This review comes from my Letterboxd profile, where I review all the movies I watch.
Yeah, yeah, I know, it's not Christmas, but give me a break, I need to watch more Academy Award nominees and this is nominated for Animated Feature, so here we go. Besides, I'm the kind of guy that will listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas movies any time of year and not care because to me, the capturing of the Christmas spirit doesn't just have to be in December. This movie's capturing of the Christmas spirit is probably the most perfect I've ever seen in an animated movie. The best way to describe this film is charming. That's really the best word -- charming. It just puts a smile on your face the whole way through, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't choke up a couple of times during some of the more emotional sequences toward the end. In particular, the actual ending to this movie... god, what a powerful ending that perfectly ties the logic of this movie's Christmas into the Christmas we know and love today. Man, what a fantastic ending.
This is my personal favorite performance from Jason Schwartzman. Admittedly, this is the only non-Wes Anderson film I've seen of his, but I still absolutely adored his vocal performance in this. There was an aspect of the tone of this movie and the way Schwartzman voiced his character and the way that character moved and showed facial expressions that reminded me quite a bit of The Emperor's New Groove. Now, admittedly, I didn't love that movie, but I appreciated that movie's overall tone, and that's kind of what this film reminded me of. All of the voicework is great, though, and it's particularly great to hear the man who plays Klaus in this film. I actually didn't know who played Klaus going in, so if you don't want to know, skip to the next paragraph, but I want to talk about it because it's such perfect casting: the man who plays Klaus here is J.K. Simmons. I can't see him playing a live action version of this character, but his voice is just so perfect for this role. Hearing him actually laugh as Klaus is just the most satisfying thing ever, and he lends a lot of heart and soul to the role. The teamwork between him and Schwartzman in this movie led to some really funny and heartwarming moments between these characters, and it was really fun to see that.
Now, unfortunately, this film's story isn't ALL that original in the grand scheme of things. It's executed in a different enough way for it to feel like an original movie, but there's not many major plot beats you won't be able to predict while watching this film. It's basically the same kind of "liar revealed" arc you've seen in most kids movies for the last two decades, which did kind of annoy me, but not enough to detract from my personal enjoyment of the story. In terms of actual flaws, there are some things this movie does end up glossing over. For the most part, it does a great job explaining how certain traditions of the famous character of Santa Claus started in the context of this universe, but it completely glosses over how people know to put Christmas trees in their house or how they know that Christmas as a holiday is going to be even more special than what's already been happening to them, stuff like that just sometimes gets glossed over. There's a whole thing about how the people need to pay the main character a penny to send their letters and many of them just don't pay, we never really find out why Klaus decided to isolate himself from the town (or even what it was like living there for him in the first place), and as much as I like Zara Larsson's "Invincible," its placement in the actual film felt a smidge over-the-top to me.
Along with that, there's one thing I truly don't understand about this universe. There's apparently a rivalry between the two main families in this movie (another obvious cliché) and for some reason, even when they have the chance to actually abandon their rivalries and get along, they still decide to keep fighting and making each other's lives miserable. Why on earth would people actually WANT a town to not only be founded with bitterness and cruelty, but to KEEP it that way? That makes absolutely no sense to me. As great as Joan Cusack and Will Sasso are in their respective roles, the fact that their characters actually WANT their rivalries to keep going just seems really crazy to me. They have the opportunity to end thousands and thousands and years of fighting and they want to keep it going?! Why?!
Aside from that, though, this movie is a total blast all the way through. At first, the animation did take some getting used to and I wasn't completely sucked in by the tone, but by the time we got to the first action sequence, I was absolutelyy intrigued. Along with that, about 15 minutes into this movie, my mom got curious and asked if I could put it on the TV so that she, my dad, and I could all watch it. The animation REALLY pops on an HD screen, so if you can watch this movie in HD, please do so. Once I got used to the style of it, I thought the animation in this film was spectacular. After we watched it, my mom said this might actually be her personal favorite Christmas movie now, and I can completely understand why. This might end up being one of my favorites, too, and is probably gonna end up being my personal favorite ANIMATED Christmas movie.
While I would say that I Lost My Body is probably the better film, I think I personally enjoyed Klaus more. It's charming, it's beautifully animated, it's really-well voice-acted, it's a fantastic re-telling of the Santa Claus mythos that respects the original myths while also giving us something unique and fun, and it captures the Christmas spirit perfectly. Also, can I just say how amazing it is for a movie to incorporate a rich father who makes his son do the things he does not because he's overbearing or snobby or is disappointed in the fact that he's not like him or something, but because he legitimately cares about his son and wants him to learn legitimate, real life lessons? Can I just say how amazing that is? That father character may not get a lot of screen time, but I love the fact that he's actually a GOOD father. That's refreshing to me. I definitely choked up quite a few times during the third act of this movie and the ending made this film even better for me. This is probably gonna be a yearly re-watch for my family from now on.
Letter Grade: A-