by E. McDonnell
*** 3 Stars
‘I actually didn’t know whether I was watching a Christmas film or not and for about 20 minutes I was actually freaked out!’
Director: Sergio Pablos Actors: Jason Schwartzman, J.K Simmons, Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack Plot Synopsis: A simple act of kindness always sparks another. A selfish postman and a reclusive toy-maker, Klaus, form an unlikely friendship delivering joy to a cold, dark town that desperately needs it.
Klaus is not your typical Christmas movie. On paper, it is a new animated PG movie (important for later) set at Christmas about how letters are delivered to the North Pole. However, this is not what Klaus is about. It is a movie that wants to hold its own amongst all movies, not only Christmas classics. The animation is beautiful and feels fresh and new and the origin story of Father Christmas is inventive and clever but in an attempt to be different, the film tries to incorporate too much that misses the mark. Not all of the parts of the film fit properly making for a disjointed experience.
It is very much a movie of two parts, apart from an engrossing opening scene that is very clever following the life of a letter. The first half was awkward to watch as it felt as if was being pushed for comedy which felt too imposed and forced. The introduction of the postman is rushed and I found him annoying. I felt that you don’t root for him until the end, which I know was the point but they could have at least made him ‘actually’ funny rather than arrogant and weird, so that it didn’t take an hour to warm up to him. The most cringe-worthy part was that the jokes were not funny and many over complicated words and phrases, as well as innuendos (why) that go over kid’s heads and fall flat for adults meaning everyone is now confused and cringing at what is going on.
The father then sends him on a typical journey to make him buck up his game to good old Surrensburg. Aside from the wonderful animation and world building and, of course, great jokes to do with complaining about the weather and how much stuff he has (really funny stuff), his entrance in the town was, to put it bluntly, disturbing. I actually didn’t know whether I was watching a Christmas film or not and for about 20 minutes I was actually freaked out! The characters looked weird, their actions were weirder and I get the town was meant to be cold and dark and disturbing but you get that straight away with the great animation and ominous silence, without the strange appearance and goings on of the characters. I mean REALLY strange! The film at this point had more in common with the equally scary and disturbing Coraline and Boxtrolls (which are definitely NOT children’s films!)
When I chose to watch this film, no way did I think I was in in for a The Nightmare before Christmas style movie that should definitely not be a PG film (watch it to find out why)? There is also some REALLY ill-timed, probably badly ‘studio advised’ music, I mean a ‘Don’t Mess with the Postman Rap’ in a Christmas film-SERIOUSLY???!! I didn’t warm to any of the town’s people because of how down right odd they were, even the love interest, which is a predictable story-line (there is only 1 normal girl in the village) and is rushed as the characters go from hating each others guts – literally to star crossed lovers in 30 minutes. There are some downright brutal and disturbing parts and it is not until we meet Klaus in a mistaken horror-like sequence that the film begins to look a little more like Christmas (see what I did there)…
The rest of the film is great and is cleverly put together, again, beautifully animated throughout with forest and snowy landscapes and decorated Christmas markets that make you feel ever more Christmas-sy, part of the film’s central appeal and it looks like something straight out of a storybook. We actually start to like the Postman as he starts to help Klaus and the children of the town (they REALLY need it) and through their deliveries, the things associated with the image of Father Christmas start to become clear e.g. The flying sleigh and coming down the chimney which is very inventive. The town ultimately coming together and its transformation are great to watch, as are the messages of the film such as the naughty list, in which a bully is punished by not getting presents, and the ‘one selfless act creates another’ message which shows how being selfish and narrow minded makes the world such a dark place.
They are very good villains but they freaked me out A LOT. Having these themes come from the imagination of the children in the village and the story being told from their point of view is so much more emotional and engrossing as you care about them more that the adult characters, especially the little Inuit family, who help Klaus and are basically legends, with one of the cutest characters on film I’ve ever seen- she’s so cute! Ultimately it shows how children bring laughter to the world – and the postman, whose jokes actually become funny by the end! Another great edition to the film is the heart-breaking and emotional backstory for Klaus, who is a great character making the ending something beautiful and following a very dramatic and tense – but still great final act, works really well as it is very sensitive, natural and may be even bring a tear to some people’s eyes.
Overall, the movie is great and beautifully put together with some great scenes, characters and animation but the first act is just so flat and un-engaging. The principal idea of the plot is so creative and different from other Christmas films however the film wasn’t orchestrated in that way- those freaky faces of Surrensburg will forever be ingrained into my memory…
Klaus is currently available on Netflix and was rated PG by the BBFC.