Preparing for this issue, I created a list of new Christmas movies to review and, once I crunched the numbers, realized that I would have about 80 words per movie if every title made the cut. My husband asked if I had ever written reviews in emojis. I said no, but if I had there would have been a lot of poop emojis in The Waynedale News over the years. To make everything fit, in the next issue, I will wrap up with Candy Cane Lane on Amazon and It’s a Wonderful Knife in theaters and on Shudder. So, let’s get to it!
Disney had two holiday offerings this year, Dashing Through the Snow and The Naughty Nine. In the former, Ludacris stars as Eddie, a social worker who hates Christmas. Eddie is already struggling to reconnect with his wife (Teyonah Parris) and have a good Christmas Eve with his daughter (Madison Skye Validum) when Nick (Lil Rel Howery) breaks into the house next door dressed as Santa. Dashing Through the Snow has a convoluted plot that borrows points from Miracle on 34th Street and The Santa Clause, but still offers laugh-out-loud funny moments. The music cues add some extra fun for adults, as does the social commentary provided by Eddie. The movie would be stronger if it balanced the family element more with the adventure of Eddie and Nick running from the mayor’s evil hench-people (like I said, convoluted), but we enjoyed this film.
The Naughty Nine is geared much more toward kids, taking the heist formula of Oceans Eleven and applying it to a group of kids who end up on the naughty list and break into the North Pole to get the gifts that they believe are rightfully theirs. For grownups, the movie will probably seem trite and derivative, but younger audiences will get a kick out of the criminal masterminds at work. The sibling rivalry between naughty ringleader Andy (Winslow Fegley) and his nice sister Laurel (Madilyn Kellam) grounds the story in more practical emotional matters, but the film also includes plenty of showy stunts. And Danny Glover plays Santa.
On Netflix, Best. Christmas. Ever! leans hard into Millennial nostalgia and makes a surprising case in favor of the holiday newsletter. Charlotte (Heather Graham) and Rob Sanders (Jason Biggs) roll their eyes every year at the ostentatious Christmas letter sent by their college friend, Jackie (Brandy Norwood), but are stuck spending Christmas in her flashy mansion after their son (Wyatt Hunt) plugs her address into the GPS instead of his aunt’s new house. The movie features genius children trying to prove Santa exists, a solar-powered hot air balloon, and a plot twist that made me cry. I was pretty salty about that last bit because this movie is incredibly corny. Still, it got me, and it was a fun ride. The ensemble cast performed well through the silly material, and the hot air balloon stunt was impressive to see unfold.
Family Switch similarly brought out the movie stars but with much worse results. Starring Jennifer Garner and Ed Helms, Family Switch is Freaky Friday, but if the whole family switched bodies—including the baby and the dog—at Christmastime. Jennifer Garner’s character sustains two hits to the head that should have sent her to the ER but go unacknowledged. A lot of business gets conducted on Christmas Eve—the most unrealistic part of the movie. And the dog-baby bit is actually kind of disturbing. Fun dances and heartwarming moments make this movie watchable, but it is also terrible.
Honorable mention goes to I Believe in Santa, which came out last year after my deadline. The movie stars Christina Moore as Lisa, a single mom who hates Christmas and is therefore horrified to discover that her boyfriend of five months not only believes in Santa, he does so with zeal. This oddball, snarky romantic comedy kept me guessing how it would all work out until the end.
Hulu leaned hard into the Hallmark Christmas movie formula with Reporting for Christmas, which stars Tamara Feldman and Matt Trudeau in a story of a big city reporter sent to a small town to cover a local toy factory before Christmas. Will she give up her job to move to Iowa for love? You probably already know. Reporting for Christmas goes so hard for those holiday romcom warm fuzzies that it is comically delightful. The acting is bad, the sets are great, and the ending made me want to riot.
In Christmas Frequency, a radio call-in show producer (Ansley Gordon) tries to save her job by setting her newly-separated boss (Denise Richards) up with on-air blind dates. Only, she falls for the most charming guy herself. I liked the plot, but the writing was superficial and lacked charm. The acting felt stilted from everyone except Denise Richards, who gives a surprisingly natural, likable performance in an otherwise clunky film.
Finally, on Freevee, EXmas seems to be trying to replicate Happiest Christmas with a secretive couple and the antics of a quirky family. This predictable romance stars Leighton Meester as Ali, a woman who broke up with her boyfriend (Robbie Amell), but still celebrates Christmas with his family, who seems to like her better anyway. The romance lacks chemistry, but the family hijinks keep EXmas moving along with decent laughs here and there. It is not a great movie, but good enough to put on while wrapping gifts or baking cookies.
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