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Movie Review

For Noelle Kringle, Christmas is the best day of the year. She loves the homemade cards, the presents, the candy canes, the presents, the reindeer—and did I mention the presents? Of course, you can hardly blame her for this obsession, since her dad is none other than Kris Kringle himself.

But this Christmas is a bit different since Noelle’s dad recently passed away. Now, the pom-pom falls to her big brother, Nick, and he is just not ready.

Noelle’s job since she was a little girl has been to lift the Christmas spirit of everyone around her and to help her brother prepare for the responsibility of being Santa Claus. So when she sees big bro on the verge of a mental breakdown, she harmlessly suggests that he take the weekend off and go someplace warm.

Only problem is, Nick doesn’t come back.

It’s been a week, nobody has heard from Nick, and everyone is pointing the finger at Noelle. Why would she tell him to leave? “I just said for the weekend!” she says. But no one seems to be listening.

So Noelle takes it upon herself to launch a rescue mission, bring back Santa and save Christmas.

Positive Elements

Upon leaving the North Pole for the first time in her life, Noelle is overwhelmed by the real world. Seeing people fighting, starving and homeless crushes her spirit. However, she keeps up her jolly attitude and manages to find hope in the selfless acts of others: a young girl whose Christmas wish is for her mom to find a job and a boy who just wants his family to be together for the holiday. By helping to make these dreams come true, Noelle experiences the unique joy of what it means to give presents, rather than get them.

Noelle also inspires everyone with her Christmas cheer. Even when her brother insists that he can’t fulfill the role of Santa, she encourages him and pushes him to try harder. Sure, she can be a bit overbearing at times (such as when Noelle pushes Nick down a chimney, despite his claustrophobia), but she eventually apologizes and tells him that she loves him.

A boy hides his interest in cooking from his dad, because the boy doesn’t want to disappoint him. However, Noelle convinces the youngster to open up, and he learns that his dad really cares about him and all of the things he is interested in. His dad also overcomes his fear about awkwardness with his ex-wife in order to spend Christmas with his son.

When a man says he only believes what he can see, Noelle’s nanny, Polly, asks him, “Can you see love? Can you see sorrow? Can you see joy?” She tells him that these feelings are more real than anything and encourages him to overcome his skepticism about Santa and Noelle.

[Spoiler Warning] Longstanding North Pole tradition dictates that Santa’s duties must be passed from one male heir to the next, and that the North Pole is to be governed by male Elf Elders. These traditions are broken when Noelle herself takes up her dad’s mantle and appoints the first female Elf Elder as well. And while Noelle experiences some self-doubt at first, when children begin to accept her as Santa despite being a woman, she takes on the role with pride, and everyone in the North Pole supports her.

Spiritual Content

In this movie about Christmas, there (sadly) isn’t any mention of Christ. What there is instead is lots and lots of Santa-themed magic, such as flying reindeer, the ability to tell from a look whether someone is “naughty” or “nice” and the mysterious “twinkle” in Santa’s eye. Santa can magically understand and speak all languages (including sign language) and to intuitively know what people want for Christmas. Santa can also expand any chimney by tapping it with a magical candy cane and singing the first line of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

But the most important tool in Santa’s magical toolbelt is the Santa suit. Noelle and Nick are taught that the suit will magically fit Santa when Santa fits the role.

Santa visits people at a homeless shelter inside a church. Nick comments on Noelle’s “shakti” or “female energy” (a reference to a Hindu goddess). Santa intrudes on a Jewish family. A man says he is Buddhist. Nick works at a yoga studio with Buddha statues in the background. A woman blows out a candle at a yoga studio, and it is indicated that this has negative spiritual connotations. People meditate in a circle. Two people use the traditional Hindu greeting “namaste.”

Noelle owns a pair of magical boots that turn into ice skates when she clicks her heels. We also learn that Frosty the Snowman is “real,” but the Tooth Fairy and Mother Nature are not.

Sexual Content

Santa and Mrs. Claus make kissy faces at each other, and Noelle teases, “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus.” When a woman is given a friendly hug by her crush, she pulls him in for a second, longer hug. When Noelle finds a man wearing shorts with his Santa suit, she scolds him, telling him to put some pants on.

Women wear yoga pants and slightly revealing workout tops. A woman says that she must not have dated a man since he looks “nice and polite.”

Violent Content

A woman gets into an argument with a mall Santa and rips off his hat and wig. When a police officer comes to escort her away, she kicks him and is arrested. Later, her brother tries to prove her innocence by explaining that beating him up as a kid was considered “fun,” and she didn’t know any better.

Both Nick and Noelle fall down chimneys; Nick claims he isn’t OK after one such tumble. They also each crash Santa’s magical sleigh on different occasions. (One crash results in a large, decorative nutcracker losing its head.) Noelle smacks her brother in anger when she finds him. Someone repeatedly breaks a gavel by hitting it too hard.

Crude or Profane Language

Noelle repeatedly exclaims “Oh my garland!” Someone else says “Holy night.” There is one misuse of God’s name.

Drug and Alcohol Content

In an attempt to relieve herself from the harsh Arizona heat, Noelle grabs a frosty, colorful drink from a restaurant server’s tray, not realizing that it is alcoholic. She takes a large gulp but promptly spits it back out, claiming that there’s something wrong with it and telling others not to drink it either.

Other Negative Elements

When Nick begins to fail in his Santa duties and the workshop falls behind schedule, rather than tell him directly, his mom whispers about it behind his back. When he overhears this criticism, he panics and makes the decision to run away. After he leaves, everyone quite cruelly blames Noelle and starts to treat her poorly. (A restaurant claims they are full when there are clearly open seats, and a store refuses to give her a family discount.) These actions cause Noelle to hide away in her bedroom and cry.

In a poor attempt to revolutionize the North Pole’s gift-giving system, Gabe (Nick and Noelle’s cousin who becomes Santa in Nick’s absence) uses his tech skills to create an algorithm that will determine who is “naughty” and who is “nice.” The system puts kids on the “naughty” list for infractions such as failing to floss, not making the bed and refusing to eat vegetables. When Mrs. Claus tries to convince her nephew that everyone makes mistakes, he agrees but insists they still shouldn’t receive gifts. Rather, he emails his evaluations to the children of the world, informing them of how to improve for the following year.

After telling the police who she is, Noelle is held for a psychiatric evaluation. A friend locks a police officer out of the room so she can escape.

Nick places children on the “naughty” and “nice” list based on their physical appearances rather than their merits. Against the town council’s orders, Noelle steals Santa’s sleigh in order to rescue her brother. Reindeer steal food from people during their stay in the real world. Someone litters.

A private investigator informs a man that his brother stole all of his money. A woman refuses to let a stranger borrow her phone because of “germs.” Someone gets sunblock in their eye. When a spoiled little girl is rude to Santa, Noelle calls her out for making fun of a girl with a lisp. A woman faints after seeing Santa’s sleigh flying.

Conclusion

Full of hope and love for her family, Noelle is a pleasant enough person from the very beginning. She certainly always made the “nice” list. However, she was also a bit spoiled and selfish. She couldn’t fathom a person who didn’t love Christmas as much as she did. But after learning about the struggles of other people and seeing that Christmas often brought up sad memories instead of good ones, she realizes she could be doing so much more.

Noelle understands that Christmas isn’t about the presents, it’s about the people and what you can do for them. She confesses that Christmas is still her favorite day of the year despite learning that many people aren’t fond of it. But she also admits that this cherished holiday can’t solve all the world’s problems, as she used to believe. What it can do is bring us hope and inspire us to be nice. And while being nice might not seem like a big deal, it can make all the difference to someone who is hurting.

Noelle is packed with messages about the importance of being kind. But it’s also all about Santa and the fairy-tale magic surrounding that mythical being. Some Christian families might find that emphasis a bit excessive, since the real Reason for the Season is never even mentioned.

That said, this Disney+ original film also reminds of us to find joy in giving rather than getting, a message that’s in harmony with the real Christian message … even if Jesus is nowhere to be seen.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Anna Kendrick as Noelle Kringle; Shirley MacLaine as Elf Polly; Bill Hader as Nick Kringle; Kingsley Ben-Adir as Jake Hapman; Julie Hagerty as Mrs. Claus; Billy Eichner as Gabriel Kringle; Maceo Smedley as Alex Hapman; Diana Maria Riva as Helen Rojas; Michael Gross as Elder Elf Abe; Billy Griffith as Elder Elf Billy

Director

Marc Lawrence ( )

Distributor

Disney+

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

November 12, 2019

On Video

November 12, 2019

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Emily Baker

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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