The origin of Santa Claus is a story that has been told many times over the years. Some interpretations are good and some are bad. Needless to say, there hasn't exactly been one exact interpretation of his origin story. Now though, we have another new animated movie focusing on his origin story simply titled "Klaus" and it's quite honestly one of the most charming animated Christmas films I have seen in quite some time. This little movie took a lot of time to find a distributor, but it finally found a home on Netflix and I'm so happy it did. This was one of the most delightful animated films I've seen in a long time. It also quite frankly happens to be one of the years best.
A young postman named Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) has been failing badly at a postal academy. Since his wealthy family runs the postal business, he feels he doesn't have to do any training and decides to slack off at the academy and acts all snooty and snobbish while there. Frustrated with his son's actions, his father decides to send him up north to be a postman on an arctic island town known as Smeerensberg and tells him to mail out at least 6000 letters or he'll be cut off from his family and receive no more money from them. Once he arrives at the town, he finds it at war as the two sides are divided by two families known as the Krums and the Ellingboes who are lead by Mrs. Krum (Joan Cusack) and Mr. Ellingboe (Will Sasso) respectively. Also, no children go to school and everyone in the town is always rude and awful. Knowing that no one writes letters in the town, Jesper begins to lose hope until he is led to a lonesome woodcutter outside of the town named Klaus (J.K. Simmons) who has made toys for years. After the two get a drawing from a lonesome boy, Klaus makes Jesper deliver one of the toys to the child in exchange. When word goes around about the toys, the children eagerly start to write letters and even go to school to learn how to write being taught by a teacher named Alva (Rashida Jones). This makes Klaus and Jasper the unlikely duo planning to deliver toys to the town of Smeerensberg while also filling up Jesper's letter quota. What happens next you'll have to watch for yourself.
This was such a pleasant film to watch. For years, director Sergio Pablos has created stories for animated movies like the first "Despicable Me" and "Smallfoot" but wasn't able to write or direct them. Now that he has total control with "Klaus" though, I'm eager to see what film he comes up with next. I liked how inventive the story was. While it did have a somewhat slow start and it did take me a while to like Jesper, I found the film had some clever ideas. I loved the unique ways that Klaus and Jesper end up creating parts of the myth that became Santa Claus like the naughty list, his love for cookies, going through the chimney, and even the flying sled pulled by reindeer. It was extremely imaginative and clever. I also thought the idea of the feuding town was hilarious. The war between the Krums and the Ellingboes makes the war between the Montagues and the Capulets as well as the feud of the Hatfields versus the McCoy's looks somewhat tame. It was a really funny idea. The animation in this film is simply top-notch. It's been years since we've gotten a movie made with traditional animation and seeing this made me extremely happy. It was incredibly smooth and the backgrounds were eye-catching. Yet what I loved about it most was the lighting. Pablos and his team decided to take the standard animation approach and up it to the next level by creating a lighting effect for the animation we would typically get in computer animation and I thought it was simply astonishing. I hope we can see more traditional animation films in the future, especially ones that look like this. Even the characters themselves are also fun and charming. While it took me a while to warm up to Jesper, he eventually grew on me as the story went along and became more likable. I also thought Alva was a pretty fun character as well since she evolved as the film went along. Though I think Klaus was the character I loved the most. J.K. Simmons brought warmth to this character that I just loved and a sense of mysticism and magic to him that I found interesting. Even his backstory made me tear up a little. So, while I do love this movie, it isn't flawless. For one, the pop songs in this film feel wrong for this film. I wish they didn't include them because they didn't fit at all. Though what bothered me the most was the villain's backstory and motivation. Without spoiling it, I thought the reasoning for the actions by Mrs. Krum and Mr. Ellingboe as well as their backstory were pretty lazy writing. I feel the filmmakers probably could've come up with something funny or clever for them, so it was a missed opportunity in a sense. That's really about it though.
"Klaus" is easily a very pleasant movie with a very inventive story, gorgeous animation, and memorable likable characters. I highly recommend seeing this movie if you want to see more traditional animation. We don't get enough of them anymore and I really want that to change in the next decade. If you can, please watch this film. You simply won't regret it. It's a nice Christmas present.