In Review

Film review: A Boy Called Christmas 

Syrupy, family-friendly festive fare 

A Boy Called Christmas 

You’d have to have the “humbuggiest of hearts not to be charmed” by this Christmas film, said Cath Clarke in The Guardian. “Lavishly adapted” from Matt Haig’s kids’ book, it kicks off in modern-day London, where Maggie Smith is a Mary Poppins-ish great-aunt to a trio of siblings. She has a story to tell about a boy called Nikolas (the “delightfully urchin-faced newcomer” Henry Lawfull), who lives in Finland with his woodcutter dad (Michiel Huisman). They’re so poor that when the “dotty king”, played with endearing petulance by Jim Broadbent, offers a reward to anyone able to “bring hope to the land”, Nikolas’s father goes in search of a fabled kingdom of elves, and is eventually followed by Nikolas himself. The film has “semi-unsentimental” things to say about grief, but is above all a Christmas movie, made for “little ones” parked in front of the telly on Boxing Day, while the adults are all “a bit drowsy on Quality Street”. 

It’s aimed at children, but this delightful film will “embrace the whole family in a warm cinematic hug”, said Brian Viner in the Daily Mail. There’s a flying reindeer, a silly king, a cackling crone, fabulous special effects and “just about every other ingredient you might wish for” in a festive film. It’s “an early Christmas cracker”. The world it conjures is beautifully constructed, said Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph, but I am afraid I found the film “an unlovely hybrid of the garish and the mawkish”. Beneath its “Paddington-meets-Potter” storybook skin, “its bloodstream runs with purest gloop”. Characters are more likely to grate than charm, and some of the casting “borders on self-sabotage”, with Stephen Merchant appearing as the world’s least likely talking mouse.

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