Review: ‘Noelle’ Tries to Recapture The Magic of ‘Elf,’ But Falls a Little Short

The cheesy and earnest holiday film remains a staple of holiday programming. For as much fun as the Rankin and Bass films became, the wholesome stories always played it safe. For Disney+, the choice to release in November made it imperative they had Christmas programming for the holiday season. The star-studded Noelle gives the new streaming service an anchor for the holiday season. Directed by Marc Lawrence and starring Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, and Shirley MacLaine, the pieces are there to create another modern classic. While it draws from Elf’s style of humor and the traditional “Santa Goes Missing” storyline, the film wears its heart on its sleeve in what is sure to become a Christmas classic.

Noelle follows Noelle (Kendrick), the youngest daughter of Santa Claus as she tries to help her brother (Hader) take over the title. After he struggles with the role, he disappears, leaving their tech-savvy cousin Gabriel (Billy Eichner) in charge. Worried about her status in the North Pole, Noelle takes Santa’s sleigh and the Elf Polly (MacLaine) to find her brother in Arizona. With the help of a disillusioned Private Eye, Jake (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Noelle hopes to find her brother and save Christmas.

While the film’s content could easily find its way to the Hallmark Channel, the talented cast elevates the material across the board. Kendrick does an excellent job as the overly Christmas obsessed Noelle and wins you over to her character. She’s funny and sells the performance thanks to her commitment to the character’s insanity. Noelle channels her likable attributes and pairs her off a good cast to get the most out of Kendrick.

Meanwhile, Hader and MacLaine each play up oddball sides of their personas. For Hader, Noelle represents a shift in terms of his star persona. The actor has become one off the most popular figures in Hollywood, earning near-universal praise for Barry and his turn in It: Chapter 2. The fact that he can take on a supporting role in a Christmas film, only to disappear ten minutes in, showcases that love. Gambling that the audience’s relationship to Hader will make us emotionally invest in seeking him out proves that Hader’s career has reached a new level. Meanwhile, MacLaine gets to be silly and fun. You can tell she had a fun time on set, and while it will not be mentioned as a top ten movie of her incredible career, sometimes you love to see stars come out for some fun.

Noelle wears its heart on its sleeve, but for Christmas movies, that’s rarely a bad thing. Thanks to committed performances from the cast, it overcomes a fairly basic plot and allows us to enjoy the small, personal moments of the film. While the comedy does not always hit, and some may roll their eyes over Kendrick’s precocious Noelle, the overall result is a fun Christmas film for the family. For Disney+,  it’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

GRADE: (½)

What did you think of Noelle? Will it become a regular movie in your Christmas rotation? Let us know in the comments below! 

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