The setting of A Boy Called Christmas looks like an attractive picture book. The British film, based on Matt Haig’s children chapter book of the same name, starts in the present day with three kids and their father living in a picturesque Christmas town. Snow descends, and we see a charming, ornamented block with just one bland house sticking out among the rest. Inside, the children’s grandmother tells them the story of Nikolas (Henry Lawfull), fittingly nicknamed Christmas, of course. As the kids learn about Nikolas’ adventures, they also discover his true quest: to find his missing father.
It’s a jolly set up as far as Christmas films go. The children share plenty in common with Nikolas, it turns out, as they also live with just their fathers, as their mother is deceased. While a bedtime story may be a well-worn shortcut in children’s movies (see 8-Bit Christmas doing the exact same structure elsewhere on HBO Max), the cliché works here by tying the characters more directly to the one in the story.
A Boy Called Christmas is a cute film to watch and an exciting one, too. Nikolas undergoes a challenging, perilous journey to magical places, including an Elf Realm where his father might be in order to win a cash prize for their family. Nikolas makes plenty of friends and contends with a fair amount of enemies along his enchanted expedition, including a lovable mouse named Miikia (Stephen Merchant) and his evil Aunt Carlotta (Kristen Wiig).
A potential future classic for the Christmas movie genre, the film has an ideal amount of adventure to balance against its heartfelt, family-bonding moments. Nikolas is friendly and likable, but he also maintains a firm moral compass, especially for a boy at 11. It’s hard not to admire his kindness to not just animals and other creatures, but even those who wrong him.
Nikolas’s bond with Miika is also quite touching, as the boy treats the mouse as an equal companion he protects and trusts. It’s even amusing watching Nikolas try and teach the mouse a bit of English, futile as it may be. But even these small moments are what add up to the overall message of A Boy Called Christmas, and one that doesn’t get enough play in modern holiday movies. There’s no reason to lose the spark of hope, even when giving up seems like the only option.
The movie may be family-friendly, but unlike many other child-oriented movies in this vein, A Boy Called Christmas is far from mindlessly silly and can be enjoyed by many age groups. With this year’s holiday season just beginning, A Boy Called Christmas is a wonderful way to get begin the festivities.
A Boy Called Christmas is available to stream on Netflix.