaus, who essentially lives as a hermit and works as a woodcutter. In his earlier years, he was an acclaimed toy maker, but life's hardships have left him jaded and broken. To bring all of this full circle and hatch a plan to deliver his 6,000 letters, Jesper realizes that he can bring joy to the children of Smeerensburg, by having them write letters to Klaus in exchange for toys. And just like that, the tale of a large, bearded man who delivers toys when written letters comes into focus. Other Santa Claus tropes like flying reindeer and chimney entrances happen mostly by accident, and the icon is born. The town begins a rapid resurgence until the old feuding heads of a couple of Smeerensburg's most fabled families attempt to stage a coup to re-instill their old, archaic ideologies. What ensues is a battle of good vs. evil that is entertaining, at times mature, but also very fulfilling for viewers of all ages.

Jason Schwartzman and J.K. Simmons have great chemistry as Jesper and Klaus respectively. Rashida Jones is great as a weary school teacher turned fishmonger who's just trying to get by with what the town throws at her. I also really loved Norm Macdonald who's given the most Norm Macdonald role possible. He's essentially playing himself in the form of a silly, sarcastic ferryman who enjoys misfortune at the expense of others.

Klaus is a breath of fresh air among all of the Christmas movies that have come out in recent years. It feels like an old classic, but delivers as a heartwarming -- sometimes tragic -- tale about using holiday cheer to bring people of all walks of life together. It's a much-needed spin on the holidays, and a unique twist on the conventions of Santa Claus. I cannot recommend this film enough. Head on over to Smeerensburg, write Klaus a letter, hand it to Jesper, and immerse yourself into a world of heartwarming holiday cheer!

Stars (out of 4):

Fun Fact: Klaus is the first animated film from Netflix to be nominated for an Academy Award. The film was shopped around to various studios beginning in April 2015, but was deemed "too risky" until Netflix acquired the rights in November 2017.


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