“Klaus” is the closest we’ve gotten to classic Disney animated storytelling since “Hercules.” The fact that it isn’t Disney makes that even more impressive. But it’s not because of the animation that looks hand-drawn yet is somehow more immersive than that, it’s not even because of the retelling of a fairy tale we’re all familiar with, in this case how Santa Claus came to be – it’s because of its heart, the warmth and compassion it has for the wonder of Santa and a burning passion to share that warmth with everyone and shares its message loud and proud, that selfless kindness is as infectious as it is moving.
Everything we love about Santa is given a purpose here – the reindeer, the cookies, the elves, his laugh, giving bad kids lumps of coal, all of it is given new meaning and often leads to hilarious results. What works especially well is that this Santa (voiced by J.K. Simmons) is paired up with a pampered but hopeless postman (Jason Schwartzman) who is forced to move to the island Santa lives on, a dark, snowy island where two rival families have constantly fought one another for generations. This postman reminds me of Kuzco from “The Emperor’s New Groove” – egotistical and so sure of himself but is thrust into a world he was never ready for and has to make the best of it, leading him to build a strange friendship that becomes the backbone of the movie. And through this strange friendship that neither the postman or Santa fully understand, all of the Santa-isms are given new meaning, but especially the joy of giving back to the world and watching the happiness that springs from that.
“Klaus” is as lovely as it is imaginative and is just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. The animation is beautifully colorful and atmospheric, the comedy wonderfully balances good slap stick with witty comebacks and jokes and every character is energetic lively, even the rival families in their seriousness about their on-going war. But I can’t overstate how loving and caring this film is, not just for the story of Santa Claus but for what he stands for, that no matter who you are and what you’ve done, everyone deserves that same joy we all feel when we get a new toy.
Final Grade: A