Joulutarina (Christmas Story) Reviews
The first half works because Nikolas is still a child and a very sympathetic and believable character. Essentially he's just a boy, but you can see the potential in him. He's very kind and mindful of his fellow villagers, but he's also a bit of an outsider due to the events at the beginning of the film. I also like the way they make him interact with the village as a whole. The framing story for why he goes from house to house reflects the harsh conditions of the time period, yet you can still see that people were people even back then. The characters are also written well and their actors do a good job of portraying them. Kari Vššnšnen as the curmudgeon carpenter is especially delightful in his role. As a whole I liked this part of the film very much.
But then Nikolas grows older and Hannu-Pekka BjŲrkman steps into his shoes and he pretty much blows it. He plays the character way too goofy, which kind of works, because when you think about it, you have to be kind of messed up to suddenly decide that you will dedicate your remaining life to making and giving out toys. So yeah, I can see why they went with this portrayal, but I still think that it doesn't work. The character of Santa Claus needs to be dignified. You can play him jolly and merry, in fact you kind of have to. But you cannot portray him as pitiful or mad, and that's exactly what this film does. Nikolas more closely resembles the village idiot than Santa. There are moments here and there where his true character shines true, but then you see him covered in saw dust, his eyes bulging out and with a goofy grin on his face, and the illusion shatters once again.
In addition the inclusion of magic into the film has some hiccups and the story isn't as captivating as it was at the beginning. The character of Aada (Laura Birn) also has some problems. She's supposed to be the proto-elf, kind of, but the way he interacts with Nikolas is a bit too detached for that to work. Instead she falls back to a general support role with no mythos.
Still, I think that this is a good film. Had they allowed Santa more dignity, I think it would have been a lot better, but this version works as well, just not as well as it could have. The high production values shine through, the film looks nice, the music is pleasant and most of the actors do a relatively good job. I've seen better, but I've seen worse as well.