Plot: The magic of Santa Clause is more than a holiday tradition, it is also a family tradition, at least for the Kringle household. At the North Pole, the magic is passed down from father to son and this Christmas, first time Santa Nick (Bill Hader) is due to take the reins. But to say he’s nervous would be a drastic understatement, though his holiday cheer obsessed sister Noelle (Anna Kendrick) hopes some of her passion for the season will rub off on her brother in time. After some lackluster practice sessions however, Nick disappears and with Christmas looming, Noelle needs to track him down or risk a holiday emergency. But even if she finds the missing Santa-to-be, can she get him ready for the big night or will this Christmas be not so bright?
Entertainment Value: This was a fun, brisk holiday comedy that felt rushed and cheap at times, but had more than enough charm to compensate. Of course, it helps when you have a dialed up Anna Kendrick to carry the movie, but overall I think Noelle has some Disney magic on hand. The narrative is predictable, but has some fun, quirky vibes that distract from the formulaic traits, while the second half has some mild twists to bring the picture to a suitable finale. The dialogue is snappy and has some quotable Christmas themed lines, with Kendrick’s ultra cute “Oh my garland” as a personal highlight. I also appreciated all the little touches put into the production design to build the movie’s world, as it balances the familiar holiday elements with some fresh, fun vibes. I have to say a lot of the digital effects are weak to be kind, with the sleigh scenes looking beyond ineffective. But since the effects are infrequent and aren’t a focal point, the awful CGI is easy to overlook, at least in most scenes. I also think since the characters are colorful, the dialogue is fun, and the humor is mostly on point, the negatives here are easily outweighed by the positives. If you like Christmas movies or live action Disney, Noelle is well recommended.
The whole movie has a lot of charm, but Anna Kendrick takes her usual charisma to the next level in this one. She seems to embrace the holiday cheesiness and she turns in an adorable, always fun to watch performance. Even the silliest lines have charm when Kendrick serves them up here and she feels right at home within the movie’s colorful world. While not as absurd as Will Ferrell in Elf, there is a similar innocence to Kendrick’s Noelle that is irresistible. She is naive at times, but also with just enough attitude when she needs it. Kendrick shines when her dialogue is sharp, while keeping the humor flowing even in the most over the top moments. I had a lot of fun with Noelle and Kendrick’s presence was the main draw. Bill Hader turns in his usual effort, which means a bundle of nervous energy and some awkward interactions. Not that memorable, but he performs well and brings some solid humor. The cast also includes Julie Hagerty, Shirley MacLaine, and Billy Eichner.