As Kris Kringle (Bryan Brendle) prepares to retire as Santa and pass on the reins to his son Nick (Bill Hader), the stress of his future role begins to get to him. When his sister Noelle (Anna Kendrick) suggests that he take a weekend off, Nick abandons his job completely. Noelle faces the world outside the North Pole for the first time when she follows him to try to convince him to return to work. Meanwhile, their ill-prepared cousin Gabriel (Billy Eichner) steps up and prepares to turn Santa’s workshop into an online delivery service.
It seems like now is the time of year that we will be getting a whole plethora of Christmas/holiday related movies, and for me, that is certainly no issue. With the recent release of the delightfully fun Paul Feig film Last Christmas, comes yet another holiday film titled Noelle, written and directed by Marc Lawrence.
This was something I was genuinely concerned about before watching this movie – Lawrence’s involvement. He has directed such movies as the Miss Congeniality series, Two Weeks Notice, and Did You Hear About The Morgans?; a list of films that are just not my cup of tea for numerous reasons. Noelle is additionally a Disney+ original film, and that was also a concern, as a large portion of these streaming service exclusive movies can turn out to be quite bad.
While Noelle is most definitely not going to reinjuvinate the Christmas genre of films, it is surprisingly a picture with quite a bit of heart, a couple of good laughs, and an amazing message that will not only resonate with the children that watch it, but the adults as well.
Anna Kendrick has been an actress that has consistently been in movies that I have been pleasently surprised by, and Noelle is one that I can add to that list. Ever since I saw her in the Pitch Perfect franchise, as well as last year’s excellent A Simple Favor, I have taken notice of how great Kendrick is as an actress and she is also a terrific singer. In this movie, she portrays Kris Kringle’s energetic, joyous daughter that loves to spread the Christmas spirit around to everybody around her, and she is an incredibly lovable character.
Although her character development does not get explored too much, she still manages to be a character that we genuinely do root for all the way to the closing frames. Noelle’s brother Nick is a funny addition to the cast as well, with Hader showing yet again how strong he is as a comedic actor. Whenever he was on screen, it was hard not to just smile and have fun at Bill Hader dressing up as Santa Claus. What is there not to love about that?
Of course, Noelle does have quite a few issues, such as its script. There really is nothing extremely interesting going on in this movie whatsoever. It was not really an investing story, but moreso of a fun and charming one that was enjoyable to watch. Most of the story can be highly predictable, and it can be easy to see where certain plot points will go early on. Plus, the humor in the film is a mixed bag. It can be quite funny at times, but at certain moments, it can get dry and repetitive. But that does not prevent this from being a good viewing experience.
The aspect of this movie that impressed me the most was its moral of the story – that Christmas is about spreading love and joy to all, and not just receiving presents, but also giving them out. Yes, this message has been said time and time again in movies and in real life, but Noelle manages to tell it in an effective and emotionally strong way that will bring holiday cheer to its viewers.
Noelle‘s fun and likeable leads in Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader, plus its charming and heartwarming message gratefully save it from being a lump of coal.
Overall Grade: B-
MPAA Rating: G
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, Shirley MacLaine, Billy Eichner
Directed by: Marc Lawrence
Distributed by: Disney+
Running Time: 100 minutes