Director: Marc Lawrence
Writer: Marc Lawrence
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, Shirley MacLaine, Kingsley Ben-Adir
Release Date: Nov 12, 2019
Originally slated for a theatrical release, Disney made the decision to go with Noelle as the first live-action, original movie for their Disney+ streaming service. With the service launching on November 12th, it was definitely a good decision by Disney because November and December are months when folks like to watch Christmas movies. Also a good decision because Anna Kendrick brings some name value to the service’s first original film, and also because Noelle is better suited for at home streaming than it is a movie theater.
In Noelle, we get the always adorable Anna Kendrick playing Noelle Kringle, the daughter of Santa Claus.
As the daughter, it’s Noelle’s responsibility to help her brother Nick (Bill Hader) as he trains and eventually becomes the new Santa Claus once their father passes away. She also has the job of spreading Christmas joy to the folks of the North Pole, which is already a Christmas winter wonderland 24/7 filled with perky, happy people.
Of course, Nick isn’t cut out to be Santa. His training goes bad, and he doesn’t want the job. Despite never leaving the North Pole, and thus knowing anything else, he’s tired of being cold and wants to get away somewhere where it’s warm.
With about two weeks before Christmas to go, Nick takes Noelle’s advice to “get away for the weekend” to heart and heads to Phoenix, Arizona. Only he doesn’t just go for the weekend, he goes without telling anyone and stays.
And that sets up the rest of the movie. Noelle, along with her older helper/servant elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine) must leave the North Pole to “rescue” her brother in Arizona, setting up the quirky happy-go-lucky girl in an unknown place that the comedy for the film relies on.
It’s basically Elf meets Santa Claus with a woman in the lead.
As the viewer can tell from the beginning of the film, it’s Noelle that’s destined to be the next Santa Claus. Sure enough, while in Phoenix, Noelle discovers that she has her father’s “powers” or “the twinkle.” She can look at someone and know if they’re naughty or nice, what they want for Christmas, and can understand people regardless of language. All the things that Santa can do that her brother can’t do.
With some help from a private investigator named Jake (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Noelle tracks down her brother and of course fails to convince him to return to the North Pole and be Santa and save Christmas from their geek “tech division” cousin who is named Santa in Nick’s absence.
The geeky Gabriel (Billy Eichner) creates an algorithm that determines there’s less than 3,000 nice children in the world (because some don’t floss or make their beds, for all the stupid reasons) and that he’ll deliver presents to them via drone or Amazon Prime.
Yeah, Noelle is filled with product placements shoved right in your face. Petco and iPad being amongst the most blatant and shameless. Every kid wants an iPad apparently.
Eventually, Nick goes home with Noelle and at a town hall announces that Noelle would make the perfect Santa and that he’s not cut out for it. Of course there’s an uproar from the older men in attendance, after all she can’t be Santa because Santa’s a man. Apparently, there’s no rule saying Santa has to be a male Kringle, and that’s just an outdated tradition.
I know some will read that and cringe, I did too. But, this really isn’t a film that’s beating the viewer over the head with some super woke and pushy feminist agenda. It’s a lighthearted comedy and that’s how it should be viewed. I understand it’s Disney, but this isn’t Captain Marvel folks.
Noelle is the only reason I did the free trial for Disney+. And that’s solely because I love Anna Kendrick and Christmas movies, and wanted to watch it legally. It was pretty much exactly what I expected. Kendrick plays the role perfectly and is her usual charming self. Bill Hader and Kingsley Ben-Adir also played their roles well, and it’s always nice to see Shirley MacLaine.
Anna plays the fish-out-of-water role very well, with some charming quirkiness which is refreshing because it could have just as easily went the way of Will Ferrell’s overly childlike annoyance in Elf.
Is Noelle an instant Christmas classic? No, I don’t think so. As far as Disney Christmas movies goes, it doesn’t come anywhere near the Tim Allen Santa Claus films (well, it’s better than the third one, but come on that wasn’t a high bar to clear). Nor is something I think will become repeat viewing for most folks or a film they set aside time to watch every Christmas season.
With that said, Noelle is still a good watch and with its G rating is a safe, clean film for the whole family. Kids will likely enjoy more than us adults, and that’s kinda the point so that isn’t a knock.
Noelle gets a three out of five: GOOD.