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This Netflix release suggests the company intends to cover all our entertainment bases eventually. Here’s an old-school, PG-rated animation, encompassing some digital wizardry, but generally clinging to a nostalgic, hand-drawn look, with a late-blooming Christmas theme. The director is the seasoned Sergio Pablos, who contributed to Disney’s Hercules and Tarzan and co-wrote Illuminations’ Despicable Me, and now assimilates several of those titles’ most appealing aspects. It also represents a half-decent attempt to revive the angular character design and irreverent humour Disney abandoned after the commercial failure of the underrated The Emperor’s New Groove.
Disney’s current stewards would presumably also have nixed the dismal arctic location to which our jabbering postman hero Jesper (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) is exiled. Introduced in a striking foggy monochrome (“You should see it in the spring,” mutters sarcastic ferryman Norm Macdonald, “That’s when those greys really pop”), Smeerensburg is no magical kingdom, rather a frozen backwater.
Jesper’s alliance with bearded, vaguely familiar toymaker Klaus (JK Simmons) helps warm everyone’s cockles, and initiates what is essentially a festive origins story, addressing the development of the flying sleigh. That’s a little uninspired; stronger is Pablos’ vision of a society where children go overlooked while their guardians leap at one another’s throats.
Solid first and third acts can’t disguise a so-so middle section stuffed with conventional story beats. If Netflix has its sights set on becoming a major animation player, it needs gagwriters capable of offsetting the saccharin and bolstering the visual accomplishments. Still, there are interesting idiosyncrasies, including an unusual narrative deployment of Mrs Klaus, and a very Disneyish reach for inclusivity in the depiction of the indigenous Saami people.
• Klaus is released in the UK and the US on 8 November.
Source: The Guardian
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