The good news for everyone awaiting the sequel is that new director Chris Columbus, a family movie heavyweight in his own right, doesn’t mess with that mix of heart and holiday that made the original so rewarding. (Plus, this sequel has an even bigger impromptu musical number than the jail cell light show from the original.) But the bad news, I’m sorry to say, is that “The Christmas Chronicles 2” doesn’t contribute much that’s worthwhile to the first movie’s blueprint, and focuses on mildly amusing indulgences—more elf-centric shenanigans, more Santa mythology, more roller coaster sleigh rides. Even though it succeeds at staying busy, “The Christmas Chronicles 2” opts more for chintzy spectacle than the inspired touch that made the original so special.
Before the story takes us back to the North Pole, we catch up with the brother and sister from “The Christmas Chronicles,” who seem to have exchanged attitudes. Former car thief Teddy (Judah Lewis) is now a happy-going optimist, especially after experiencing a type of conversion after helping save Christmas with his younger sister, Kate (Darby Camp). Kate might be a legend in the North Pole for her heroics with Santa’s elves in the first movie, but now she’s become bitter that her mom Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) is cozying up to a new man named Bob (Tyrese Gibson) who she fears will make everyone forget her deceased father. Even worse in her mind, she’s not even back home in Massachusetts for Christmas, she’s in the anti-snow terrain of Cancun, Mexico where Christmas seems farther in her mind than ever.
Kate plans on ditching the resort for an airport shuttle, but finds herself at the North Pole with Bob’s son Jack (Jahzir Bruno) in tow when she is tricked into a golf cart ride to the airport commandeered by Belsnickel, an evil elf-turned-human, who throws them into a portal that sends them to the North Pole. Belsnickel needs help getting access into Santa’s Village so that he can enact his evil plot of destroying the Christmas star that powers the land and makes Christmas possible, and to use biochemical warfare to turn all the elves naughty. The script by Columbus and Matt Lieberman is so convoluted that we only get to that main evil scheme about 50 minutes in, as they opt to dump a whole bunch of mediocre backstory about the origins of Santa and the elves who populate his worker metropolis, Santa’s Village. Once the adventure finally does take off, the writers complicate the story with a quest to save Christmas light and a mission to save a dying reindeer’s life, underwhelming subplots that are too touch-and-go to feel pressing.