Disney+’s NOELLE Is Cute and Kind, But Misses the Very Heart of Christmas
By Jessilyn Lancaster, Managing Editor
Disney+ brought millions of users great joy with its recent streaming launch, allowing users to access both nostalgic and new choices at the click of a button. Among the new fare is NOELLE, a Christmas movie starring Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader, Shirley McClain, and Billy Eichner.
PITCH PERFECT’s Kendrick plays the title character, the daughter of Santa, who is grappling with the loss of her father and the transition of the jolly mantle to her brother, Nick, played by SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’s Hader.
When Noelle suggests Nick take a weekend to relax and breathe ahead of the Christmas season, Nick completely disappears. Noelle must find her brother to save Christmas from LION KING’s Eichner, the new Santa who wants to completely digitize the holiday.
I wanted to like NOELLE. I really did. The movie has an amazing all-star cast with cute animals and adorable costumes. I laughed in all the right places and oo’d and ahh’d over the baby reindeer. NOELLE had all the pieces of a cute Christmas classic, save for one critical flaw; no one mentioned Jesus.
When it comes to Christmas movies, kindness and morality often shine through as examples of Christ’s presence, even if He isn’t directly mentioned. Yet in NOELLE, while all the peripheral elements made for a quirky plot and engaging watching, the lack of Jesus was palpable.
What makes many Christmas movies great is that the holiday brings people together. Characters overcome differences just in time to celebrate. NOELLE felt hollow, and even irreverent at parts, as Noelle ultimately found the meaning of Christmas within herself. She ultimately comes to the conclusion that Christmas is still about presents, just giving them away instead of receiving them.
Many people may watch the movie and think that it’s harmless, far-fetched fun. Media-wise viewers, however, would discern that something much more sinister is at play. By completely ignoring the heart of Christmas, NOELLE proves that our culture really has eroded into a society of mass consumption.
To me, this represents a dire situation. Even foul-mouthed, violent television shows have been known to create a Christmas episode that grapples with faith in some way. Many Christmas movies – especially my beloved Hallmark movies—recognize that the holiday has deep personal meaning and should be treated in an honoring way.
Yet for a clean Christmas movie to focus on presents? That was a bit too much. I took note of some subtle moral elements and biblical principles, but there weren’t enough to overshadow big materialism. Even kids who asked Santa for sweet gestures always added an iPad to their wish list.
Of course, I don’t think presents are evil! My love language is actually receiving gifts, so this op-ed may even seem hypocritical in that regard. However, what I find fault with is the focus on presents that completely eclipses the heart of Christmas.
While I think media-wise viewers might enjoy NOELLE as clean option for their family, I think some explanation may be in order for children—especially younger children—to understand the heart of Christmas.