You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who loves Christmas more than Noelle (Anna Kendrick). She also happens to be the daughter of Kris Kingle, aka Santa Claus. Now Noelle is helping her brother Nick (Bill Hader) become the next Santa. But he's freaking out and getting everything wrong, so she suggests he takes some time for himself. When he takes a holiday and doesn't return, with Christmas just around the corner, Noelle and Elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine) set out to Phoenix, Arizona, to find him.
'Noelle' actually launched on Disney+ in the US last Christmas. But we're only getting it on this side of the pond now. Christmas movie fans may feel the plot is slightly reminiscent of 'Arthur Christmas', which also explored the idea of a Claus family of multiple generations (albeit an English one). But 'Noelle' asks, what if Santa had a daughter? And what if Santa could be a girl?
Anna Kendrick is simply the sweetest, designing elaborate homemade Christmas cards and spreading good cheer. She even has an adorable, magical, flying white reindeer named Snowcone - so cute (and so marketable)! In the supports you have the consistently impressive Bill Hader; the quirky Julie Hagerty; Billy Eichner as the Kringle cousin attempting to make Christmas more technological (anything but that!); and the ever fabulous Shirley MacLaine as a slightly bad-humoured elf, imparting sass and wisdom.
The North Pole has a pretty, colourful design to it, its citizens moving around by skating everywhere. Once the story movies to Phoenix, one gets something of an 'Elf' vibe, as Noelle is totally frazzled by the "real world", getting frightened by traffic and confusing dress-up Santas for the real one. Elsewhere, 'Noelle' recalls act three of 'The Santa Clause', when our heroine is arrested, having been deemed insane. Still, while it rips off a couple of Christmas classics (and here, it's hardly the only one - see new Netflix Christmas movies 'Christmas on the Square' and 'Jingle Jangle'), the proceedings are all so enthusiastic that one is easily charmed. And gosh darn it, but Kendrick is swell and so darn likable.
Elsewhere, a police chief character and his son provide a sweet side story line, but the flick has a few issues. It loses some momentum about midway through the feature, and is completely predictable. But it's also so nice, well-meaning and enjoyable, it gets a thumbs up from us.
'Noelle' streams on Disney+ from Friday, 27 November.