Director: Luc Vinciguerra.
Cast: (voices of) Jack Versace, Shane Jacobson, Magda Szubanski, Holly Fraser, Delta Goodrem.
GOOD movies for very young kids are few and far between, but this sweet Australian-French animation is well worth the ticket price for the under 10s.
Typically wholesome festive fare, it's the Yuletide tale of Nicholas, a seven-year-old orphan who lives in Sydney. Little does he know that Santa is about to retire and needs to find a replacement - and Nicholas fits the jolly fat man's criteria.
But is Nicholas up to the job, and is he really the right kid to become Santa's apprentice?
There's something quite refreshing about this film, even for the grown-ups. Its colourful, old-fashioned animation style is a welcome blast from the (not-too-distant) past, plus the use of pastel-like backgrounds gives it a distinctive look.
It's also strangely novel to see an Australian-based Christmas movie. Sure, a lot of the action takes place in the North Pole, but the rest is centred around a summery Sydney where policemen wear shorts and ice-cream salesman match their Santa jackets with hyper-coloured boardies. When is the last time you saw a holiday season movie at the cinema that wasn't all about perfectly timed snowfalls, log fires and wearing garish woollen jumpers?
The story is simple and effective although it does lag in places. There are some nice touches though - a subplot about Nicholas' orphanage buddy Felix getting adopted is well played, Santa is a surprisingly well-rounded (pardon the pun) character with real-life retirement fears, and a nice theme about bullying adds an extra edge to proceedings.
The whole thing is very unflashy, like something that's escaped from ABC TV and hidden in cinemas. It's direct style of story-telling is a tad too simplistic at times, but that hopefullly makes it ideally comprehensible for primary school kids.
Also the film has a heart as big as Queensland, and while it may seem a little drab compared to the CG extravaganzas of Pixar and Dreamworks, it's an enjoyable enough Australian Christmas story that makes for a nice contrast to the usual Yankee Yuletide yarns.