A simple act of kindness always sparks another, even in a frozen, faraway place. When Smeerensburg’s new postman, Jesper, befriends toymaker Klaus, their gifts melt an age-old feud and deliver a sleigh full of holiday traditions.
More often than not, Christmas movies can come off as cheesy tales with teachings that ring false due to its overly sweet and manufactured style full of only handsome people going though the most saccharine and unlikely of situations possible – for evidence of this just go through any Hallmark or Netflix Original Holiday film.
So it’s a pleasure (and surprise) when the holiday season gifts us a wonderful film like Sergio Pablo’s Klaus; a heartwarming and funny story that feels true to the seasons values that also features some of the most refreshing, delightful and breathtaking animation to come along in quite some time.
It’s a shame that it’s only seeing a release via Netflix as this may be one of the most gorgeously animated films in years and would have been a pleasure to appreciate on a big screen, with its use of hand-drawn animation that is only made all the more beautiful by cutting-edge lighting and texturing tools.
Besides being lovely to look at, it finds a balance for both young and old ones, full of funny and visually arresting imagery that will entertain children while its ingenious and amusing dialogue will keep adults laughing. Furthermore, it goes through some dark and mature reflections on death, loneliness and growing up that is never too scary or dense for younger audiences yet interesting for older ones.
Although some of the themes and characters seen here may be nothing new – the spoiled child who must learn to be a grown up, helping those in need, the mysterious and wise old mentor -, Klaus is able to escape these tired tropes through its imaginative visual elements and unique approach to a story that has rarely been told: How Santa Claus came to be.
It’s crazy to think that such a legendary and well known character has never had an origin story told through this medium. Pablo and his team capitalize on this gap to create one that not only explores and attempts to make sense of its traditions (elves, sleigh, flying reindeer, etc.) but more importantly one that humanizes this figure with an emotional and affecting arc.
This arc is elevated with the wonderful work done by its voice cast, namely Jason Schwartzman as our protagonist Jesper and J.K. Simmons as Klaus himself. Schwartzman perfectly captures the immature and selfish side of his character while still making you root for him to grow. On the other side, Simmons gruff voice is a perfect fit for the archetype of a Santa we all know and love who also manages to imbue his performance with a sense of melancholy, wisdom and warmth.
Christmas classics like It’s A Wonderful Life, Die Hard and Home Alone have been well established by this point with perhaps the last one being 2003’s Elf. These, among many others, are part of that list of films for families to enjoy year after year as they’re huddled around the couch with a large cup of hot chocolate and a big plate of homemade cookies.
It looks like it’s time for that list to be updated with Klaus.
With delightfully heartwarming, funny and unique take on Santa’s origin story told through stunning traditional 2D animation, Klaus establishes itself as a new Christmas classic and a cinematic gift well worth unwrapping for many holiday seasons to come.