“Klaus” stars Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack, Will Sasso, and Norm Macdonald. Released in theaters on November 8, 2019, followed by a Netflix release on November 15, 2019, the film is about a postman who befriends a toy-making carpenter.
The film features the directorial debut of Sergio Pablos, who served as a character designer for Disney films such as “A Goofy Movie”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and “Tarzan”. He is also known for creating the “Despicable Me” franchise. It’s never too early to celebrate the holidays, and Netflix knows it. The popular streaming service is putting out several new Christmas-themed content to get viewers into the spirit of the season, including a new animated film about Santa Claus. Serving as the first original animated feature from Netflix, the film has character designer Sergio Pablos attempting to portray 2D animation in a unique way, which happened to be one of the main reasons why it immediately captured my attention. While I respect the art of CGI animation for its immersive world building and breathtaking visuals, I also have a soft spot for 2D animation for its vibrant colors and its undeniable sense of wonder, with the prime examples being the films from Disney and Studio Ghibli. With CGI dominating the animation department, the filmmakers took the easy route and turn to Netflix to distribute their traditionally-animated film since 2D animated films haven’t made that much money nowadays. This is also another Netflix film that’s released in theaters before making its way to the streaming service, so it looks like it’s going after the Oscar for animation as well as some Oscars for their live-action films, like “The Irishman”. Question is, is it good enough to earn it?
Serving as a fictional origin story of Santa Claus, the film’s story centers on Jesper (Schwartzman), a young, selfish member of a wealthy family who distinguishes himself as the worst student in the royal postal academy. He is sent by his father to an island where he is tasked to post 6,000 letters in one year, or risk being cut off from the family. Unfortunately for him, this is easier said than done when he discovers that the island’s town of Smeerensburg consists of two feuding families: The Krums and the Ellingboes. When he meets Klaus (Simmons), a carpenter who makes toys, Jesper sees this as an opportunity to accomplish his task. During the process, he learns that one good deed can spark another. There are plenty of films and specials that depict different versions of how the big man in red came to be, ranging from the “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” stop-motion special from 1970 to Disney’s “The Santa Clause” with Tim Allen. “Klaus” appeared to be no exception as it provided an original and heartfelt take on the early days of the traditional holiday, and I have to say that it’s definitely worth a watch during the holiday season. While the story does have some familiar elements that are impossible to ignore, “Klaus” was able to use these elements to develop the right amount of emotion and heart that you would normally get from a Disney 2D animated film from the 90s and the classic Christmas specials that came before it. It’s well-told, it’s cleverly funny, and best of all, it’s simply charming. I was a little concerned that some of the film’s mean-spirited moments (including Jesper) might become a nuisance and overshadow its charm. However, I was surprised to see that it made these moments bearable. Although I’m not a fan of the families’ leaders, I thought the main characters were likable and nicely-developed. The cast who voiced the characters were very talented and full of delight, including Schwartzman as Jesper and Simmons as Klaus. The next thing I want to mention is the animation, which is a mixture of classic 2D animation and CGI animation. From what I read about it, it sounded like they worked really hard in recreating the classic feel of hand-crafted animation using modern technology. Luckily for them, all that hard work has paid off. The animation in “Klaus” is one of the main reasons why it deserves some attention. From its character designs to the environments, the film succeeded in delivering a gorgeous visual treat that resembles the traditionally-animated Christmas classics from the past. Yeah, it’s that good. I would also give it credit for not relying so much on the usual kid-friendly jokes to gather some chuckles from the young ones, and by that, I mean fart jokes and pop culture references. The humor is suitable (and hilarious) enough to entertain the kids as well as the adults.
Overall, “Klaus” is another heartwarming and beautiful holiday-themed film that’ll get you into the spirit of Christmas in no time. The film’s plot is sweet and clever, the characters are likable, the humor hits all the right funny bones, and the animation is irresistibly incredible. In a year where most of the animated content are sequels, this is another original animated film that deserves to be on everyone’s radar, especially people who are into the art of animation. If you enjoy watching Christmas films and specials during the holidays and you have Netflix, this film is worth checking out.