Klaus, Netflix’s first animated original film uses astoundingly gorgeous animation and a top notch voice cast to deliver an entertaining, hilarious, heartwarming story that works on every level it should and more. If you have a Netflix subscription, it’s a must-watch for the holiday season.
The story centers around Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), an arrogant, selfish, aimless postman who’s sent to a small, cold, constantly feuding town far from home and given a seemingly impossible ultimatum by his father. Eventually, Jesper crosses paths with a teacher who no longer has any students (Rashida Jones), a solitary carpenter who has a knack for making toys (J.K. Simmons), and their adventure together serves as an origin for the Santa Claus stories we know today.
I’m completely amazed at how strong the voice cast is in Klaus. Even though Jesper’s arc is entirely predictable – which is the only thing I can really hold against the entire movie – Jason Schwartzman’s performance makes the character’s journey one that was equal parts moving and memorable. Rashida Jones is great too, giving her character, Alva a surprising amount of range and depth despite not having anywhere near the same amount of screen time as the other leads. Joan Cusack and Will Sasso are also a whole lot of fun as the heads of two feuding families and are probably the funniest parts of the movie, along with Norm Macdonald’s hilariously dry Mogens. However, the best of the bunch is J.K. Simmons as the eponymous character. He’s consistently terrific like the rest, but his delivery in a couple of particular scenes may place his vocal performance here among my all-time favorites.
On par, or possibly even surpassing some of the cast is Klaus’ stunning art style that blends classic and modern techniques together. The unique pairing of hand-drawn 2D animation with lighting and texturing tools that are usually used for CGI gives the movie the appearance of an old storybook, which lends itself brilliantly to a Santa Claus tale. Director Sergio Pablos spent almost ten years trying to make this 2D Santa movie happen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Klaus helps inspire a new generation of animators with equal adoration for the craft. The love and effort that Pablos and SPA Studios put into Klaus’ animation is easily apparent, and they should be applauded for it. It’s not the best-looking animated film of the past ten years, but it’s darn close.
Klaus is undoubtedly my favorite animated film I’ve seen this year, and a bonafide modern Christmas classic in my book. This could’ve been a generic and forgettable experience in lesser hands, but the talent behind Klaus turns it into something wonderful and whimsical that I will rewatch around the holidays for years to come.