asdfAnna Kendrick is sweet in this holiday movie about Santa's two kids that feels largely unnecessary.Cate Cameron/DisneyWarning: There are minor spoilers ahead for Disney's Noelle. Unless you're a diehard fan of Bill Hader or Anna Kendrick, Disney Plus' holiday film is one to skip. Cheesy dialogue painfully tries to insert Christmas sayings and songs playfully into the script to eye roll-worthy effect.Noelle's CGI reindeer pet feels like gimmicky fodder to keep kids' interest.So far, the streaming service's lineup of original movies feel like B-films that weren't good enough for theatrical releases. Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Overstuffed with clumsy clichés of holiday songs packed into its dialogue, Disney's Noelle fails to bring more joy than cringe.
The film follows Nick Kringle (played by Bill Hader) as he's tasked with taking over the role of Santa Clause five months after the death of his father, the former Santa. There's just one problem: Nick's no good at the job. He doesn't even want to take over the role. At the behest of his sister, Noelle (Anna Kendrick), Nick goes away for a weekend to clear his mind.
That weekend becomes a week and with Christmas days away, Noelle sets out to find her brother and save the holiday.
Available to stream on Disney Plus Tuesday, the service's second original movie after Lady and the Tramp also plays like a predictable straight-to-video film that simply wasn't good enough for a theatrical release.What you should know: 'Noelle' was originally supposed to be released in theaters.
asdf Noelle was originally set for a theatrical release in November 2019 before being pulled from the schedule.Disney
Disney originally announced Noelle in January 2017 with a script written and directed by Marc Lawrence ( Miss Congeniality ). It was supposed to be a big holiday release for the company this fall starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader as Santa's grownup kids. However, the film was shelved in March 2018 before Disney eventually announced the comedy would lead its Disney Plus original content on launch day.
Still, Disney must not have felt too confident in the film since the company didn't roll out screeners for Noelle until weeks after offering the rest of its Disney Plus original library (minus Star Wars show The Mandalorian ) for review ahead of November 4. Instead, digital screeners were given to press this past weekend with a note that reviews must be held until four hours before the streaming service launches.What's hot: Anna Kendrick is the only thing which keeps this movie afloat. It should be enough for kids to enjoy.
If it weren't for Kendrick's personable spirit and energy, it would've been easy to turn off Noelle. The actress is the most joyous part of a film where not too many people seem to exhibit a lot of holiday cheer. Noelle talks about everyone in the North Pole hating her once her brother runs off. Santa's replacement, cousin Gabe (Billy Eichner), seems out to destroy Christmas by dialing back on the number of nice kids. (He claims there are only about 2,000 in the entire world.
Parents shouldn't worry about letting their children watch this holiday fare, though. Kendrick's adventure to find her brother is harmless fun with a cutesy message that anyone can be Santa. It's just not one that we really needed.
Shirley Maclaine also appears in Noelle as a head elf. You can see part of Noelle's blue outfit here.Disney
At the least, costume designers Gary Jones and Mitchell Travers do a great job of making Noelle look chic in a number of festive holiday outfits, including a blue Christmas skating outfit.What's not: Overly used holiday clichés, an odd CGI baby reindeer, and a pretty predictable plot with a few holes.
From the start, Noelle is filled with cheesy moments as song titles and references are worked into dialogue. For instance, a young Noelle and Nick Kringle declare they see Mommy kissing Santa Claus and Santa himself tells Noelle he needs to check his list to see whether or not she's been naughty or nice.
It's meant to be cute, but it makes for clunky, eye-roll worthy dialogue throughout the majority of the film that takes you out of the moment. It was as if someone lost a bet to see how many Christmas songs they could cleverly try and sneak into the film's script.
asdfHader and Kendrick are trapped in a script that they do what they can with.Disney
Something that may catch viewers off guard is that Noelle is referred to as a princess. Are Santa's children royalty? Debatable. Mostly, it appears that Disney was attempting to make Kendrick's character into a marketable doll to live beside the likes of its more established princesses like Cinderella, Belle, and Snow White. At the film's start, Noelle gets a princess moment when she's seen opening a giant window and she starts singing. After a few moments when nothing happens, you sit wondering if birds are supposed to start flocking toward her. (They never do.)
Instead, a tiny baby reindeer clumsily flies toward Noelle. Maybe it's supposed to be comical, but it never hits. That's partially because you're too transfixed trying to figure out why the baby reindeer, Snowcone, looks like a strange mix between a calf and lamb.
asdfSnowcone is clearly supposed to be an adorable character for kids to love, but I couldn't stop wondering if he was a mix between a lamb and calf.Disney
A lot of Noelle feels awkward as it stumbles to a very predictable conclusion. Noelle is jolly and bright, but a simpleton who doesn't have the slightest comprehension of how anything in the real world works despite her father being a famous world traveler. Often, she seems like a child who never grew up. When asked for money by a private investigator, she tries paying him off with chocolate coins even though she's seen having to pay for clothes earlier in the film at the North Pole. It seems a few steps backwards for Disney which has made its princesses more progressive in recent years.
A recurring joke throughout the film revolves around every kid wanting an iPad. Perhaps this made more sense when Disney's CEO Bob Iger was on the Apple board, but now that the two have competing streaming services it seems like weird free publicity for the company's competition.
asdfA running gag is that every child wants an iPad in Noelle, making it feel like a big push for Apple products.Disney
The more you sit with Noelle, the more you'll consider a few plot holes. The biggest is that it's a bit strange that there isn't a group of elves out searching for Nick after he goes missing. Although people convey their dismay aloud, the inhabitants of the North Pole don't seem fazed enough to actually do anything to get him back. They claim it's too dangerous. But it's weird since we're shown the elves are capable of making tech to analytically decipher whether or not children are naughty or nice, but somehow they can't build something to track Nick's whereabouts.
It's also tough to believe that a group of elves aren't more distraught that Christmas is literally days away and they have no plan on how to deliver toys throughout the world. A drone, perhaps, or Amazon Prime is suggested. It seems like they're just sitting around waiting for the film's predictable conclusion to solve everything.Overall: Kids may enjoy 'Noelle,' but it's clear why Disney left this one on the shelf until now.
asdfIt feels like this was never supposed to be more than a TV movie on the Disney channel.Disney
We have two competing Santa origin stories this holiday from Netflix and Disney Plus. One is clearly a winner over the other. If Disney's was good enough, it wouldn't have been sent to its streaming service. Noelle has the makings of a holiday film, but at the end of the day it just feels underwhelming and pretty generic while Disney tries to engineer its next profitable princess.
It's disappointing as Disney Plus' original film slate feels like discarded theatrical releases that never would've performed exceedingly well at the box office. Though Noelle sends the message that anyone can be Santa with a sweet Kendrick, it won't be a film you're coming back to over and over again.Grade: C
Noelle will be available to stream on Disney Plus starting Tuesday. You can watch a trailer below.
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