The animated film Klaus released on Netflix November 15th. The tale follows Jesper, a man who has been handed everything to him by his father. His father, fed up with him, sends him to Smeerensburg, a town on an island in the wintry north, to be a postman. If Jesper can send 6,000 letters in this town, his father will allow him to return home.
Upon arriving to the island, two old families, the Krums and Ellingboes have a long-lasting feud spanning generations, and their hatred for each other serves as a larger examination of generational racism, although it goes unexplored. That is of course okay for a family Christmas movie. In addition to that, their hatred also causes the town to stagnate, and not one person wants to send a letter out, resulting in Jesper being stuck in Smeerensburg. That is, until he finds Klaus, a man who makes toys, and the two team up, Klaus making toys for children as long as the children send a letter.
For context, I watched this children’s animated Netflix film alone on a Friday night, and I do not regret a single second of it. Everything in the plot is very expected. There will probably be spoilers here, so beware if you care about spoilers for a children’s movie. I say that with no disrespect to children’s movies, and more so because their plots are usually predictable. That isn’t necessarily bad though. Jesper’s goal at first is to reach 6,000 letters so he can go home, and he has a very strong dog-eat-dog world view, saying that everyone is after something, and not believing in people doing things out of the goodness of their heart.
Jesper begins as a conventional Grinch, obsessed with his own life, and even some times bullying and making snide remarks towards children in the town, but as Jesper gets closer to 6,000 letters, and freedom, he realizes how much he now enjoys living in Smeerensburg, and his goal has changed. Rather than returning home, he wants to bring joy to the children in this town. A heart-warming goal.
As the movie progresses, it covers a lot of the stories associated with Santa Claus. For the first toy Jesper delivers, he comes in through the chimney. When one of the children in town bullies another, Jesper says that the child must be nice, because Klaus sees everything, and if he is naughty he won’t get a toy. Then, Klaus and Jesper, riding a sleigh carried by reindeer, take a ramp over a ravine, after which a child says he saw Klaus riding a sleigh with flying reindeer.
The film ends on a somber note, with Klaus in the woods, twelve years after the events of the movie, and Jesper narrating. Klaus says he is going to see his wife, who died many years ago, and who inspired him to make toys for their kids, kids they were never able to have. Klaus disappears walking into the snow, and Jesper says he could never find him, but every year around Christmas time, Klaus is there, and he sets a plate of cookies and milk out for him.
That means the origin story for Santa Claus is that a man who lost his wife due to sickness, and made toys for his future children, but couldn’t conceive for an unknown reason, dedicated the rest of his life, and afterlife, to making and delivering toys to children, bringing them the joy he couldn’t to his own children.
Wow. I didn’t know Santa Claus needed a reason for what he does, but the reasoning provided in this film is beautiful.
The most humorous parts of the movie comes as the two families try to unite to get rid of Jesper, because his toys are bringing their children all together, and they want their children to grow up separately, hating each other. One of the family members says to a child,
“This is a tradition! Centuries of glorious hatred, passed down through generations!”
This presents itself as a larger symbol of racism, and how ludicrous tradition is.
Although these moments are funny with the two families, I wouldn’t categorize Klaus as a comedy. It is a very standard children’s Christmas movie, that I enjoyed tremendously. The voice acting in this film is also spot on, with J.K. Simmons voicing Klaus, and the art is extraordinary. There were a few scenes of snow falling on Smeerensburg which really brought out the emotions associated with Christmas, despite it being November.
My one complaint with the movie is the undeveloped romance. Jesper meets an ex-teacher, Miss Alva, when he arrives in Smeerensburg, and soon leads children to her so they can learn how to write, for the letters to send to Klaus. Jesper reignites her joy for teaching, and they end up together.
This romance seems forced, and only put into the film because every film needs a romance or love subplot nowadays, which I strongly disagree with, as I believe most others would too. If the plot is done well, then add it, but when it gets as little development as in Klaus, it can be scrapped, or Jesper and Miss Alva could simply be friends. If that were the image movies portrayed to our children, I think we would live in a much healthier society.
Perhaps romance is an easy plot to pitch to audiences, because many of us hope that two people will end up together and be happy. It may be even easier for children to understand, but at no point in the movie did I get the sense that Jesper or Miss Alva were interested in each other. Almost as if they ended up together so they could finally be “happy”, a theme which should be used less in movies. If not so my children develop more realistic perceptions of love, then for me to enjoy these movies more.
But really, we all know Jesper and Miss Alva wasn’t the true romantic plot of the movie; it was the bromance between Jesper and Klaus. They open up to each other, Jesper brings Klaus out of his shell of misery after his wife’s passing, and Klaus dies happily, going to see his wife, Mrs. Klaus.
Klaus brings a breath of fresh air to a genre in which I thought I would only be watching fifteen year old movies for the rest of my life. This is a Christmas movie you won’t want to miss, because it could easily become a classic, and I hope it does. This is the direction Netflix originals need to survive, especially in a world where the streaming wars have begun.