Netflix’s “Klaus” is a modern-day Christmas tale, for better or for worse

Graphic by Brenna Flanagan, created through Canva.

Graphic by Brenna Flanagan, created through Canva.

Darius Melton, Opinion Editor

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When the trailer for “Klaus” was uploaded to YouTube back on Oct. 7, there were two stand-out opinions about what went down in the trailer.

Firstly, the animation was a breath of fresh air. In an era where CGI has been deemed the go-to style of animation for Hollywood films (just take a look at what Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks, Blue Sky and Illumination have been up to), a cute little Christmas flick with beautiful hand-drawn animation is something pretty unique.

Those who saw the trailer were almost ready to accept the new film as a modern classic alongside “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” without question…

But then “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco started playing.

The quality of the song has no bearing on the situation; rather, the concern came from the drastic tone shift. It is probably a bit overdone to just drop an old Christmas carol in there like “Carol of the Bells,” but it would admittedly fit the theme better.

“Klaus” premiered in theaters on Nov. 9 and dropped on Netflix on Nov. 15, and despite the mild skepticism, the movie really did keep up its cheerful, wintertime feeling throughout its 97 minute running time.

The biggest carryover from the trailer was the stunning art style. The film shines brightest when showing the significance of gifts, as the Krum boy opening his present and Márgu playing on her sled were both incredibly animated and aided by Sergio Pablos’ directing. Neither toy—the frog or the sled—is something unattainable, but with how well done those scenes were, they seemed like the best toys in the entire world.

Alongside the animation, the voice work was also stupendous. J. K. Simmons as Mr. Klaus was excellent casting, as he brought a gravitas that this version of Santa Claus really needed. Jason Schwartzman and Norm Macdonald were both appropriately annoying in their roles as Jesper and Moggins, respectively. Joan Cusack was also great in her role as the big villain, Mrs. Krum, even if I could not fully disassociate her voice from Jessie’s in “Toy Story.”

The story itself was a nice, different look at the origin story of Santa. In “Klaus,” Santa Claus—known in this film as “Mr. Klaus”—is inspired to start giving his toys out to children by a lazy, self-centered postman named Jesper.

Not only is there a new character introduced to Santa’s lore, but the town that Santa grew up near, Smeerensburg, is also an interesting location that spices up the nature of his character. With Smeerensburg standing as a town perpetually locked in a feud between the Ellingboe and Krum families, Mr. Klaus comes off a lot more hardened in this film than he does in others, almost appearing as if he were a horror movie villain when first introduced.

The darker tone of Smeerensburg in its introduction is very much balanced out by the wondrous tone throughout the rest of the film. The word of Mr. Klaus’ gift-giving being spread across the town and being twisted as it went was really fun, and seeing how Jesper’s role added to the mythos (for example, Jesper is the one who loves cookies and milk) was neat as well.

With the animation, voices and story all great, that brings us back to the soundtrack. After watching the full movie, I have to say that the soundtrack did not end up throwing me off…too much.

The soundtrack grew on me. There were only really two songs and a musical sting, but each one was easier to handle than the last one. “How You Like Me Now?” by The Heavy was the first song that played and was a tough pill to swallow, but the quick hip-hop beat that was “That’s What You Get When You Mess with the Postman” was so short that I did not mind it.

Then comes the inclusion of Zara Larsson’s “Invisible,” which was so well-placed that I did not realize it was playing until it was ending. It definitely amplified the scene rather than take away from it, which quelled some of the fears I had going into the film.

The movie is not perfect (I personally was not into the romance between Jesper and Alva, though that also was not a big part of the movie), but it is most definitely fun. Everyone who worked on this film brought their A-game.

Overall, I think “Klaus” lived up to the bit of hype that it garnered back when the trailer first dropped. It is a movie that is definitely worth a watch, especially for and with kids. Not bad for Sergio Pablos’ directorial debut and Netflix’s first animated feature film.