(Written by Freelancer, Dan Grote)
Kringle Time follows Jerry (Benny Elledge) as he comes to terms with a sinister truth about his childhood idol, a creepy Frosty the Snowman knockoff named Kringles. Matthew Lucas directs his debut feature, with a screenplay penned by Zan Gillies, in this dark comedy about the adored children’s show that Kringles stars in—Kringle Time—from which the movie takes its name.
The film opens with a young Jerry watching the show to escape his parents’ constant arguing. It then jumps forward 25 years, where we find him working as station manager for the public access station that produces it. It is a predictable career path for Jerry, who not only looked up to Kringles as a father figure, but is literally the son-in-law of Herb (Vernon Wells), the actor who plays the titular character. It soon becomes clear that something is very wrong with his beloved snowman. Discovering his childhood hero is anything but wholesome, the audience follows Jerry on a journey of self-realization as he decides whether or not he is the kind of person to do the right thing, no matter the cost.
We only spend a few minutes with the man behind the Kringles mask (Herb), before he dies mid-broadcast. Now in disaster recovery mode, Jerry wrangles an entertaining cast of characters in a 30 Rock-style environment in an attempt to save both the show and his hero.
With Herb dead, the show must go on, and Jerry has little choice but to pick up the snowman schtick that Herb bequeathed to him. Jerry struggles to realize a fresh vision for the show to keep it on air, while handling creative differences with the station’s executive director, Daphne (Alyssa Keegan). The cast and crew simultaneously rally against Jerry and don’t respect his authority. If this tension wasn’t enough for Jerry to handle, a whacky mayor (Jeff Wincott) insists on erecting a statue in town to honor the late Kringles.
The film relies on the ghost of Kringles haunting Jerry to reveal the dark truth that has been clouding Kringle Time for decades. It’s a cliché plot device, but is nevertheless effective in developing Jerry’s journey toward self-discovery. He will either have to reveal the truth, tearing down the legacy of the program that has shaped Jerry to be the man he is today (and likely end it for good), or preserve Kringles’ legacy and keep the show alive at the expense of countless victims.
Director Matthew Lucas manages to balance the dark comedic tone throughout the film and consistently hits the mark. My gripes lie in scenes with Jerry and his partner Layla. They play an important role fleshing out Jerry’s character, but end up feeling shoehorned in. Furthermore, while some of the story is intentionally foreshadowed, the film follows an all-too-predictable path. The writing doesn’t go beyond a surface-level story that’s been told many times before.
Regardless, you will want to stick around for the intriguing character study and the eccentric ensemble cast. Benny Elledge keeps you on Jerry’s side through his identity crisis thanks to his strong performance, and I particularly enjoyed Jeff Wincott’s perpetually dumbfounded Mayor Rodney Jorkins. Other highlights include Daphne (Keegan) and cast member Naveed (Usman Ishaq) who both consistently deliver comic relief throughout the film.
Catch Kringles as he gets into costume for Kringle Time’s virtual premiere at the Brooklyn Film Festival on Friday, June 4th and for a live screening at Windmill Studios in Brooklyn on Sunday, June 6th.