Only a week ago I was lamenting the state of Christmas cinema, once again churning out forgettable schmaltz it was. While not a perfect film by any means, Gil Kenan’s A Boy Called Christmas is a step in the right direction, a lovely fantasy intent on remaking the Santa Claus myth and mostly succeeding at it. Surprising depth and high production value go a long way in enlivening what is at first glance a relatively traditional tale of a young boy on a perilous adventure. There’s plenty of talk of “believing is seeing,” beloved elves, and the magic of Christmas, but there’s also talk of truth, prejudice, and profound quests to discover whether Elfhelm (you can imagine) is a real place. A tremendous cast overshadow an occasionally clunky narrative. Maggie Smith is fun and full of mirth, but I’m not certain what a pixie is doing here, nor why Michael Huisman’s beard looks 2021 trim. Random anachronisms remind me of September’s dreadful Cinderella update. Fortunately, this is much better thanks to the likes of Toby Jones, Sally Hawkins, and Kristen Wiig, and moments such as when little boy Nikolas flies across an Arctic gulf on his reindeer Blitzen are underscored by an ethereal silence that is eerie and touching. If you must succumb to Christmas cheer in the form of made-for-TV movies, you could do much worse than A Boy Called Christmas.
P.S. Could’ve done without the talking mouse, voiced by Stephen Merchant, who speaks in a far-too-modern British cadence. Mice are cuter when they’re silent.