Review: Klaus (2019)

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Klaus (2019)

Directed by: Sergio Pablos, Carlos Martínez Lopez | 96 minutes | animation, adventure | Original voice cast: Jason Schwartzman, JK Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Neda Margrethe Labba, Sergio Pablos, Norm MacDonald, Joan Cusack, Evan Agos, Sky Alexis, Jaeden Bettencourt

The longer humanity is on Earth, the more mysteries it solves. We now know everything about atoms, cells, organisms, planets and black holes. Yet our knowledge is not infinite. Until 2019, for example, we did not know exactly who Santa Claus is and who ever sent him the first letter with wishes. With the release of the animated film ‘Klaus’, this riddle has also been solved. A riddle that begins at the end of the 19th century, in the Arctic town of Smeerenburg.

So it is. One day, the spoiled millionaire son Jesper is banished to the far north by his father. In the wooden town of Smeerenburg he becomes a postman, and he is not allowed to go home until he has delivered 6000 letters. But in Smeerenburg nobody writes letters. In the hilly, stone-cold town, two family clans fight each other every day. You don’t need letters for that. What to do? Perhaps the solution lies in a house just outside the town. There lives the lonely hermit Klaus, a man who once made toys.

What happens next in ‘Klaus’ we don’t know, the story has too many surprises, too many witty finds for that. We do learn, however, between acts the origins of all Christmas traditions, from the flying reindeer and the red Santa suit to the inevitable ho-ho-ho’s.

What makes ‘Klaus’ such a strong Christmas film is that it strikes the perfect middle ground between two extremes. On the one hand the sugary Christmas films as we know them since the invention of cinema, on the other hand the dark variants, such as ‘Bad Santa’ and ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’. ‘Klaus’ has its dark sides (the village feud, the rather filthy fish shop/school) but it remains within the confines of the family film. And unlike in the Hollywood Christmas film, the sensitive scenes here are more touching than sentimental.

Also in terms of animation ‘Klaus’ is in the middle. The drawings are more angular than the average Hollywood animation, but never really abstract. Upon arrival in the element-ravaged village of Smeerenburg, we see many grays and whites, with a single colorful element. The more the film progresses, the lighter and more colorful the images. Moreover, the landscapes are often works of art, especially when a small figure moves in them.

For example, ‘Klaus’ is a nice bright spot in the predictable range of Christmas films. A witty, visually appealing, intelligent and moving film about one of the last enigmas on Earth. A Merry Christmas? Then you shouldn’t miss this movie.

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