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Movie Review

Jesper has only ever known the posh life. As the son of the director of the Royal Postal Academy, Jesper prefers to spend his days ordering room service and sleeping on silk sheets. Which would explain why he’s just failed out of his dad’s rigid school, again!

But the good ol’ days come to an abrupt end when Jesper’s father ships him off to a violent, eerie, dilapidated village in the north called Smeerensburg. His assignment? Create a functional postal service in that town, or be cut off from the family fortune forever.

No problem, Jesper thinks at first. But when he arrives in Smeerensburg he soon realizes that the people can’t be reasoned with; in fact, they don’t care about sending or receiving letters at all because they hate one another!

But not everyone in Smeerensburg is so embittered. One day, a little boy gives Jesper a picture of what he hopes for: happiness and joy. Jesper, unsure of what to do with the letter, takes it with him to a woodsman’s house, far out in the country, in one last vain attempt at getting someone to write something.

But when Jesper sees the Woodsman known as Klaus, he’s terrified by his giant stature. In a panic, he flees back to town, dropping the picture and leaving it to be discovered by Klaus, a lonely toy maker who has forgotten his passion and his need for human connection.

Stirred by the little boy’s drawing, Klaus finds Jesper and forces him to deliver a toy to the young lad. And what starts as one gift, turns into an act of selflessness that changes Jesper, Klaus and the entire town of Smeerensburg forever.

Positive Elements

Jesper doesn’t always have the right motivation, but he learns over time how to work hard, how to understand those around him and how to selflessly love others. This all begins thanks to Jesper’s dad, who forces him out of a life of privilege and prosperity into a rough town where he hopes Jesper will learn the importance of responsibility.

Once, Jesper tells a naughty, mean boy that Klaus sees everything and that if his behavior doesn’t improve, he won’t receive any gifts like the other children. When the boy and other children hear this, they begin doling out acts of service to help one another and to receive gifts. And what starts as an act of self-service turns into a series of selfless acts of kindness that change the nature of Smeerensburg forever.

Jesper convinces Klaus to continue making toys for children and, in turn, Klaus teaches Jesper the importance of a kind act. Klaus, for his part, wakes from his depressed stupor and begins to see the joy and happiness in life. He works diligently to provide toys for kids, as does Jesper; eventually other people begin to help them make and deliver toys as well.

Klaus tells Jesper that “a true act of goodwill always sparks another.” This truism is played out throughout the entirety of the film as children begin to love one another and to help those around them. Once their parents see their acts of love and service, the hatred and prejudices in their hearts begin to melt away, and the town is unified and revitalized.

Another character named Alva starts out as an angry, embittered, former teacher. But as her story unfolds, her passion for teaching is rekindled and she begins a school for the village children. Alva spends her own personal savings to buy the kids school supplies and to turn her school into a loving environment for her students.

All in all, characters in the film learn to value what they have, to love those around them, to work together and to cherish the present.

Spiritual Content

Klaus is led to certain areas around his house and around the town by a magical wind. Later, he says that it’s as if his wife’s spirit is the magical wind that leads him to acts of kindness. [Spoiler Warning] In the end, Klaus “disappears” forever as he follows the magical wind into the light.

Klaus and Jesper’s sleigh gets tossed into the air when they make a wrong turn. A young boy sees the “flying sleigh” and assumes it’s magic, telling all the village children that Klaus is magical.

Sexual Content

Klaus tells the story of how he and his wife wanted lots of children but were never able to conceive. Jesper eventually gets married and has two children. He and his wife snuggle, and she kisses him on the cheek. A captain makes a joke about young love. Alva lovingly kisses Klaus on the cheek.

An angry neighbor pushes a man out of his house while bathing (with his privates covered with bubbles). A row of naked toy bottoms stick out of a wall in remembrance of a time when people “mooned” one another.

Violent Content

Smeerensburg has been the center for generational feuds for, well, generations. The Ellingboe family hates the Krum family, and vice versa. When a town leader wants some violent action, all he has to do is ring a central bell, and villagers from both sides come out to beat one another with axes, guns, hammers, spears and whatever else they can get their hands on. This happens a few times during the film, and though no blood is shed, it’s still fairly violent.

Some villagers look evil and eerie at the film’s start (although this changes as their hearts soften). Two villagers carry a sack into a dark home. (The sack looks like as if holding a dead body, but that’s never made clear.) Villagers yell and scream at one another. Village elders show two kids pictures of the historical evidence that supports the violent feud between the Ellingboes and the Krums.

Jesper is scared of Klaus at first and makes some grim jokes about being chopped up and scattered in the woods. We also hear quips about severed heads, ransom notes and axe murderers.

At the start of the film, Alva works as a fishmonger of sorts. Dead fish hang from every corner of her home; she slices and beheads a few fish (which we see). Klaus tells Jesper that his wife died years ago from an unknown illness. A man breaks a glass in frustration.

Crude or Profane Language

God’s name is misused once. A young kid calls Jesper a “loser” multiple times, and Jesper retaliates by calling him a “brat.” Jesper says, “Man, I hate you” to a boat captain. We hear the word “idiot” and the phrase “shut up” once each.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Jesper jokes about drinking a glass of sherry and tells a joke about “a man who walked into a bar.” A boat captain drinks a mug of what looks to be beer.

Other Negative Elements

The people of Smeerensburg are divided into two clans: The Ellingboes and the Krums. These two families have been sworn enemies for centuries, and town leaders believe it’s their job to carry down the “centuries of hatred,” grudges and mistrust (they continue to do this throughout the entire film). Because of this, the town is literally divided in half. Ellingboe children aren’t allowed to play with Krum children, and vice versa. The parents even keep their kids from going to school together (at first) as they prefer the segregation.

Jesper says that “all children are liars.” He makes a joke about Klaus having a mental illness. A man tells Jesper he’s never seen someone soil his pants and whimper around a love interest. Jesper burns his rear on hot coals.

Conclusion

It’s easy to think that the world is a terrible place that’s only getting worse, especially if we’re always checking the news. But the truth is, one tiny act of love and kindness can influence an entire town—and it only takes one person to ignite change.

This Netflix original starts off with an eerie backdrop and a protagonist you don’t want to root for. But by the end, you’re drawn into the story of how “Santa Claus” came to be. The story suggests that Santa didn’t start out as some magical being floating through the air. Rather, he was a normal man who brought joy and happiness to children across the world with a desire for change and the help of friends.

Yes, there are some truly eerie characters here, as well as rude humor, references to alcohol, mean names and a surprising amount of animated brutality. But these things are used to illustrate a stark contrast, highlighting the importance of kindness and the power of selflessness.

This may not be a movie you want your littles to see, as it can be pretty creepy at times. But with some navigation, it is a movie with the potential to spark some positive conversations.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

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Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Voices of Joan Cusack as Mrs. Krum; Rashida Jones as Alva; J.K. Simmons as Klaus; Jason Schwartzman as Jesper; Will Sasso as Mr. Ellingboe; Norm MacDonald as Mogens; Sergio Pablos as Pumpkin/Olaf

Director

Sergio Pablos ( )

Distributor

Netflix

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

November 8, 2019

On Video

November 8, 2019

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Kristin Smith

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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