A Christmoose Story (Midden in Der Winternacht) from 2013 actually marks the second version of this story that I’ve seen adapted to film. As was the case when I saw the second of the new wave of Famous Five films, this remake caused me to look more into the source material being adapted here. The first version of A Christmoose Story I saw was produced in Germany where Andreas Steinhöfel the book’s author hails from. About eight years later to re-adapt the film this time in Dutch and co-produced by Sweden, The Netherlands and Belgium it can seem culturally redundant tio bring this story to film anew so soon. Gladly there are myriad ways in which this film justifies a new interpretation.
What is the most persistently charming aspect of this story is how through a new tale many age-old Christmas story tropes are flipped on their ear. This moose is Santa’s test pilot, he crashed into a barn on a farmstead and he fears beign fired and mistreatment by the reindeer amongst other things.
The bones of this version and the prior are essentially the same. Much of the humor being intended to stem from the situations the characters find themselves in in this well-crafted world. However, through more sure-handed filmmaking, better implementation of practical and digital effects work as well as a more prominent, comedic presence from supporting actors makes this film work even better.
Truly, with the prior version there was a somewhat stilted aesthetic and the impression that the ceiling on this story was only so high. It seemed like it was a pleasant diversion but could not be a more rounded holisitcally enjoyable holiday tale.
Here were some key quotes from my review of the prior version:
Yes, there are overtures of schmaltz and warm-fuzziness, it is a Christmas film after all, but it’s eminently more watchable and enjoyable than I ever thought it would be – and really should have any right to be. Part of this has to do with just a different perspective. Heaven forbid an American film try and get away with a Santa getting drunk and distracted, yet still trying to make a positive film, much less having it actually be Santa and not a mall employee or a psychopath. What the film deals mostly with is a thankfully practical and rather well-crafted Moose character (It seemed rather Falkor-like, I wonder if there is any connection to NES) and adds its own spin, and a rather cloistered tale that is neither a retread or earth-shattering in its repercussions as “disaster” is being avoided.
Much of the same commentary applies to this version, but it’s a level of degrees: one thing many family films struggle with is making leading and supporting young characters who are siblings equally appealing. Here Max (Dennis Reinsma) and Kiki (Dana Goldberg) are equally well realized and the girl/sister is not just an annoying counterpart to her brother, but a valuable member of the cast of characters and players. Similarly, the crotchety villainous older neighbor can be a very tired trope but Arjan Ederveen is quite hilarious. Then, especially for this story, rounding out Santa Claus is crucial in this film and Derek De Lint does so marvelously with a fabulous counterpoint.
Lastly, the pace in this film is excellent as well as a cinematography which adds a richness to the tale. While I described schmaltz being a trap, and almost a Christmas necessity, here even amidst the silliness and improbability there is some genuine emotion, which is a fine achievement.