Disney+ Might Be Home to 2019’s Best Holiday Movie

Don’t look now, but after being in existence for less than a month, Disney+ has served up what some will call a new Christmas classic and what other people will call a perennial that will only stick around because of the Disney brand. 

Woman with Disney+ logo on TV screen
Disney+ | Chesnot/Getty Images

One of the original movies that the new streaming outlet served up was Noelle, starring Anna Kendrick as Santa’s daughter. Bill Hader plays Santa’s son, who is supposed to become the new Santa until he gets cold feet — well, colder than usual, anyway.

With the irrepressible Kendrick making the promotional rounds, she practically wills the movie into being a brand new holiday tradition. 

How did ‘Noelle’ come about?

In the not so recent past, Noelle might have been a movie released in theaters or it might have been a TV movie on ABC or the Disney Channel. Now, it serves as a selling point for Disney’s new tool for entertainment domination, as if to say: “Sure, we have all this old classic stuff here, but we have new classic stuff here too – we hope!” 

As Kendrick explained on The Daily Show: “Bill Hader plays the next Santa in line. He disappears because he’s nervous he won’t do a good job. And I have to, what? Go and save Christmas. I mean, naturally. Why would I make a Christmas movie where I didn’t have to save Christmas? That’s my job.”

Actually, Kendrick did appear in a 2014 movie Happy Christmas in which she didn’t save the holiday, but that’s an entirely different animal. Put it this way: It would not make a good double feature with Noelle if you’re showing it to your kids.

It’s Rated R, for one thing. But Noelle is written and directed by Marc Lawrence, whose credits include Two Weeks Notice, Miss Congeniality and Music and Lyrics. Noelle is comfort food. 

How do viewers like ‘Noelle?’

The movie isn’t faring too well on Rotten Tomatoes, having a lowly 47 percent rating. The Critical Consensus reads: “The always charming Anna Kendrick does her best, but Noelle‘s progressive take on a timeless tale is unfortunately subdued.”

Gwen Ihnat of AV Club writes: “All of this doesn’t add up to the warm alchemy of a Christmas classic, or a holiday movie you’d go out of your way to watch more than once, even if it is streaming.”

Audience ratings were kinder, with one person writing: “I’m surprised this is getting such low ratings. I wouldn’t say it’s a classic, but it’s 100% preferable to the dozens of kitschy Hallmark films. It delivers a lot of genuine laughs and heart without the eye rolls.”

If nothing else, Noelle at least adds something new to the holiday mix to freshen up the 534th viewing of A Christmas Story or the 234th viewing of Elf, to which Noelle is very much a cousin — North Pole dwellers with peppermint in their veins stumble into the real world and find its more naughty than nice. 

What other Christmas offerings are on Disney+?

Once you’re done with Noelle, there are plenty of other yuletide offerings available on Disney+. Arguably the best of these is a movie that didn’t start as a Disney property – the original Miracle on 34th St. from 1947. Disney now owns that Oscar-winning film originally produced by Fox. 

Another genuinely great movie on Disney+ is the 1992 A Muppet Christmas Carol, the first Muppet movie to be released after the untimely deaths of creator Jim Henson and Muppeteer Richard Hunt, and the film is dedicated to their memory. One of the reasons it works so well is that Michael Caine plays Scrooge as if his co-stars are not Muppets. He may as well be on the London stage. As a result, the story still has an emotional impact, even with all the Muppet silliness zipping around. 

A search for Christmas does not bring up Noelle, but it does bring up The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beauty and the Beast: An Enchanted Christmas and … Iron Man 3? Yes, Iron Man 3. Director Shane Black has a thing for Christmas, be it Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the original Lethal Weapon that he wrote, or Iron Man 3. Whatever your taste, Disney+ has a variety of fare for the whole family — in more ways than one.