It’s a holiday tradition, somehow: Every winter Netflix releases a bizarro Christmas movie starring a vastly overqualified legend. Last year it was Pottersville, in which two-time Oscar nominee and anti-Trump quote machine Michael Shannon played a small town man who got drunk on moonshine and pretended to be Bigfoot. This year, Netflix has The Christmas Chronicles, in which Kurt Russell plays a salty St. Nick trapped in Chicago with a broken sleigh.
Actually it’s not bad casting: Russell certainly can grow himself a rad Santa beard. It looks like he never shaved his powerful Hateful Eight super-’stache and just let the rest fill in. (Poor Goldie Hawn, though.)
Then again, what is Snake Plissken doing in a children’s film? Well, that makes sense, too. It’s almost easy to forget this, but the actor is a former child star. In his youth, from the ’60s through the mid-’70s, he was a live-action Disney star, headlining semi-forgotten semi-classics with high-concept premises baked into their titles — movies like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Strongest Man in the World, Superdad, and The Barefoot Executive, in which a chimp proves unexpectedly capable at predicting the next television hit. A possibly apocryphal story has it that Walt Disney’s last words before passing were about young Kurt Russell.
A lot has changed in the last half-century, though. In his 20s, Russell shocked his fanbase with very adult turns in 1979’s TV movie Elvis (in which he played The King), Escape from New York, and the grisly, gory, puke bag remake of The Thing — all directed by John Carpenter. Now, in his 60s, he has the weathered, manly gravitas of a John Wayne, one of his actor heroes.
Hell, Russell somehow manages to look neither embarrassing nor embarrassed in the Christmas Chronicles teaser, even when dancing to James Brown in a club, sharing screen space with cut-rate CGI elves, or bellowing, “Christmas is in trouble” — the latter which makes it sound like Fox News produced the film, not Chris Columbus, the director of Home Alone and the first two Harry Potter movies.
Columbus also wrote Gremlins, another Christmas classic, so maybe there will be more a bit of that in the finished product. We’ll find out when the film drops on the streaming platform on November 22. Although how could it ever top Pottersville, which also featured Christina Hendricks as a furry having an affair with Ron Perlman?