The Twelve Flicks of Christmas
A ben’s TEN Holiday Series
Get the Scoop You Won’t Find Anywhere Else on 12 Christmas Movies Old and New
[See complete list of reviews]
Review by Ben Koch
NOTE: Since most readers aren’t likely to have seen this one yet, this review will avoid spoilers in the hopes that you go check it out!
Not to be confused with the iconic American classic, A Christmas Story (1983), this soft-spoken and low-key narrative looks back to the human and historical origins of the Santa Clause tradition. When young Lapland villager Nikolas is orphaned at age 7, six households of the village agree that a new family will foster him for one year each for the next six years, transferring him to his next home every year on Christmas Day. Nikolas, a naturally gifted wood-carver, shows his gratitude each year by leaving a carved toy for each of his foster siblings every Christmas morning.
At the end of the 6-year agreement a great famine has swept the village and, despite their love for the gentle boy, no families are able to take him in. Enter “Crazy Iisakki,” the hermit-like carpenter who appears occasionally in the village to sell his wares. Noticing Nikolas’ carving skills and learning of the dilemma, he agrees to take in Nikolas as his virtual indentured servant. Nikolas’ long, harsh apprenticeship to the grouchy carpenter turns out to be transformative for both of them, and sets the perfect stage for Nikolas’ gradual but logical evolution into something close to the Santa Clause we know today.
Beneath the Surface
At its heart, this film is a fable about the often unforeseen rewards for a life of generosity and selflessness. The evolution of Nikolas from forlorn orphan to an old, wise carpenter who embodies saintly generosity is presented so gently and gradually that it seems as human and organic as any Santa Clause story ever has.
Bare-bones Christmas purists who are put off by the commercial, fantastical fluff that permeates so many Christmas films will have little to complain about here. Even scientific materialists and other brands of atheists who are nonetheless interested in Christmas as a cultural event will find this film a satisfying, intelligent origin story of our modern Christmas legend. But the spiritually-inclined need not worry–little touches of magic, even if more subtle and low-tech then our normal Xmas blockbuster, do color the movie and add to it’s richness. Crank up the fireplace and get out your whittling knife for this special story that’s a sure way to put the best part of humanity back in your Christmas.
Cocoa Factor = 9 out of 10
How good is this one for cozying up with a fire burning, a hot beverage of your choice, and your new Snuggy?
Magicality = 7 out of 10
How well does this one transport you back to the timeless wonderment beyond rationality when Christmas enveloped you in magic? AKA “The Santa Clause factor.”
A Date with Grandma and Aunt Bernice = 10 out of 10
How appropriate/awkward is this one to watch with relatives of all ages? Will hot kissing scenes or male rear nudity spoil the mood?
Tiny Tim’s Big Truths = 8 out of 10
From the mouths of babes come life’s most profound lessons. At the heart of this flick, how authentic, heartfelt and lasting is the message? Does it transcend Xmas clichés and ring bells?