'Noelle' Courtesy Photo

With the holiday season approaching, many may find themselves curling up on the couch with family and friends, sipping on a cup of hot cocoa and watching heartwarming Christmas movies. 

With so many holiday movies coming out every year, it can be tough to decide which ones are worth watching. One of the movies that might sneak past casual viewers, considering it’s not advertised much on TV, is the Disney+ original movie “Noelle,” starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader. 

The story follows the son and daughter of Santa Claus — Noelle Kringle (Kendrick), who has to leave the North Pole to find her brother Nick (Hader), who ran away because he’s feeling too much pressure about becoming Santa Claus after his father’s death. 

Kendrick and Hader excel at making their sibling relationship believable. With similar comedic timing and childish banter, the pair’s chemistry creates a strong sense of relatability for anyone with a sibling. The brother-sister relationship at the story’s core is a refreshing addition to holiday movies, as it provides a welcome contrast to the numerous sappy romance movies of the season.

Some of the people in the North Pole consider Noelle to be selfish, mostly because she worries about how to make things easier for herself and isn’t conscious of her actions’ consequences. This assertion, however, might not seem accurate provided her efforts to help Nick train in preparation for his role as Santa Claus. She also radiates kindness and optimism, making heartfelt cards of encouragement for everyone at the North Pole. But as the audience gets further into the movie, it becomes clear that she’s not searching for her brother because it’s the right thing to do, but rather because she believes Nick is the only person who can truly take on the role of Santa Claus. 

The inherent interest in the film lies in the concept of a female Santa Claus, as toward the climax of the film, Noelle takes the literal reins of Santa Claus’ demanding position. However, before becoming the jolly toy slinger, Noelle seemed determined to ignore the possibility of becoming Santa Claus since no woman has taken on the role before. She also shrugs off the signs of having Santa Claus’ specific powers, such as instantly learning a language after hearing it. These frustrations made the payoff of her becoming Santa Claus a bit bland and didn’t give the audience a sense of satisfaction of watching Noelle’s character grow.

While “Noelle” exceeds in some areas, it lacks in others. The character arcs in the film are mediocre at best, with the possible exception of Nick. He grows from selfish and whiny to considerate of his citizens, and he accepts that he needs to return to the North Pole to restore order. Hader’s acting is what truly made Nick’s arc believable, with his child-like personality and sarcastic sass complementing more mature and less comedic acting toward the end of the film. It’s a pleasure to watch and adds holiday charm to the film. 

Some jokes in the film also get repetitive. Throughout the film, there’s a recurring joke regarding the people on Santa’s nice list wanting iPads for Christmas, and the audience is made to believe they want something else entirely. The joke gets exhausting after a while and doesn’t hold its comedic value. 

While the movie might not be as memorable as some classics like “Elf,” the film excels by telling a story of familial love, overcoming adversity and the charitable power of the Christmas spirit. Noelle taking on the role of Santa Claus could also inspire young girls to do anything they set their minds to if they have the skills and believe in themselves.