Magic abounds in “A Boy Called Christmas,” Netflix’s premier vacation flick of the season, but that winning adventure tale is even stronger: the immersive power of storytelling. The film, at times, is reminiscent of the early “Harry Potter” films – and not just because Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, and Toby Jones play charming eccentrics.
Framed by abrupt Aunt Ruth (Smith) telling a story to her great-niece and nephews on Christmas Eve, the film follows Nikolas (Henry Lawfull), a poor but selfless boy from medieval Finland, who travels north. to find a mythical town called Elfhelm. Friendly allies pile up along the way – including miraculous mouse Miika (voiced by Stephen Merchant), a heart-wrenching pixie (Zoe Margaret Colletti) and a bubbling elf (Jones) – while sarcastic villains (Sally Hawkins and Kristen) Wiig) test the limits of Nikolas to give wit.
At times, the prodigious cast of characters and their jokes feel incredibly familiar. (When a celebrating elf declares, “that’s resistance,” Miika snorts, “what’s the reason?”) But any weak spots are overshadowed by the joys of the film – especially its beautiful images. As Nikolas’ father describes Elfhelm, his story comes to life in enchanting shadow silhouettes around their cabin. Likewise, whenever the film swings between Nikolas’ snowy terrain and Aunt Ruth’s cozy bedroom, the director, Gil Kenan, doesn’t cut; it pans the camera seamlessly.
It’s a stylish visual decision, highlighting how the best stories – for kids and adults alike – are experienced as real and tangible. Whether you believe in magic or not, “A Boy Called Christmas” may be the rare Netflix fare that ignites the holiday spirit.
A boy called Christmas
Classified PG. Duration: 1 hour 46 minutes. Watch on Netflix.