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Now, there are countless origin tales and spins on the classic story of Santa Claus. Movies young and old, songs sung across generations- you’ve got focus on the elves, on the reindeer, on the man himself- countless reincarnations and resurrections of the characters. Klaus, while containing the elements of a holiday story, reinvents the tale in a lively, entertaining watch that’s sure to engage the whole family.
This movie is good. Very Good™. The characters are excitable and well-rounded, and the animation is really, really gorgeous.
So, if you don’t want to read this whole thing, the main point is WATCH IT. It’s on Netflix, and if you’re looking for a feel-good, well-put-together movie, turn it on sometime.
Just a forewarning, though I won’t be intentionally spoiling, I will be referencing plot points, so don’t read this if you’re wanting to go in without knowledge of how the story unfolds.
An Act of Goodwill
The story’s premise begins as follows: A privileged, self-important, but harmless man under daddy’s trust fund is sent to Smeerensburg, an isolated, run-down town with the task of creating a post office to send out 6,000 letters in one year.
And, yes, at first glance, this is pretty typical of a kid’s movie: the selfish, narcissistic character is stripped of their luxuries and is forced to learn about the troubles of the real world.
It’s how Jesper, the main character, achieves his arc that is unique. Not only does he achieve a greater purpose, but the world around him grows with him. As Jesper changes, the setting lightens, people’s lives transforming from something that appeared inconsequential.
Individual Growth vs. Communal Growth
The town of Smeerensburg is ridden with a deep-seated feud. I mean, the neighbors literally assault each other on a daily basis. The people have no regard for each other, just like Jesper. This story promotes the idea that everyone has the potential to be compassionate.
The kids are cruel and don’t go to school. The school teacher sells fish in the building meant to be a classroom, and she herself had succumbed to the pessimistic values of her community.
But with the simple act of gifting a child with a toy, this all changes. Klaus, the old, scary man that lives on a hill- yet another trope- has a work shed filled with toys, and finds joy in gifting the deprived children of the town with something as simple as a wooden present.
Paying it Forward
The main lesson of the movie is that a true act of selflessness always sparks another.
These people, conditioned from birth to be cruel, begin to change. As more kids get gifts and rumors swirl, the adults begin to grow as well.
It’s super, super important for kids, especially, to learn that their acts of kindness will make a difference.
Klaus gives kids toys, the kids want to write him letters, the teacher begins to teach- it just keeps spiraling in the best way possible.
The domino effect keeps going and going and going, beginning with a jerky kid from the city and continuing through the ranks.
Nature vs. Nurture
The kids in this begin as little demons. They, like their parents before them, are pitted against each other. They’re conditioned to hate the other family because of tradition.
The Krums and Elingboes, very much like the Capulet’s and Montague’s, are associated with certain colors and clothing. The Elingboes are redheaded while the Krums have darker hair.
But as these kids are united by a common cause: the obtaining of gifts, they begin to ask, “why?”
Why do they have to hate the other family? Why are they so bad?
The biggest catalyst for the change in behavior is with the idea that Klaus only gives toys to “good” kids. And while I’ve heard arguments made that the kids only changed for personal gain, that’s really just how kids work. They need incentive, which I’ll get into later.
Kids are molded by the influences around them. There’s a finite line between what can be taught and what is inherited.
The kids’ reactions aren’t that surprising. What is, however, are the adults.
When the Student Becomes the Teacher
As the kids begin to change their routines, the adults take notice. Alva, the schoolteacher, wants to leave the city. She’s saving up to start a new life far, far away.
But as she sees the innate inquisitiveness in the kids around her, she dips into her savings for them. Again. And again. And again.
While first motivated by one-upping the other, the parents of the newly-enlightened kids begin to interact, finally realizing that the hatred of the other was getting them nowhere.
It is so much easier to be tolerant than it is to be cruel.
The Implications of Wealth, Family, and Motives
Obviously, there’s a bit of disconnect. The movie says that selflessness brings about good, but Jesper’s actions were fueled by his own needs. The kids aren’t initially helping around because they want to.
However, I think it’s important to point out Jesper never was taught about the value of selflessness. To me, he seems just as deprived of a moral compass as the kids. His arc is directly tied to theirs.
On one of the rides, Jesper argues that everyone is in it for something. He tells Klaus that everyone is doing it for personal reasons, and it could be even argued that Klaus only joined Jesper because he thought his wife would’ve wanted it.
But something this movie helps explain is that incentive is the first building block in discerning between right and wrong.
Humans are creatures of habit, and how can kids be expected to act in the interest of anyone but themselves if they hadn’t experienced it before? Their own parents refused to try and make amends with their ancestor’s demons.
The ‘Discovering the Truth’ Trope
So, Jesper came with selfish intentions. Honestly, I don’t know how the other characters expected anything different.
However, even though all of the people working to bring these kids toys have experienced their own moments of self-preservation, they leave this man out to dry. Completely!
To me, it’s completely realistic for someone to have a job to get done- it’s just what they do with it, and Jesper’s actions, though at first done through necessity- just like the kids- had only done good.
Of course, Jesper only went on to prove his growth as a character, but I thought they could have done something different, I don’t know.
Klaus in Summary
It’s stunning, it’s moving- just watch it. The kids are adorable- Margu is my favorite little thing ever I cry everytime I see her SHE’S SO CUTE-
This movie shows the reward of doing acts of goodwill all while giving a fun, silly tale of the origins of Santa Claus.
And, yes, I will admit, I got teary-eyed. Multiple times.
This is the kind of movie that leaves you in that state where the world somehow seems softer around the edges. My brain gets pleasantly fuzzy and our society doesn’t seem as domineering.
Watch it, watch it, watch it.