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I've Fallen Down the Rabbit Hole of Crappy Christmas Movies and I Kinda Like It
I tend to rewatch movies I like. This tendency is especially strong at Christmas, where both the short window of opportunity and the added weight of tradition come into play. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve watched the Griswolds in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
My wife generally does not like rewatching something she’s seen before. I understand her point—we’ll never get to the movies we haven’t seen if we keep watching ones we have—but that also presupposes these other movies are even worth seeing in the first place. Maybe it’s a sign I’m getting crotchety in middle-age or that I need to expand my horizons, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much worth seeing at the movie theater most weeks. I wasn’t super enthused about the summer 2022 movie line-up going into it, and I’m even less impressed now.
There aren’t a ton of good Christmas movies to begin with, and amazing new Christmas movies are rarer yet. But when my wife suggested we watch some new movies instead of repeating our old favorites, I said okay and started checking our streaming services for options. I focused my efforts on Netflix as they had the greatest concentration of holiday movies, but I could tell at a glance that they were not Good Movies. Sometimes you don’t even need to check Rotten Tomatoes. You just know.
I know Hallmark is the big name in cheesy, melodramatic feel-good Christmas movies, but Netflix is giving them a serious run for their money. It’s all lackluster, straight-to-video fare. But amid the forgettable blandness and godawful dialogue—the single unifying thing about all these films is the horrendous writing—a strange thing happened. I sorta-kinda started liking it. I’m not ruling out the possibility that a cinematic version of Stockholm syndrome kicked in as a kind of self-defense mechanism lest I go mad. But I’m also allowing room for the simplest explanation of all: Sometimes Christmas magic is enough.
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Here’s what we’ve watched this year in chronological order:
A Very Country Christmas: a huge country music star hiding out in the podunk town where he discovered his love of music. Really bad acting, but damn if I wasn’t moved by the cliched and predictable ending. 3 out of 10 Mistletoes.
A California Christmas: rich yuppie falls for farm girl after masquerading as a ranch hand in a nefarious plot to swindle the girl’s farm away from her. The stupid plot is only surpassed by the terrible acting—I would assume most of these people would never act again, but incredibly there’s a sequel. Equally surprising: I would watch it. What is happening?! 2 out of 10 Turtledoves.
The Noel Diary: ridiculously handsome Kevin Pearson from This is Us stars as a writer whose tragic past prevents him from letting people in, until the right girl lands on his doorstep. Literally. I had high hopes for this one but it never really delivered. 3 out of 10 Pumpkin Pies.
Operation Christmas Drop: a career-minded type A personality and aide to a U.S. Senator takes her power suits and high heels to a military base in the Pacific that the Senator wants shut down. The aide falls for a Air Force pilot who is basically an amalgamation of Ice Man from Top Gun and Santa Claus. I might’ve teared up at the end. 4 out of 10 Mele Kalikimakas.
Christmas Without You: an old-looking Freddie Prinze Jr. makes sweet music with a pop star while his mother gets everyone loaded on tequila. Largely middling but I enjoyed this one. 4 out of 10 Garlands.
Father Christmas is Back: I had high hopes for this one as it had one of the most recognizable casts of the lot (Elizabeth Hurley, Kelsey Grammar, John Cleese), but the fact that none of them have done any work of note in the last 20 years should’ve been my clue. The story is trite and stupid. 1 out of 10 Pieces of Coal.
I Believe in Santa: a grown-ass man believes in Santa Claus and somehow lands a hot girlfriend anyway. The ridiculous premise aside, this was actually my favorite of the bunch. It addresses belief and faith in a way I’ve never seen in a Christmas film. Ignore the fact that the leading man looks like a pedophile and give this one a chance. 5 out of 10 Lords a Leaping.
None of these films are objectively good movies. If not for the season, I would never watch any of them. But when it comes to Christmas, it’s best to grade on a curve.
Just to complete the picture, here’s the rest of the Netflix Christmas genre we’ve watched in previous years:
A Castle for Christmas: Brooke Shields falls in love with a Scottish castle and decides the duke that owns the place—the ever-dashing Cary Elwes—is alright. Mostly ho-hum. 4 out of 10 Snowmen.
Holidate: a pair of attractive singles pretend to be in a relationship for a year’s worth of holidays. This one is actually pretty good, and makes full use of its MA rating. 7 out of 10 Gingerbread men.
Holiday in the Wild: Rob Lowe plays the most unbelievable African bushman you’ve ever seen, but still manages to sweep Kristin Davis off her feet because he’s Rob Freaking Lowe. Also lots of cute elephant scenes. 5 out of 10 Candy Canes.
Holly Star: a puppeteer finds love while looking for buried treasure around her hometown. Yes, really. Also includes creepy puppet scenes. 2 out of 10 Reindeer Poohs.
A Christmas Prince: a full-on trilogy wrung from the most tired of premises, as an American blogger falls in love with the Prince of a mysterious European-seeming nation that exists on no map. Mindless fun. 3 out of 10 Twinkling Lights.
Christmas Inheritance: an uptown girl visits the dinky little hometown where her father started his business and levels up her empathy game. And she falls in love, naturally. 4 out of 10 Ornaments.
love hard: Jian Yang from Silicon Valley catfishes a girl so convincingly she flies 3000 miles to surprise him for Christmas. Shenanigans ensue, but amid the chaos, sparks fly. This is a good one. 8 out of 10 Jingle Bells.
Christmas Chronicles I and II: Kurt Russell hams it up as the jolly old fat man himself. The first film is great fun, the sequel is better left unseen. Let’s call it 7 out of 10 Cookies for Chronicles I, and 4 out of 10 Gumdrops for Chronicles II.
Klaus: a Pixar-esque modern day classic and the best of the Netflix offerings. 9 out of 10 Christmas Stars.
Have any crappy Christmas movies to share? Drop a comment and let me know!
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