This wonderful little animated film telling the story of Santa Claus plays on the heartstrings like YoYo Ma plays the cello. It is delightful, surprising, and heartwarming. A perfect holiday movie the family will love.

The movie has a pretty simple and standard setup. A spoiled young rich guy named Jesper is sent by his father to a remote and inhospitable village to start a post office. Is he going to learn valuable lessons and grow to love this village? It’s not hard to guess, but the film does so much more with this premise. It grows, develops, and surprises all along the way.

The first surprise is the animation itself. It is clearly done with computers, but has a hand drawn quality that is enchanting and gorgeously rendered.

The bigger surprise is not that the village changes him. It’s that he changes the village. He teams up with a reclusive toy maker to receive letters and send packages. Their acts of kindness and generosity transforms the people of the village. So many Christmas movies make grand statements about how it’s better to give than receive, but this movie proves that message by showing its effects on everyone. The whole village becomes a better place because of the simple acts of goodness that take place. As the villages changes so do the main characters. The shot of the toy maker as he watches the first child open the first present is transcendent. In the instant his character changes and the moment is captured artfully as possible.

The humor is also a delightful surprise. It isn’t manic like some kids films. It’s not winking adult humor crammed awkwardly into a children’s movie. It is genuinely clever and fun, and I laughed a lot.

The ending of this film packs a huge emotional wallop. It reduced me to tears. It warms the heart. It affirms human goodness and kindness. It has one of the best film lines of any movie. It is an emotional powerhouse of a movie.

Is it the best movie of the year? No. It has flaws and faults. It’s slow to start. It doesn’t really get its traction going until the end of the first act. And for all it’s invention and surprises there are very predictable moments. However the good feelings it generates and the fantastic and timely themes it expresses more than make up for it.

Personally I loved this movie. It feels like what Disney movies used to be. It’s good. It’s original. It’s worth watching again and again. It’s currently available on Netflix. Watch it with the kids. Watch it by yourself. It’s well worth your time.

Definitely my cup of tea. A

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