Julias, an eight-year old who was left on the steps of an orphanage as a baby on Christmas Eve, firmly loves the holiday season and believes in Santa Claus. But when some other kids bully him and make fun of him for liking Christmas (because that happens?), Julias declares that Santa Claus isn’t real and says that he must be the kindly orphanage owner dressed up in a costume. Before long, however, Julias is sucked into his toy box, and enters a magical winter land where Santa has been overthrown by the prankster Krampus, who wants to give the entire world coal. Can Julias, a Christmas angel, and a giant talking pig save the holiday season? Or will they be killed by the bullies who are pursuing them instead?
If you’re wondering where Finding Santa: A Christmas Adventure exactly came from, it’s an animated movie released in Denmark way back in 2016 which has only very recently been given an English dub. From what I’ve been able to gather, it’s gone by a number of alternate titles over the years–including Get Santa and, yes, even A Christmas Story–before making it’s way over to the states. Of course, right now, there’s the much flashier Klaus on Netflix wowing virtually everyone for its hand-drawn animation and clever take on the Santa Claus mythology. Is there space for a more obscure Santa-themed film this December as well?
For better or for worse, the answer is probably going to be no, as Finding Santa simply isn’t that accessible of a film, at least as far as western audiences are concerned. This isn’t to say that it’s not without its own fair share of appeal, as there are occasional bursts of charm and even beauty spread throughout its fairly brief 80 minute running time. But it’s also something of an oddity, telling a fairly standard “believe in Santa Claus” story while also throwing in various aspects that play off as flat-out bizarre, including bullies who on more than one occasion appear to be trying to kill a child because…well, they’re bullies (okay, to the film’s credit, it does try to give them a motivation, but their behavior still comes across as ludicrously excessive).
Then there’s the film’s take on Krampus, who looks and sounds a lot like Jeremy Hillary Boob from Yellow Submarine for some reason. There’s a backstory in which the character used to abduct naughty children for Santa Claus and send them to his coal mines for the rest of their lives, something which would normally at least be acknowledged to be demented and terrible, but here is largely brushed aside as a means for him to want revenge on his former boss.
In other words, I’m pretty sure the target audience for Finding Santa is intended to be small children, but search me if they are going to enjoy this or not. There are whimsical aspects here and there which stand out as genuinely amusing–I myself was won over by a pair of rams who bicker like an old couple–but too often the narrative feels like it’s struggling to come up with where it wants to go, which is a shame because the animation is sometimes quite nice to look at, with landscapes which look as though they came from a toy village in a Hallmark store. On the flip side of that, the characters themselves are something of a mixed bag, looking as though they are dolls made out of clay. That’s a concept which from a visual standpoint sounds good on paper, but the problem is they aren’t terribly expressive, resulting in the heads bucking back and fourth in a way which may be off-putting to many viewers.
Granted, for people like me–as well as probably many readers of this website–watching a foreign movie of this sort can carry a certain level of fascination, as it’s always interesting to look at what other countries are producing in terms of animation, not only when it comes to their potential artistic value, but also in how they represent the cultures in which they come from. It’s also an experience that can be quite rewarding, leading to the personal discovery of largely unseen international gems like Mary & Max and John & the Cuckoo-Clock Heart which are worthy of eager recommendation to family and friends. The “issue”–if we can call it that–with Finding Santa is it doesn’t make much effort to be anything more than a typical Christmas outing, and even with the questionably grim aspects the story sometimes ventures into (usually in a seemingly clueless nature), it still feels a little too simplistic as it makes its way to its yuletide ending (which, as a sucker for these sorts of things, I will say is nice).
Ultimately, Finding Santa is perfectly harmless for what it is. It is a bit of a bummer, though, that the film doesn’t always do more with what it has to offer (Krampus, for instance, is never even remotely threatening as a bad guy). For those curious in checking out a piece of foreign animation for the holidays, it might be worth a look, yet recommending this as a blind buy for anyone might be a bit of stretch. It’s not quite worthy of making the top of Santa’s nice list, but it’s far from earning a lump of coal in its stocking.
(Finding Santa: A Christmas Adventure is available on DVD and is also available for streaming on Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, and Google Play)
|Finding Santa: A Christmas Adventure|
Directed by Jacob Ley