A Boy Called Christmas begins in London with Aunt Ruth, Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey (TV)”, “My Old Lady”), as she comes to babysit for Matt’s, Joel Fry (“Yesterday”, “Cruella”), children. Matt being the husband of her now deceased daughter.
Matt’s children don’t want Aunt Ruth, she’s no fun and she’s really old. But Matt doesn’t have a choice, being called to work for some reason. Aunt Ruth comes in and begins to tell the three children the origin story of Father Christmas.
In the story we are in Finland with Nikolas, Henry Lawfull (“Les Misérables (TV)”), or Christmas as his, no longer with him, mother used to call him, and his father Joel, Michiel Huisman (“Game of Thrones (TV)”, “Orphan Black (TV)”). They’re not a rich family, but then no-one is at the moment in this land.
When a mouse is found stealing their leftover food, Joel’s immediate action is to try and kill it but Nikolas convinces him to let him keep it as a pet and he names it Mika, Stephen Merchant (“Jojo Rabbit”, “Fighting with My Family”).
The pair receive an invitation to meet with the King, Jim Broadbent (“Paddington 2”, “Six Minutes to Midnight”), who invites his gathered subjects to explore the farthest reaches of his kingdom to find hope, and bring it back to the people.
Joel and his buddies take up the King’s challenge and go in search of Elfhelm, a mystical land to the North that is rumoured to be full of, well, Elves and magic, though not everyone agrees.
Joel leaves Nikolas with Aunt Carlotta, Kristen Wiig (“Wonder Woman 1984”, “Mother!”), who immediately turns into the wicked Aunt, throwing Nikolas and Mika to sleep outside and even boils-up Nikolas’s vegetable based ‘blankey’ he has that his mother made him.
She also burns his Christmas hat, that his father gave him as he left, which reveals a map to the Elfhelm land. Promptly Nikolas, with Mika, decides to follow it and find his father at the same time.
Along the way, just as Nikolas is starting to lose faith in pretty much everything, Mika speaks. I mean, Nikolas had been trying to teach him to talk but, you know, he’s a mouse, but he speaks. The pair continue their journey and before long they meet with a reindeer whom Nikolas names Blitzen.
Eventually they do find Elfhelm, with the help of Father Topo, Toby Jones (“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (TV)”, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”), and Little Noosh, Indica Watson (“The Electrical Life of Louis Wain”, “Gold Digger (TV)”).
But Elfhelm isn’t all it used to be. It’s now being run by Mother Something, Sally Hawkins (“Paddington 2”, “The Shape of Water”) and she is angry as Joel and his friends did arrive in Elfhelm, but they came to take things and stole a young boy elf.
With a Trump-esq campaign slogan Mother Something has risen to power in Elfhelm and declared no humans are allowed back here, as well as stopping any merriment from the elves.
Mother Something captures Nikolas and sends him to the tower where he meets The Truth Pixie, Zoe Margaret Colletti (“Fear the Walking Dead (TV)”, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”), and a large troll.
They escape, with the help of The Truth Pixie’s homemade explosives, and Nikolas finds his father and other men with the kidnapped elf. His father flips from baddie to goodie which eventually ends in disaster for him, but allows Nikolas and the elf to escape.
Nikolas takes the elf back, there’s much rejoicing and he’s given toys as thanks, which gives him an idea. He asks them to make more, which they’re only too happy to do.
As he’s about to leave Mother Something arrives and still isn’t convinced it’s all over until she spots a pendant Nikolas is wearing and, wouldn’t you know it, his mother is the very girl that Mother Something helped all those years ago.
She repents and Nikolas takes his toys back to the King and they both deliver them to all the children of the land, bringing hope and starting Christmas.
A Boy Called Christmas is based on the book by Matt Haig and is written by Ol Parker (“Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!”, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) and Gil Kenan (“City of Ember”, “Monster House”) who also directs.
It’s a nice enough story, it’s colourful and features cute little animals, all the things that tend to get put into Christmas movies. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a Christmas classic though, sadly it’s lacking in some aspects to truly impress.
Both Maggie Smith and Jim Broadbent are brilliant, but chronically underused whereas Henry Lawfull lacks the wonder and excitement or even the gusto that you feel an early Father Christmas may have, rather he comes across as a bit ‘meh’ and ‘well I’ve done my bit’, which at one point he even says.
This isn’t a slant on Lawfull, I believe he played the character he was asked to, I just don’t feel he was asked to play the right character based on what the film is about.
Then we have some characters who are given very defined characteristics, only for those to either be completely ignored, when it suits, or overturned at the drop of a hat or never mentioned again.
I’m sure younger children will have a blast, A Boy Called Christmas is colourful and has a cute animal as a sidekick, but for the rest of us, there’s nothing new here and there are other movies that tell the origins of Father Christmas with a lot more fun and enchantment.
A Boy Called Christmas is available in cinemas and on Sky Cinema from 26 November and Netflix in other regions.
26th November 2021
THE QUICK SELL
In this origin story of Father Christmas, an ordinary boy (with a loyal pet mouse and a reindeer at his side) sets out on an extraordinary adventure.
CAST & CREW
Gil Kenan, Henry Lawfull, Indica Watson, Jim Broadbent, Joel Fry, Kristen Wiig, Maggie Smith, Michiel Huisman, Ol Parker, Sally Hawkins, Stephen Merchant, Toby Jones, Zoe Margaret Colletti