Klaus Nov 20, 2019 18:22:14 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Nov 20, 2019 18:22:14 GMT -5
Directed by: Sergio Pablos
Directed by: Sergio Pablos
It's a blessing that a gorgeous, sweetly written work of traditional animation can be made in 2019, but unfortunate it must reside on Netflix as opposed to being seen by millions in a theater. More on that another day. Klaus looks and feels like a hardcover storybook with its vibrant visuals and dimensional characters as it conjures up a lovely origins story about Christmas. In look and tone, it's reminiscent of The Emperor's New Groove and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and for an unassuming title that serves as Netflix's first original animated feature, that's pretty solid company.
The film tells an adorable origins story of how Christmas came to be. It begins by showing a spoiled cad named Jesper (voiced Jason Schwartzman) lazily drifting through the Royal Postman Academy, silently hoping his father, the Postmaster General (Sam McMurray), will continue to let him leach off of his riches. But upon graduation, Jesper realizes his father's plans: send his son to Smeerensburg, a remote village on a small island, where he will be tasked with filing 6,000 letters in one year. Failure to do so will result in him losing his cut from the family fortune.
Jesper is transported to the island by a boatman (Norm Macdonald), and discovers Smeerensburg is a town at a crossroads. It's a land made up of feuding families that have harbored a strong dislike for one another since the days of yore. Because of the constant infractions, letters are hard to come by, not to mention no one knows how to write, and even a local teacher named Alva (Rashida Jones) has no students to teach.
Jesper winds up getting acquainted with Klaus (J. K. Simmons), a loner who works as a woodsman. Through cute circumstances, the two devise a "business plan" where Alva will teach children how to write, the children will write letters to Klaus for toys, Jesper will retrieve the letters, and Klaus will make the toys. Throughout the film, we see how such memorable conventions of Christmastime originated, so to speak. A kid who insults Jesper winds up getting coal in his stocking, but the only reason the boy hung a sock on his mantle is because the kids' overactive imaginations start stirring up images in their minds of what Klaus does and what he may look like.
Klaus accomplishes a lot by allowing its story to build so naturally. It takes time introducing us to Jesper — who reminded me so much of the contemptible Kuzco from the aforementioned Emperor's New Groove — and the townspeople of Smeerensburg, making this story feel complete by the time it all gets wrapped up like a holiday present. The film has a divine visual luster that is reminiscent of a hardcover storybook your parents would read to you as a child. The animation is as classic as an age-old Disney cartoon, with sharp-edged character designs making some slender and others pleasantly rotund in a manner that's easy on the eyes. It recalls the underused stylings of Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet, and dare I say, it fits right in with that breed of uniquely immersive storytelling.
The film was hatched from the mind of Sergio Pablos, who serves as director, producer, and co-writer. Pablos worked on such beloved Disney films as Hercules and Tarzan, but grew more elusive after the "Disney Renaissance." Apparently, Pablos was a bit disillusioned by the industry's swiftness, in a way, to ditch traditional animation in favor of computer-generated works, and conceptualized Klaus as an old school picture that would still show the evolution in both storytelling and visual beauty. From the textures of the landscapes to the lighting, Klaus looks impeccable. The best part is its narrative and thematic heft prove it's not a diversion that provides viewers with empty calories and nothing more.
Klaus arrives on Netflix at the right time, I might add, with the holiday season in full swing. It will be interesting to see what Pablos might do next after hitting a home-run with this original picture. More than just another title in the catalog of animated babysitters (most recently, ones focused on Yetis, snow-creatures, and fish), Klaus is a testament to traditionalism in an age where we're told only slick, new properties sell. As much fun as it would be to see on a big-screen, the fact it's so accessible, and so good, as a plus, I predict it's going to find its audience and they'll cherish it with each passing holiday season.
Voiced by: Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Norm Macdonald, and Sam McMurray. Directed by: Sergio Pablos.