Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman promised us that Santa Claus was coming down the lane. But the fact is, he’s never coming down your lane. Or any lane. In fact, no one ever sees him at all.
But in this streaming Netflix movie, young Kate Pierce is determined to be the first person to ever get a glimpse of good ol’ St. Nick. Besides, she could use the cheering up. And not just Kate, but her older brother, Teddy, and their mom, Claire, too.
You see, Christmas used to be a big deal at the Pierce house. Kate’s dad, Doug, would decorate and fill the home with laughter and cheer. But it’s been a year since Mr. Pierce died in a tragic firefighting accident, and Christmas spirit is slowly beginning to melt away from his surviving family in Lowell, Massachusetts. Kate’s mom is working more, Teddy is getting into trouble with his friends, and Kate’s grades have been slipping too.
The Pierces need a win. Big time.
So when Claire gets called into work on Christmas Eve,
Kate convinces Teddy to stay up all night so they can catch Santa. They lay the traps, set out the cookies and turn on the camera for an all-night Santa stakeout.
But catching Santa isn’t going to be easy. He’s magical, after all. And if these resourceful kids are lucky enough to see him, or even hop into his sleigh, they just might accidentally change Christmas morning for every child in the world.
Kate is the leader in this film. She is compassionate, sweet and sensitive to the needs of others. She’s tried hard to help her mother since her father’s passing. She helps consistently with chores and tries to spend time with her brother (even though he refuses).
Eventually, though, Teddy begins to reciprocate. And as he spends more time with his sister, he’s generally in a better mood, and he’s more helpful and obedient. And even though Kate and her brother don’t always get along, their father taught them to “hug it out” from an early age as they worked through their disagreements.
Doug’s death has left Teddy hard-hearted and angry. But as he forgives his deceased father, Teddy learns to believe in himself and is encouraged by his sister. Claire, for her part, makes a Christmas wish that her children would learn to get along—a wish that’s granted by film’s end as two formerly feuding siblings learn to get along with each other.
Santa (who’s real!) teaches the children about self-confidence, belief and perseverance. Teddy follows his father’s motto: “A Pierce always sees it through.” A police officer, who is initially wary of Santa, begins to believe when his ex-wife calls to reconcile their relationship. Other people also begin to believe in Santa as they begin to see the impossible happen.
Santa uses his magical powers (as well as his hat, sled and other gadgets) to help bring joy to people all around the world. Santa’s book is divided into those who believe and those who don’t. Teddy is called an “unbeliever,” while Kate is recognized as a “true believer.”
We also repeatedly hear about the importance of “Christmas spirit” as a byproduct of sincere belief. And though almost nothing in the film is clearly linked to the real spiritual meaning of Christmas, The Christmas Chronicles does suggest that our attitudes, choices and beliefs play an important role in shaping a culture and in the events that happen within it. Having “Christmas spirit” results in positive, redemptive outcomes.
Teddy and Kate talk about how they haven’t been to church since their father’s passing. Teddy asks if Santa can wave his hand and do a “Jedi mind trick” on pursuing police. Kate tries to trap Santa with a tactic she learned from a TV show called Ghost Adventures. Santa exclaims that there will be a “baptism by fire.”
A few of women wear short skirts and cleavage-baring tops. (They also flirt with Santa.) Couples kiss and dance with one another.
Kate and Teddy’s father, Doug, died when he ran into a burning home to save someone during a fire. Teddy and Kate struggle to process their grief, which often gets expressed angrily between them. Teddy shoves Kate, for instance, and throws a shoe at her head too.
Santa says that without Christmas spirit, people become angry, cranky and depressed. He links these attitudes to mounting crime in Chicago and tells the kids that a lack of Christmas spirit contributed to wars of the past. Santa reminds a bartender (who has a history of violence) of his former convictions, such as armed robbery, money laundering and grand theft auto. The same bartender threatens Santa with a bat and later falls to the ground and hurts himself.
Kate falls out of Santa’s sleigh, plummeting toward the ground before being rescued. Santa, Kate and Teddy are all eventually thrown from the sleigh and land on the ground, momentarily knocked unconscious. Kate gets tied to a chair with Christmas lights by the elves in the North Pole. One elf passes out.
Teddy is kidnapped by three men who threaten to hurt him and even to throw him into a fire. [Spoiler Warning] Elves come to the rescue and attack these baddies with pool balls, as well as (humorously) threatening Teddy with a chainsaw.
Teddy is given a knife for Christmas from his dad.
Kate utters an incomplete s-word. Other language includes one or two uses of “h—,” “d–mit” and “freakin’.” God’s name is misused three times. Several insults are hurled, too, including “jerk,” “little creep,” “boring slug,” “big fat slob,” “fool,” “moron,” “bum” and “brat.”
Santa and the kids walk into an Irish pub where people are drinking beer and wine. One very drunk patron has apparently passed out. Liquor bottles are seen in a shop, and a man is accused of “slinging tequila shots.” Kate accuses Teddy of underage drinking with his friends.
Since his fathers’ death, Teddy has become angry and irritable. He doesn’t know how to process his feelings and instead takes his aggressive emotions out on those around him. Additionally, he makes poor decisions, such as leaving his sister home alone and hotwiring a car with his “wannabe gangster” friends. He also steals a car with Santa (which Santa declares is OK), and they run from the police. Eventually, Santa gets locked up. A woman mistakenly believes that Santa has abducted the children. Santa asks if his backside looks “too big.”
Kate asks to watch a PG-13 or R-rated movie with her brother, once their mom leaves for work, even though she’s not oldenough for either. Both children disobey their mom. Teddy’s mother often works at night (though out of necessity) once her husband dies, leaving her children home alone and desperate for attention and interaction. Teddy mistakenly comes to believe that his mom is disappointed in him.
Christmas spirit, this film tells us, lives inside each one of us. And it takes those who love us to bring it out and to help reveal what’s most important in life.
Teddy and Kate lose track of this truth this until Santa comes around. Sad and lost without the loving influence of their father, the Pierce siblings struggle to achieve a healthy “new normal” without him. They feel hopeless. But Santa teaches them how to believe again. He teaches them how to have hope.
Obviously, the message of hope here centers on Santa, not Jesus. That concern, along with the film’s emphasis on the importance of gifts as well as a smattering of light profanity and violence, could keep The Christmas Chronicles from becoming a perennial favorite in your family.
Now, that said, this lighthearted film is also about a broken family, one that desperately needs to remember what it’s like for love and joy to fill their hearts—and to remember that hope is most valuable gift of them all.
And that’s not a bad message at all.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).