Director Matthias Temmermans and co-writers Ruben Vandenborre and Elke de Gezelle have some previous experience satisfying children and their parents, building worlds around brands such as K3, Mega Mindy and House Anubis, which mean big business in the BeNeLux (Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxemburg). Creating a Christmas movie based around Santa’s own family sounds right up their alley, and with the current pandemic still causing havoc in Europe, Temmermans’ newest film has been dropped on Netflix – a move that could significantly boost the success of his film.

Jules Claus (Mo Bakker – ‘Binti‘) doesn’t like Christmas. After his father died last year, he no longer wants anything to do with it. While his mother is working, Jules is spending lots of time in his grandfather’s toy shop. One day he finds a magic snow globe, which takes him to the farthest parts of the world. He discovers something out of the ordinary: His grandfather is the real Santa Claus! The tradition has been in the family for years and years, and now that his father is no longer there, grandfather Claus (Jan Decleir – ‘Ay Ramon!‘) has taken on this job once again. When grandfather Claus breaks his leg, Jules decides to help him. But before he is able to bring on the Christmas feeling, he has to learn how to love and appreciate the world’s “most wonderful time of the year” again..

While ‘The Claus Family‘ doesn’t re-imagine the Santa Claus-history or the sub-genre whatsoever, it does do a great job at making every character quite likable, and has a lot of fun while doing so. Decleir has been known in Belgium to portray Saint-Nicholas (let’s call him a European version of Santa Claus) on national television and is one of their most well known and respected actors. For him to put on the red-and-white suit, seems like the obvious choice, and he clearly hasn’t lost his charms. Decleir takes up and coming actor, Mo Bakker, under his wings, who doesn’t always sell the emotional struggles of his character, but the effort counts just as much. It’s also refreshing to see a Dutch and Flemish cast work so well together (you can tell by the difference in accents), with a story that finds a way to make it work, without it seeming like an obvious marketing decision.

There’s an entire side-story that revolves around Jules’ mother, Suzanne (played by well known Dutch actress, Bracha van Doesburgh), who has an idea to save the cookie factory she just started working at, from bankruptcy. With the help of two co-workers and the Claus family’s new neighbours, they fight Suzanne’s boss through a “cookie revolution” and save Christmas from the comfort of their home, while Jules helps his grandfather deliver presents around the world, in time for the merriest holiday of the year. Van Doesburgh is next to Decleir the strongest actor in this ensemble, bringing heartfelt emotions to her performance and finding a balance in portraying the happiness and sadness her character’s going through. Issam Daka, Pommelien Thijs and Amber Metdepenningen are surprisingly strong additions to the supporting cast, playing Suzanne’s co-worker Fahrid, neighbour Ella and daughter Noor, respectively. Renée Soutendijk and Sien Eggers, both very well known actors in the BeNeLux, seem terribly miscast as they overact in a rather uncomfortable way.

At times Anne-Kathrin Dern‘s score will remind you of John Williams’ work in the first chapter of the Harry Potter-saga, which borrows some similar sounding tunes, and luckily there isn’t too much VFX-work to ruin the magic of the story itself. Thanks to the talented cast and Temmermans’ skillful film making, The Claus Family will be welcomed with open arms during these rather cold and lonely winter holidays.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Netflix Review – ‘The Claus Family’

Reviewed on Netflix, December 7, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 103 min.

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of a Dingie production. Producers: Anthony Van Biervliet, Ruben Vandenborre.

CREW: Director: Matthias Temmermans. Screenplay: Matthias Temmermans, Ruben Vandenborre, Elke de Gezelle. Cinematography: Philip van Volsem. Score: Anne-Kathrin Dern.

WITH: Jan Decleir, Mo Bakker, Bracha van Doesburgh, Renée Soutendijk, Sien Eggers, Issam Dakka, Pommelien Thijs, Amber Metdepenningen, Stefaan Degand, Eva van der Gucht, Josje Huisman, Janne Desmet, Wim Willaert.

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