Netflixable? “The Claus Family” searches for Flemish holiday fun

He and his little sister just lost their dad, and Jules has decided “I hate Christmas” in the bargain.

Now his widowed mother’s moved them to Belgium, where Jules can keep Grandpa, his father’s father, company in his toy shop. When the sour, grieving kid stumbles across a magical snow globe on the shelves and figures out that it teleports the bearer to any place on Earth in an instant, Jules (Mo Bakker) does the math.

“Are you…Santa?” he asks his gramps (in Flemish with English subtitles, or dubbed into English).

“Now’s not the time,” Grandpa (Jan Decleir) grumps. Busy season and all that.

But he confesses, and the next thing we know, the kid who hates Christmas is drafted into helping his ailing grandfather cover his appointed rounds. Only reluctantly. Nothing less is expected of another generation of “The Claus Family.”

This shiny little Belgian bauble has more sparkle than spark, as the kid relapses into sullen sadness repeatedly, the “logistics” of The North Pole seem like a half-hearted cheat and the warm fuzzies never, for once second, set it.

The elves are tiny (forced camera perspective) people, and the North Pole is basically inside Santa’s snow globe. An elevator takes the kid into the complex’s subterranean warehouses, where the quartet of elves — or in this case Jules — help Santa stuff his sack and teleport from house to house, city to city, filling orders, if he can make out “this four-year-old’s handwriting.”

Broken-hearted Jules keeps pouting “I want to go home,” and can’t shake his grief. Santa’s “He just needs to believe in Christmas again” doesn’t sound therapeutic at all.

Meanwhile, mother Suzanne’s (Bracha van Doesburgh) new job is at a failing cookie factory is turning into a Cookie Revolution, as the workers try to get the tyrannical boss to try Suzanne’s dazzling Christmas cookie recipes.

There’s nothing wrong with a downbeat take on the holidays. Kids mourn, too, after all. The holidays are sentimental by nature, and wistful sadness can be a part of that.

But this gorgeous-looking Christmas card of a movie has all the action of a snow globe. There’s little that’s light or fun, even among the cranky, cracking-under-deadline-pressure elves.

Director Matthias Temmermans is content to let all of the limited action and muted emotions pass before our eyes as a tableaux, a movie that should bounce moves at the pace of a glacier made of cookie dough.

It’s so pretty that it almost fills the bill as holiday TV babysitting for little kids, and so slow that they’re almost guaranteed to not sit still for it.

Rating: G

Cast: Mo Bakker, Jan Decleir, Bracha van Doesburgh, Eva van der Gucht, Sien Eggers and Stefaan Eggand.

Credits: Matthias Temmermans, scripted by Matthias Temmermans and Ruben Vandenborre A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:38

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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