Written by Max Sunnar
Netflix’s latest Christmas original Klaus (2019) tells the story of Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), a poorly performing postal academy student who is sent from his privileged lifestyle to the gloomy town of Smeerensburg and tasked with creating a successful postal service there.
Following several hopeless attempts, he befriends a mysterious carpenter named Klaus (J.K Simmons) who enjoys making toys. Together the duo brings the feuding town a wonderfully heart-warming story of how the legend of Santa Claus began.
I was immediately struck by the unique animation style of Klaus. A beautiful blend of both 2D and 3D animation was a refreshing break from what is now the traditional Pixar inspired 3D graphics. The illustration throughout felt like a children’s storybook had been brought to life, and that nostalgic feeling of being read a picture book warms your heart when watching Klaus, no matter what age you are. The look may be nostalgic when you consider the director is Sergio Pablos who previously worked as an animator for traditional Disney animations such as Hercules (1997).
From Joan Cusack (Toy Story, School of Rock), Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation, The Office) and J.K Simmons (Spider-Man, Whiplash), there are several familiar faces in this movie, who all deliver amazing performances. However, Jason Schwartzman, who voices the film’s lead character Jesper, steals the show with an energetic and smart-mouthed performance. Although the character is selfish at the beginning of the film, he grows on the audience and becomes extremely likeable.
There are several moments within the film that tug at your heartstrings, and I was surprised how often these moments occurred within a children’s movie. When introduced, the character of Klaus is far from the jolly “plump guy in a red suit” that we all know and love.
Instead, he is introduced as a scary axe-wielding giant. The film explores an emotional backstory of Klaus and the reasons why he enjoys crafting toys and making children smile. Isolated on the other side of the town, Klaus is initially quiet and scared to open up, but his kindness soon shines through, and it’s great to see his character grow into the Claus we know so well.
As the origin of Santa is told, the film explains several elements of his legend. For example, letters to Klaus being collected to reach Jesper’s personal goal, how Jesper eats the cookies left out at night by the children when he delivers their presents or when Jesper gives a naughty child a lump of coal, encouraging other kids to be on their best behaviour.
One subplot that I particularly loved was the relationship between Jesper and the young Saami-speaking Margu, who develop a particularly close bond with each other, despite their inability to communicate with each other.
The island of Smeerensburg is a character in its own right, which also goes through a development. It starts as a bleak and desolate town, where hatred and quarrelling reign supreme. The family feud between the Krums and the Ellingboes clans destroys any possibility of the island thriving, so when Klaus and Jesper begin spreading joy, and lessons of kindness, the change in Smeerensburg’s atmosphere is noticeable through the changes in the colour scheme and music.
Before watching Klaus, I did not expect much from yet another Christmas film from Netflix. However, from its adorable characters, gorgeous visuals and genuinely funny moments, this film exceeded my expectations drastically. I adored the evolution of Jesper, as we have seen him grow from a selfish young postman to a man who shares Klaus’ dream of putting a smile on people’s faces; embracing the motto: “a true selfless act always sparks another”.
Klaus is an uplifting story about kindness and the gift of giving. It has all the characteristics of becoming a Christmas classic that I would watch every festive season.