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When Disney+ debuted on November 12, 2019, two Disney+ original films debuted alongside it: the Lady and the Tramp remake and the Marc Lawrence-directed Christmas film, Noelle. Today we take a look at the latter. How does this holiday film fare? Read on to find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The film begins with an introduction to the Kringle family of Christmas fame. The role of “Santa Claus” is a monarchial title, having resided in the same family since day one. After his father’s passing, Nick, played by Bill Hader, is named to be the 23rd Kringle to don the Santa hat and carry on the tradition. His self-confidence and self-interest in the role is noticeably lacking though.
He gets help from his sister, Noelle, played by Anna Kendrick, who does all she can to get him ready to become the next Santa Claus. Noelle has always had the Christmas spirit be it via making Christmas cards or merely spreading cheer. If anyone can get Nick prepared to be Santa, it would be her.
After her unsuccessful coaching, Noelle advises Nick to take the weekend off to find himself and relax. Nick leaves the North Pole, but panic arises when he doesn’t return after the weekend. The Elf Elders, a council of elder elves, decide to pass the position of Santa Claus down to Nick and Noelle’s tech-savvy cousin, Gabe, played by Billy Eichner. Gabe’s tech-friendly ways of making the Santa gig more efficient is disliked by all, especially by Nick and Noelle’s mother, played by Julie Hagerty. His ideas suck the fun, magic, and spirit out of Christmas and messes with generations of tradition.
Noelle decides to go in search of her brother and deduces that he’s gone off to Phoenix, Arizona. She takes the official Santa sleigh and reindeer to go after Nick, but her nanny, Elf Polly, played by Shirley MacLaine, tried to stop her. She’s unable to in time and the two are whisked off to Phoenix and crash into an outdoor mall. The management, assuming them to be Christmas performers, is at first unhappy to see the destruction, but after the reindeer draws crowds, they decide to let them stay. Polly stays at the mall to keep an eye on the reindeer while Noelle goes in search of Nick.
She seeks the help of a detective named Jake Hapman, played by Kingsley Ben-Adir, without giving away her true North Pole identity. He’s at first uninterested in the case (especially after she tries to pay him with golden chocolate), but changes his mind when he notices that Noelle can detect the goodness in others.
He takes her to a local shelter in an attempt to find Nick. There, Noelle comes across people down on their luck for the first time in her life. She even bonds with a deaf girl in a scene reminiscent of the Miracle on 34th Street remake.
Nick isn’t there, but eventually Jake tracks Nick down to a yoga studio. Noelle is grateful and discovers that Nick is actually the owner of that yoga studio. The two are excited to see each other, but Noelle scolds him for scaring her and not coming back. He admits that he’s found what he wants to do and doesn’t feel that he’s right for Santa.
Noelle convinces him to give it a try once more. She gets him to accompany her to the outdoor mall and be a mall Santa for a line of wish-bearing kids. He tries to bond with the kids, unsuccessfully, but Noelle is there to help him out as his elf. Things turn sour though when Jake arrives on the scene and Noelle confesses to him the truth about her identity resulting in Jake just being offended at her “obvious lies”. Not to mention that another paid Santa performer starts a fight with Nick and Noelle resulting in Noelle being arrested.
Noelle is then taken for a psychiatric evaluation since of course, nobody believes her story about being a Kringle. Jake eventually rescues her and only believes her story when he sees the flying sleigh and reindeer being driven by Nick and Polly.
The trio return to the North Pole and everyone is happy to have Nick back. Nick however says that the next Santa should be Noelle. She’s always had the Christmas spirit, can recognize the goodness in others, can bond with children, and even understand the foreign languages the children will speak. Everyone is shocked at the mere utterance of a girl being Santa, but after looking in their by-laws, the Elf Elders declare that there is no stipulation that Santa has to be a male. Noelle is then donned the next Santa Claus.
Not too soon too as it’s now Christmas Eve. She goes off on her gift delivery spree which doesn’t go so well in the beginning. But she soon gains confidence after delivering a gift to the deaf girl as well as giving Jake the gift he always wanted: spending Christmas Day with his son who’s staying at his ex’s house.
The film ends happily with Polly as the first female Elf Elder, Nick opening his own yoga studio at the North Pole, and Noelle happy to continue the Kringle legacy.
And that was Noelle! Honestly, it’s a decent enough film, although not particularly original. It’s not long before similarities are pointed out between it and films like Miracle on 34th Street, Arthur Christmas, Elf, and Fred Claus. (I haven’t even seen the latter two of those, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get the same vibes from them). And it’s not really the film’s fault. After all, how many Santa Claus films can you possibly make without redoing what someone else has already done? There’s only so many aspects to the Santa Claus story you can fiddle around with.
The production design of the North Pole is amazing with such striking colors of red and green! I honestly wish the entire film had taken place there rather than in Phoenix as well.
Also the CG of the animals such as the reindeer was so apparent, but honestly, you don’t really care; you just kinda accept it.
Anna Kendrick gave a good performance as can be expected of her. The only issue I had with her is that her character is criticized as being a “selfish princess”-type character, but not once did I get that vibe from her at all. She seemed incredibly selfless throughout the entire film. I don’t blame Anna for this though; I blame the writing. Bill Hader was good as well, but he pretty much gave us Bill Hader. None of the other actors were remarkable, in my opinion.
Summing up, I don’t think this will become a holiday favorite that families will watch every Christmas, but it’s definitely not one of the worst ones out there.
So, my final score for this film is 27/35 = 77.14% (C+) !
The next review will be posted on April 20, 2021.