Netflix's Klaus isn't the best animated film on the market, or even from this year for that matter, but its unique style of animation mixed with a story that we haven't heard time and time again makes Klaus a pleasant candidate to break away from the preposterous number of Hallmark movies we get every holiday season.
Klaus is visually stunning, with a style of animation that I can't say I've seen before, or at least not in this capacity. Every second of screen time is just eye candy, however it's the character models that are the most dazzling over everything else. Director Sergio Pablos may have some odd editors on board at times, but the film holds together to tell a truly intriguing and dare I say magical tale of how the Santa Klaus tradition began; if only the execution matched up to the story being told.
Jason Schwartzman plays Jesper, a rich son of the head of a mailing service who is forced to move to the winter wasteland of Smeerensburg to deliver 6,000 letters before he can return home with good graces. When luck is continuously not on his side, he finds there's a singular gleam of hope, as himself and Klaus (J.K. Simmons) team up to unite the children of Smeerensburg and help a long-running territory battle come to a close. The story here is engaging, but the execution is a little staggered with an odd West Side Story rivalry being thrown between the two halves of Smeerensburg against the story of Jesper needing to get home after delivering the mass amount of letters. It’s the letter story mixed with his relationship with Mr. Klaus that makes the film so special, even if it’s predictable at times.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
There's a lot of great talent confined in such a small cast, and it's a shame that only a few fit their characters from the moment they opened their lips. J.K. Simmons is one of those few, as his Mr. Klaus is absolutely perfect for the character model. The fact that he speaks limitedly means that his dialogue is made even better. The two actors that sadly stand out among the rest are Jason Schwartzman who plays Jasper the postman and who happens to be our lead, and Joan Cusack, the story’s villain. Schwartzman admittedly grows on the audience as his production moves along, but mainly because his jokes become fewer and fewer. Joan Cusack is a brilliant actor, however her voice doesn’t work in Klaus. Once Schwartzman grows into his character, the chemistry between the postman and Mr. Klaus is undeniable and the more time we get with the two, the more we desire. While the dialogue works when it’s not attempting to be comical, when it does try to be humorous, it fails more than it succeeds and is only salvaged by the visual humor surrounding the flat joke.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There are two completely different sides of the coin here, as the score is beautiful, well executed, and matches the wonderful nature of a high quality Disney/Dreamworks animated film. On the other side, there’s the use of lyrical popular music, and those pieces in no way work with the film, ruining the tone in the moments they appear on screen. This style of music doesn’t appear often, but the few times it does… it completely obliterates everything the screenwriter was going for in that particular scene.
The form of animation is truly something to behold, and while the surrounding cityscape may not capture the same gorgeous aesthetic of the character models or even the toys, you have to forgive it for allowing the characters to visually take center stage. When the film tries to be comedic visually, it's very competent (it's the only way the humor functions in Klaus). The wintery wasteland is immaculate in its design, and the wooded area in which Mr. Klaus hangs his birdhouses is just as hauntingly beautiful.
Klaus is an absolutely gorgeous film, matching the high quality standards of PIXAR and taking it to a whole new level. The story is a strong premise for any animated film, and while it may not match the heart of a PIXAR film, its story is just as original (even if it fails to beat predictability). Just a few poor casting choices and a lack of successful verbal humor make this film one to hesitantly suggest for you to watch this Holiday season.