Released on: November 8 2019
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Neda Margrethe Labba, Sergio Pablos, Norm Macdonald, Joan Cusack
Directed by: Sergio Pablos
Let paint the scene: We have a grumpy Sergie whose last few Christmases were less than spectacular, to the point where the holiday was losing its meaning. Then Christmas 2018 came and had a surprise for him… he finds out he’s going to be a dad. Thus began what I like to call “the Christmas Upturn,” where the Christmas season became a thing of joy. Fast forward to 2019; he gets to host Christmas this year, something he’s wanted to do since he learned how to cook a few years prior. He finally gets the chance but needs to get into the Christmas mood. Out comes today’s movie, Klaus. It was getting massive praise on Twitter, and I admit, it did look impressive. Thus, I settled in my cozy chair with my mom, girlfriend, and newborn to watch Klaus. Is Klaus the new king of Christmas movies?
We open to a spoiled son of the Royal Postmaster general named Jesper. While everyone else is training at the Postmaster Academy, Jesper enjoys the life of luxury, having everything at his beck and call. That is until his father forces him to set up a post office in the very far northern town of Smeerensburg, home to the perpetual conflict of the Ellingbow and Krum families. This goes about as well as one might expect for our spoiled postman. That is until he meets the intimidating and mysterious woodsman Klaus. I love Klaus’ story. It introduces the characters beautifully, and the characters are charming (even the mean ones). It took me a little bit for me to get invested, but I was on board by the second act.
Some readers might have seen some trailers showing off Klaus’ gorgeous visuals. I’m here to say that those trailers do not do the movie justice. The animation is lovely, the scenes are awesome, and the love and care that went into this movie is evident from the get-go. Never before has a Christmas movie invoked my sense of awe and wonder as Klaus.
I want to elaborate on the characters a bit as there is a lot to unpack. The character development in Klaus is top-notch. By the end, I ended up loving Jesper. Even at the beginning of the movie, he’s a spoiled brat, but in the same vein as Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove. He only really gets away with acting so entitled at the beginning of the movie. Every other instance since, he is punished almost immediately. During his development, it is satisfying to see him getting knocked down and peg. When we got to the point where he wants to make his post office work, I started feeling sorry when things went awry. By the end, I began to feel sorry for him when things went wrong.
During the first act, Jesper meets Alva; a teacher turned fishmonger who yearns to leave the frozen hellscape that is Smeerensburg. She comes off as mean spirited at first, but for the kids to get presents, they need to learn how to write. Thus, they need a teacher. I feel Alva is the perfect personification of the transformation of Smeerensburg’s townsfolk during the movie. She starts cold, bitter, and wanting nothing to do with where she is, but ultimately ends up opening up, causing a cascading effect of kindness on the rest of the town. This was very wholesome to see, and I loved it.
Let’s not forget about the eponymous Klaus. A loner woodsman who secludes himself from the world. Fate comes knocking for him, though, as he encounters the struggling postman Jesper. He sees that Jesper can deliver toys to the children, so he and Jesper set out to do just that. Bit by bit, Jesper breaks down Klaus’s emotional walls, and a friendship starts to form. As someone who likes his privacy (maybe a little too much), I relate to Klaus. Sometimes one needs the right person to come along to make things a little clearer. For Klaus, this person is Jesper.
It’s now time for me to admit something, dear readers: Klaus is a movie that never fails to make me cry. I won’t spoil the ending, but even on my second watch through, I still bawled my eyes out at the conclusion. Even writing this review is giving me teary eyes just thinking about it. By the end, Jesper and Klaus’s friendship got to me on a personal level. It made me reflect on the people I love, both the ones I can spend the holidays with and the ones that are far away. It made me think that, even when the people we are closest to aren’t near, they are still never far away.
I do have to give a shoutout to Klaus’ soundtrack. The song Invisible by Zara Larson managed to get itself stuck in my head and hasn’t left since I recently watched Klaus. In fact, for a whole week after seeing Klaus, I would think about the song and immediately feel a wave of melancholy. It was never enough to make tears fall (it came close a few times), but it did make me flashback to Klaus, which is never a bad thing.
The one nitpick I have with Klaus is the climax. Everything was going well up to this point, but a story devoid of conflict is meager. Thus, the warring families planned to drive a figurative wedge between Klaus and Jesper. Where I have an issue with the climax is when it’s over, we discover that Klaus and Alva were in on the plan the whole time. That made the climax feel artificial and forced. That said, it was still well realized for what it was, just the least impressive part of the movie.
If it wasn’t apparent by now, I loved Klaus. It is, without a doubt, my new favorite Christmas movie. The characters are charming, and their development progresses perfectly. The story, sans the climax, is terrific and gave me a new sense of respect for the holiday season. Finally, Klaus manages to make Santa Claus relatable, human and makes him more than just a guy in a red suit with strange magical powers. Those who haven’t seen Klaus are doing themselves a great disservice. I cannot recommend Klaus enough, especially during this holiday season.