Written by: Sergio Pablos, Jim Mahoney, Zach Lewis
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Neda Margrethe Labba
Whether it be a marketing ploy by Coca-Cola or inspired by the real St. Nicholas, Santa Claus has gained notoriety for the guy bringing gifts to children depending if they are naughty or nice. The lore about this man has been fully ingrained in our culture through songs and other forms of media. Klaus takes a different approach on the origins of the ultimate gift-giver but does it with an ode to the great work postal workers do for the world.
Incredibly spoiled with no career aspirations, Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) receives an ultimatum from his father of stepping up or losing his inheritance. Jesper must go to Smeerensburg and successfully set up a post office, which proves to be a challenge with the lack of infrastructure and the culture established. Things begin to change when he meets Klaus (J.K. Simmons) and learns about a new way to kickstart this postal office.
It’s easy to forget the foundational and important work done by postal workers. Rain, shine, snow, and sleet do not matter as they deliver correspondences to people. They become such a monotonous part of our culture that their contributions get taken for granted but Klaus shows the importance of it and how much it relates with the idea of Santa Claus. The man with the big beard essentially can be broken down to a special edition of the postal service for one night only. Jesper has the task of setting up an operation in a town with people not caring for it but must also combat with individuals spewing hatred because it benefits them.
The town of Smeerensburg lies in the cold north with little to no infrastructure for a mail operation, which presents a major issue for Jesper. Failing would cost him the luxuries he has become accustomed to with little effort. The citizens of this town have an intense rivalry between two warring groups called the Ellingboe and Krum families. At the ring of a bell, they’re ready to brawl on the town square. This certainly will not help when his goal of 6,000 letters needs to be completed within a year. A unique set of people with a gargantuan task ahead, the most fun found in this film comes from Jesper being the one to create the lore of Santa Claus.
When meeting with Klaus and coming to the agreement of sending toys to kids who write letters asking for them, Jesper essentially becomes the public relations arm of the operation. He’s the one who begins all of the requirements like being on the naughty or nice list and writing a wish list. It creates several fun sequences because these aspects of Santa Claus have been part of our culture for so long without knowing how it originated and the way the film initially brings up the ideas for how it helps Jesper set up this post office comes with plenty of winks.
With plenty of comedy and lore building, Klaus truly soars in the relationship between Jesper and the titular character. Certainly the most unexpected aspect for me, this film displays an unlikely friendship that beautifully blossoms in this story. Icy at first, as one would expect, Jesper and Klaus learn from each other throughout the story as they each harbor their own insecurities and issues. Particularly as the film gets towards the end, it presented several moments between them I just did not see coming and truly left an emotional mark on me.
Netflix has proven to be a welcomed voice in the world of animation. In a world where Disney/Pixar and Illumination commercially dominate with their animated films, Netflix is bringing their own brand of vastly different looks in this medium. From different textures and styles, various forms of animation have found their home here and it gets paired with equally entertaining and touching stories. The specific appearance of this film looks wonderful in how it uses color and the design of the characters. From Klaus’s hulking presence contrasting Jesper, it has a level of exaggeration to match the charm of the story. It certainly sticks out amongst the deluge of CGI-animated features out there.
Make sure to thank a postal worker after watching this as Klaus tips the hat as well with its story about the importance of communication. It makes the case for it founding the idea of Santa Claus in truly fun and inventive ways. The film looks at the negative traditions held, like the rivalry between the Ellingboe and Krum families and how this toxicity benefits a few while harming many. The conflict the film wants to imbue lacks a bit of logic or standing but it does not fully detract from this touching story.