Klaus (2019) Netflix Movie Review

Klaus is a 2019 animated Christmas comedy film written and directed by Sergio Pablos in his directorial debut, produced by Sergio Pablos Animation Studios with support from Aniventure and distributed by Netflix as its first original animated feature. Co-written by Zach Lewis and Jim Mahoney, the film stars Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones and Joan Cusack. Serving as a fictional origin story to the myth of Santa Claus, the plot revolves around a postman stationed in a town to the North who befriends a reclusive toy-maker (Klaus).

Plot

Jesper (Schwartzman) comes from a wealthy family in the postal business, and is a selfish brat with no life ambitions whatsoever. When Jesper’s father puts him in the royal postal academy in an attempt to teach him that hard work pays and being from a rich family is not a shoo in to wealth, he deliberately distinguishes himself to be the academy’s worst student, and so his father comes up with another plan to teach him a lesson: he is stationed on a frozen island above the Arctic Circle by his father, with the ultimatum that if he doesn’t post 6,000 letters in a year, he will be cut off from the family.

He gets into the island’s town of Smeerensburg and is shown around by a sarcastic ferry boat skipper who tricks him into ringing a bell to start the reception, instead revealing that the town inhabitants hardly exchange words let alone letters; they are divided, feuding locals filled with anger, bitterness, hatred and animosity. Trying desperately to come up with a way to get the town locals to send letters, he notices on the map in his office a far off little establishment. Investigating, he finds a woodsman named Klaus (Simmons), with a skill of woodworking and a house with lots of handmade toys.

Jesper is just about to finally give up when unexpected events unfold that give him the idea of having Klaus donate the toys in his house to the town kids who would ask him for them, and who, by doing so, would send letters. When Jesper goes to Klaus with his proposal of donating the toys, he agrees, provided the deliveries will be at night, so he can accompany Jesper on them. When Jesper finds out that many of the kids can’t write, he tells them they can simply learn at school, and so they go to Ms Alva (Jones), a qualified teacher who Jesper met back on his first day in town, to learn how. The increasingly developing actions of Jesper and Klaus delivering of toys becomes the talk of the town kids, with the nature of said actions making them believe Klaus is not only solely responsible, but he also has certain quirks. Some of these quirks are also said to be magic, such as he can enter homes through any chimney and can never be seen: the most astounding of all is he has a reindeer-pulled sleigh that can fly. When Jesper says to the kids that Klaus would not give toys to bad kids, he goes on to say Klaus always knows whenever any kid is naughty, and their attitude changes, even the town bully, as he also wants Klaus’ toys. Their resulting acts of kindness inspire the other townsfolk to do the same.

Jesper eventually finds out Klaus lost his wife and they could never have children, but he loves making kids happy and had made all the toys in his house for the ones he thought they would have. They soon receive help from a small community of kind Sámi people to fulfill Jesper’s prior idea of a delivery run to give toys to the kids on Christmas, but not only that, Jesper begins to change himself, no longer being selfish.

While all of this has been happening, the heads of the town’s feuding families, through the families’ clearly inextinguishable, and thus, also, very long-standing hatred to each other, have been trying to stop Jesper and Klaus to preserve this tradition, and they agree on joining forces to do it. They eventually come up with a plan that involves making Jesper leave by using his past against him, but he ultimately makes his decision final to stay in Smeerensburg, and proceeds to do everything that he can to stop the rest of their plan. Though he finds out Klaus and Alva already knew what was coming and had made preparations to foil the plan, his actions cause events that make the families find themselves as in-laws.

As things in Smeerensburg keep getting better, Jesper and Klaus continue delivering presents on Christmas, with their operation expanding further and further as time continues on. Then, on the twelfth year, Klaus suddenly disappears without a trace, joining his departed wife. Jesper and Alva get married and have two children together, and every Christmas Eve, Jesper gets to see the spirit of his friend, as he continues to deliver toys to kids around the world.

My Personal Thoughts

When Jesper is deemed to be the postal academy’s worst employee, he’s sent to work in the abandoned post office on the mysterious and eerie, island-nation of Smeerensburg. Here, he meets the reclusive Klaus – a toy-maker living deep in the forest. Together, the two attempt to bring joy and change to the bitter residents of Smeerensburg.

On the whole, Christmas films can be predictable, but that’s no surprise as they tend to stick to the same traditions we ourselves stick to every year. Klaus breaks the mould, providing an alternative ‘Santa Claus’ origin story – except here, he’s just called Klaus (J. K. Simmons). Klaus expertly blends dark, morbid humour with wondrous festive cheer – an unusual but greatly successful feature of Zach Lewis and Jim Mahoney’s script – making Klaus a film perfectly suited for the entire family. Director, Sergio Pablos, helms this jubilant piece of festive animation that touches on universal themes of kindness and togetherness without ever becoming clichéd. This might be Netflix’s first full-length animated feature, but Klaus puts up strong competition to all of the major animation studios.

It’s not until 70 minutes into Klaus‘ runtime that the word ‘Christmas’ is even uttered – it simply doesn’t exist in Smeerensburg – but this is one of the film’s greatest strengths. Klaus feels distinctively festive despite the fact that lights, garlands and Christmas carols only make an appearance near the end of the film. Klaus takes the thematic elements of Christmas – spreading joy, bringing people together – and crafts them into Jesper’s (Jason Schwartzman) journey of self-discovery. The absence of Christmas’ material traditions helps Klaus stand out from other film’s in this genre. The town of Smeerensburg is quite the opposite of festive. It’s a town split into two constantly fighting factions. Having fun is a wrongdoing – and children are brought before councils for committing this sin. It provides for some dark, morbid humour that works so well. Klaus certainly isn’t as dark as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas but you can’t deny the two films share a strand of DNA. When Jesper first sees the physically imposing Klaus, he shouts in terror, “Don’t chop me up and scatter my parts in the woods” – an unexpected joke in a Christmas film but one that seems so at home in Klaus.

When Jesper is deemed to be the postal academy’s worst employee, he’s sent to work in the abandoned post office on the mysterious and eerie, island-nation of Smeerensburg. Here, he meets the reclusive Klaus – a toy-maker living deep in the forest. Together, the two attempt to bring joy and change to the bitter residents of Smeerensburg.

Klaus-9-600x325

On the whole, Christmas films can be predictable, but that’s no surprise as they tend to stick to the same traditions we ourselves stick to every year. Klaus breaks the mould, providing an alternative ‘Santa Claus’ origin story – except here, he’s just called Klaus (J. K. Simmons). Klaus expertly blends dark, morbid humour with wondrous festive cheer – an unusual but greatly successful feature of Zach Lewis and Jim Mahoney’s script – making Klaus a film perfectly suited for the entire family. Director, Sergio Pablos, helms this jubilant piece of festive animation that touches on universal themes of kindness and togetherness without ever becoming clichéd. This might be Netflix’s first full-length animated feature, but Klaus puts up strong competition to all of the major animation studios.

It’s not until 70 minutes into Klaus‘ runtime that the word ‘Christmas’ is even uttered – it simply doesn’t exist in Smeerensburg – but this is one of the film’s greatest strengths. Klaus feels distinctively festive despite the fact that lights, garlands and Christmas carols only make an appearance near the end of the film. Klaus takes the thematic elements of Christmas – spreading joy, bringing people together – and crafts them into Jesper’s (Jason Schwartzman) journey of self-discovery. The absence of Christmas’ material traditions helps Klaus stand out from other film’s in this genre. The town of Smeerensburg is quite the opposite of festive. It’s a town split into two constantly fighting factions. Having fun is a wrongdoing – and children are brought before councils for committing this sin. It provides for some dark, morbid humour that works so well. Klaus certainly isn’t as dark as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas but you can’t deny the two films share a strand of DNA. When Jesper first sees the physically imposing Klaus, he shouts in terror, “Don’t chop me up and scatter my parts in the woods” – an unexpected joke in a Christmas film but one that seems so at home in Klaus.

Klaus-_-Christmas-Deliveries-_-Netflix-1-1-screenshot-600x343

Smeerensburg may be home to some aggressive residents, but its style is fairly quant. It’s very reminiscent of Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter films but thanks to Klaus‘ unique animation style, the film manages to craft its own distinct aesthetic. Klaus doesn’t quite use 2D hand-drawn animation, but it doesn’t use contemporary CG animation either. It bridges the gap between the two which only furthers the film’s aesthetic appeal. The establishing shots of Smeerensburg demonstrate this best. The CG elements of the animation style help provide such depth whilst the 2D animation style provides a rustic, nostalgic charm. Pablos did work on several 90s Disney titles including Tarzan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules – and you can very much see how this passion for 2D animation informed Klaus‘ visual style. Another welcomed detail was the slow transformation of Klaus‘ colour tones. Jesper and Klaus’ warm, gold glow slowly spreads throughout the cold, blue landscape of Smeerensburg as the town gradually begins to change its ways.

Klaus could benefit from a slightly shorter second act. The story itself is wholly engaging but the change in pace between act two and three feels a little off balance. This is a minor fault and hardly detracts from what is a wonderful, festive tale. For a film that firmly establishes itself as a comedy, it’s quite surprising how poignant of an ending Klaus has. The ending is tonally very different from the rest of the film yet the transition into this feels so natural. It’s a testament to Klaus‘ great script that despite being a comedy, it can still create touching moments.

Klaus is a huge success for Netflix – bringing uniqueness to a genre that is founded on tradition. It is the perfect film to take audiences into the festive months. Klaus holds the power to reignite everybody’s Christmas spirit this year – and there’s no doubt that’s exactly what it will do.

I will rate this Movie 7/10.

Directed bySergio PablosCarlos Martínez López (co-director)
Produced byJinko GotohSergio PablosMarisa RomanMatthew TeevanMercedes GameroMikel LejarzaGustavo Ferrada
Screenplay bySergio PablosJim MahoneyZach Lewis
Story bySergio Pablos
StarringJason SchwartzmanJ. K. SimmonsRashida JonesJoan CusackWill SassoNorm Macdonald
Music byAlfonso G. Aguilar
Edited byPablo Garcia Revert
Production
company
Sergio Pablos Animation StudiosAtresmedia CineAniventure
Distributed byNetflix
Release date November 8, 2019 (United States)
Running time96 minutes
CountrySpain
Language English Saami
Budget$40 million

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