With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching (seriously, where did this year go), we can now finally say that holiday season is here. Some of you may have been blasting Mariah Carey for a few weeks now, but for those of you who abide by some made-up guidelines about when you’re allowed to watch Christmas movies, I hereby give you permission to begin. Every year, there are dozens of new Lifetime, Hallmark, and Netflix holiday movies, so if that’s your thing, go off—but I understand that mindless Christmas cheer isn’t for everyone. So I decided to go through all the major streaming services and choose the best holiday movies that are available this year, whether you’re trying to find something for family movie night or just getting drunk in bed by yourself.
Now, before you yell at me in the comments, let me clarify that “best” is relative, and I don’t mean these are all the highest-quality movies available. They’re all great options in different ways, just like we all have our favorite side dish at Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re about to DM me about how The Princess Switch is an objectively bad movie, I suggest you take an edible and let the spirit of Christmas take hold.
‘Knives Out’ – Prime Video
Many of the films on this list are Christmas-centric, but Knives Out feels more like a Thanksgiving movie. Okay, it’s not technically a holiday movie, but with wintry vibes and a large family all together for the first time in a while, it feels appropriate. Set at a New England mansion that will make you wish your fireplace worked, Knives Out is a thrilling murder mystery, with enough twists and turns that even your most annoying cousin at Thanksgiving won’t be able to complain that he’s bored.
‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ – Prime Video
You probably haven’t seen It’s A Wonderful Life unless your dad made you watch it every year growing up, but it’s actually pretty good. Thankfully, it’s streaming on Prime, so you won’t have to dig out the VHS tape this year—a Christmas miracle! In the movie, a guy who’s about to commit suicide on Christmas Eve is rescued by an angel who shows him how much of a difference he’s made in the world. Sounds bleak, but there’s a reason it’s been a Christmas classic for over 70 years.
‘Carol’ – Netflix
Does Carol meet the traditional definition of a holiday movie? Perhaps not, but it’s an excellent movie, and there are more than enough holiday moments for me to include it here. Cate Blanchett stars in this 1960s-set drama as a depressed housewife who has an affair with a younger woman who works at a department store, played by Rooney Mara. If you want to drink a whole bottle of wine and watch something holiday-adjacent but not like, jolly, this is a perfect choice.
‘Klaus’ – Netflix
A lot of Netflix’s holiday offerings are kind of cringe, but this animated Christmas movie from last year is adorable, creative, and was nominated for an Oscar. The voice cast includes favorites like Jason Schwartzman and Rashida Jones, and the main character is a postal worker, so we obviously stan. This is an ideal choice if you have younger kids around during the holidays, but also, you’re never too old for a good animated movie.
‘The Princess Switch’ – Netflix
Obviously, I didn’t want this list to be full of sh*tty direct-to-Netflix holiday movies, but I had to make one exception, and it’s The Princess Switch. This delightfully bad piece of cinema stars Vanessa Hudgens and Vanessa Hudgens as a regular woman and a princess who happen to look exactly alike. It’s ridiculous, and it’s perfect. And this week, Netflix is giving us a sequel! The Princess Switch: Switched Again stars Vanessa Hudgens, Vanessa Hudgens, AND Vanessa Hudgens, and as you can imagine, it looks absolutely bonkers. Sign me the f*ck up!!!
‘The Family Stone’ – HBO Max
There’s nothing like a holiday movie about a dysfunctional family to take your mind off your own dysfunctional family for a couple hours. Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Keaton lead an all-star cast in this dramedy about spending Christmas with the in-laws. If your top holiday concern is making sure you don’t run out of alcohol at your parents’ house, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.
‘Home Alone’ – Disney+
I don’t think I need to explain what Home Alone is about, but I wanted to make everyone aware that all three movies in the series are available to stream on Disney+. Considering Macaulay Culkin turned 40 this year (still not over it), this is the perfect holiday season to revisit this classic and think about how f*cking old you are. Too real? Sorry. If you’re going to watch all three movies, just make sure to fast-forward through Donald Trump’s cameo in the second one; no one needs to see that.
‘The Santa Clause’ – Disney+
The Santa Clause happens to be my family’s yearly Christmas movie rewatch of choice, so I have seen this more times than I can count. Tim Allen stars in this family comedy about a not-very-jolly guy who, through some wild circumstances, inherits the position of Santa Claus. If you haven’t seen it, I totally recommend—it’s one of those family movies that actually has a lot of adult humor, so you won’t feel like you’re watching something for people half your age. Also, the kid is super cute.
‘Last Christmas’ – Hulu
This 2019 rom-com stars Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, so if for no other reason, you can watch it for the hotness factor. Emilia plays Kate, a 26-year-old hot mess who works as an elf in a year-round Christmas shop (bleak). She meets Tom (Henry Golding), who is (obviously, just look at him) a handsome charmer, and as the two fall in love, things start turning around for her. UNTIL the ~dramatic twist~ happens, which I won’t go into so I don’t spoil it. I’ll say that it’s very on-the-nose given the title, and you might hate it. That’s all I’ll say!
Images: Courtesy of Netflix; Giphy (4)
It’s after Halloween, and according to some people, it’s practically Christmas. Which is how I found myself on Friday night, pressing play on Netflix’s new holiday movie, Holidate. For those who don’t know me, sh*tting on holiday movies is kind of my thing. I’ve done it with The Princess Switch (and don’t worry, barring a civil war I’ll be back for Princess Switch 2), and The Holiday. There’s just something about the premise that one can find love over the holidays that really gets me going in a bad way. Probably because the holidays are usually the time when (for casual daters) you are actually most likely to get ghosted or dumped. It’s just unrealistic, and yes I am bitter. So I thought I would give an honest recap of Holidate. Let’s go.
We open with Emma Roberts smoking a cigarette, muttering “f*cking holidays” (relatable), and putting out said cigarette on a plastic Santa statue. She’s shown up to Christmas dinner in a red hoodie and pigtails, to which her mom remarks “can’t you put on a dress?”. My family doesn’t even change out of sweatpants for holidays hosted in our own home, so no.
We learn Emma broke up with a suitor six months ago, and her mom and aunt are already hounding her about how it’s time to “get back out there.” Yeah, my last relationship ended five years ago, so. Yeah. I would not do well with these people.
More realistically, Emma’s mom thinks her working remotely means she sits around the house all day in sweatpants. That’s also what my mom thinks I do for a living. She is not wrong.
Equally overbearing are Emma’s brother and his girlfriend: the former remarks “it’s not a holiday unless my sister shows up alone.” And I’ve got to wonder what weird pressure this family places on having significant others, and what kind of trauma led them all to derive their self-worth from their relationship status…
It’s two minutes in and I’m already wayyy overthinking this movie.
And then we see Kristin Chenoweth as the drunk aunt roll up with some random Mall Santa, and it all makes sense. She explains to Emma that she’s not really into this guy, it’s just a “holidate”: “you know, someone you bring home for the holidays.” And thus, the premise of the movie is born.
Over on the other side of Chicago, we have Jackson, some hot guy who kind of looks like a lost Hemsworth brother, getting introduced to a couple that’s basically the Flanderses in the flesh. These people live and breathe Christmas and put their decorations up before Halloween, you can just tell. Jackson is clearly just f*cking the poor girl who brought him home for Christmas to meet her parents. And they say I’m sabotaging by having guys meet my friends on the second date.
And back at Emma Roberts’ house, even her 6-year-old cousin has a boyfriend in kindergarten who brings her juice boxes. Everyone is taken but me, it seems! At least I’m in good company with Emma Roberts. This first grader asks Emma why she didn’t bring anyone, either. What is wrong with this family?? This is not the type of attachment style you should be modeling to your children!
And it appears Jackson has fallen into the classic male trap of believing a girl when she says we’re not doing presents that year. This girl is basically just Isla Fisher’s character in the Wedding Crashers because she says, in front of her parents, “oh, so you know me well enough to come in my mouth but not get me a Christmas present?” I cringed into myself.
And back at Emma’s, the brother proposes to his girlfriend of three months. (Honestly, I’ve seen crazier sh*t in quarantine.) Instead of saying “congratulations!” this family’s first response is “two down, one to go!”
So that’s the universe we’re working with: two cynics who are equal yet opposite products of their insane environments.
Emma and our bootleg Hemsworth meet at a store, where Jackson is returning a pair of pants, taking forever, and Emma is returning plaid pajamas—both Christmas presents gone wrong. The store is only offering store credit, so the two of them end up bargaining with the girl in line behind them, who pays in cash for a bunch of off-season items with no retail value. I have never once spoken to a person in line in front of or behind me, let alone played “let’s make a deal”.
This is all happening at the mall (tbt to malls), and who do we see at the mall? The Santa holidate. A lightbulb goes off in Jackson’s head: he needs a holidate for New Year’s Eve because he’s “sick of casually dating” because he’s “always the asshole.” Meanwhile, Emma needs one because her family is really f*cking annoying.
Okay, as a single woman living in NYC, only one of these problems is actually real, and it’s obviously not “woe is me, I don’t want to casually date, not because I want a relationship, but because I’m sick of dumping women left and right when they get too attached!” F*ck all the way off with your Gretchen Weiners bullsh*t.
So they make a pact to be each other’s Holidate for New Year’s Eve. Already this movie has lost me, because NYE is not a family-oriented affair. In fact, it’s kind of a single’s holiday. I feel like most of the NYE marketing is geared towards people cramming in an overpriced club with the hopes of drunkenly making out with a stranger on midnight. This movie should have started at Thanksgiving, then it would kind of make sense.
It’s at this point, 13 minutes in, that we learn Emma Roberts’ character’s name is Sloane. Eh, I’m gonna call her Emma.
The NYE party actually looks fun. Hemsworth makes a point to tell Emma that her tits look phenomenal in her dress, and she loves the way the dress hugs her ass. He’s like, “this is perfect because I can be a total chauvinistic douchebag without worrying you’ll get mad” and Emma is like “and I can wear this dress without worrying I’m gonna get slut-shamed.” Again, only one of these problems is real. Instead of being worried that women won’t respond well to you being a sexist asshole, you could try just… not being a sexist asshole.
Oh, and now we’ve made it to the “let’s sh*t talk rom-coms as we star in a rom-com, how edgy and meta are we” portion of the movie. They bond over how hot Ryan Gosling is and how no woman would ever pass up the chance to be with him—which they think makes them contrarian and cool but I’m pretty sure is the entire plot of The Notebook?
In the bathroom, Emma runs into a group of crying girls (also relatable). The one in white is sobbing because something (red wine?) got spilled on her white dress and it looks like a full-on crime scene. This woman is sobbing because she knows her fiancé is about to propose, but he won’t do that now that her dress is ruined (what?) and “my dream was to be proposed to on New Year’s Eve.” Like, why? You have to share your anniversary date with the Earth? Get a better dream.
After Emma switches dresses with Carrie over there, she goes on the dance floor with Jackson, where “I Had The Time Of My Life” suddenly plays. Miraculously, this packed dance floor parts like the red sea so they can do the Dirty Dancing lift. Like, ok. Club crowds don’t even move out of the way for medics, but sure, they’ll make way for two random people to do a choreographed dance.
We end the night with Jackson giving Emma a chaste kiss on the cheek, and she could not look more repulsed. Ugh, hot people problems. The whole premise thus far is that these two are not attracted to each other—and in fact, that they are sort of disgusted by each other—which is patently ridiculous. They are two objectively attractive people. Like, even if Ryan Gosling isn’t your cup of tea, you can’t call the man ugly.
I refuse to believe that the guy in the Holidate is not attracted to Emma Roberts sorry can’t fool me
— sami fishbein sage (@samifish1) October 30, 2020
Cut to: Valentine’s Day, where Emma doesn’t have a date and everyone else in her family is in disbelief. Again.
At the mall (why does this whole movie take place at the mall), Emma runs into her ex, who is obnoxiously hipster and also French. Ew. He’s basically dating a slightly different-looking variation of Emma Roberts, who they try to pass off as a much younger version but you can tell is basically the same age.
Jackson (who also happens to be at the mall, because nobody else has anywhere better to be in all of Chicago) spots this scene and comes to the rescue, and pretends to be Emma’s bf.
As a thank you for this heroic feat, she gives him a hand job in the mall parking lot. So, that’s Valentine’s Day. Actually looked a lot like mine, minus the mall.
So the next holidate is St. Patrick’s Day—ah, yes, the extremely couples-focused holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, I know firsthand how difficult it is to be single on this day, whose main focus (in the U.S., don’t come for me) is to get wasted off beer. Yes, this of all days is the one I feel most alone.
Emma’s whole family shows up to the bar to once again berate her for being single in between chugs of beer. Reason #24235 this family is f*cked up. We learn that Emma’s brother knows Jackson because he’s been taking golf lessons from him for a year (Jackson is allegedly a “golf pro” for a living, whatever that means, though we never see him golf).
Cut to: Easter, which Emma’s mom has used as another occasion to try to set her daughter up. This time, with their new neighbor (who is also a doctor). But mom, I already told you I’m here with my platonic hot fake date!!! Eh, I’ve had my mom try to set me up with worse people. Kristin Chenoweth shows up dressed like a playboy bunny. And suddenly, I have an answer to the question “where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
So now we get to the trauma portion: apparently Jackson got his heart broken once and that’s why he is the way he is (eye roll). He dated a girl who pretended to like a lot of his hobbies and then one day she completely ghosted and moved out. I honestly don’t feel like we’re getting the whole story here. Like sure, he thinks she up and left out of the blue one day, but if you asked her I bet she’d be like “yeah he was more into his reflection than me and never hung out with me on the weekends because he was always playing golf and every time I brought it up he shrugged it off and my name wasn’t on the lease of the apartment so I just bounced.”
The next holidate is Cinco de Mayo. Again, you don’t have dates for this holiday. You have drinking buddies.
After many tequila shots, Emma wakes up on Jackson’s floor in just her bra and underwear. Finally, realistic representation in Hollywood. She’s wearing his underwear, which in no way makes sense because she’s two pounds and he’s a whole man with hips. In any case, neither of them can remember if they hooked up.
Next up is Mother’s Day, and this family has a whole f*cking Parisian inspired brunch like we’re in that one scene from Bridesmaids. This family does way too much. What do these people do for a living?
Fourth of July time! I understand that if these holidates only happened on the actual holidays that required dates, then Emma and Jackson would be fake-dating for like, six years, but come on. Also, why don’t these people have any actual friends? Jackson has literally one friend, and Emma has zero, evidenced by the fact that she spends all drinking-focused holidays with her family.
Meanwhile, Kristin Chenoweth’s dates keep getting more and more gross because she has some insane rule about only using her holidates one time. At that rate, pyramid schemes have taken a longer time to collapse.
Jackson blows his finger off while setting off fireworks, and everyone else is too wasted to drive to the hospital, so Emma is charged with driving him. I’ve seen characters in Simpsons Road Rage drive better than this bitch, who treats other cars, trees, etc. as if they are parts in a pinball machine. When they somehow make it to the hospital room in one piece, she smokes a joint in the hospital room and they miraculously doesn’t get kicked out.
And guess who’s the doctor charged with reattaching the finger? The neighbor, who is a doctor! Sloane is high so Hot Doctor thinks she’s hitting on him. Guess he has no sense of smell. He also looks like he’s 18. No way this guy went through med school.
Back at home with his finger intact again, Jackson’s like “thanks for taking care of me” and Emma is like “holidate rule #3: leave no date behind.” As far as we know there has been no rule 1 or 2.
I guess it was something about the thrill of almost losing a digit and getting really high and making finger puns that made these two realize they love each other.
Jackson is going to be a Holidate for the brother’s wedding, which conveniently falls on Labor Day. So apparently Jackson scored his own independent invite, and this big idiot is like, “so we’ll both bring our own dates, right?”
Cut to the wedding, where the groom is giving a speech? Don’t feel like that’s a thing. Emma brought Hot Doctor and Jackson brought Kristin Chenoweth, and I’m not sure why she wasn’t already invited given she’s like, their aunt, right? Even weirder, Sloane appears to be jealous of her cracked-out aunt, because when she looks over mid-reception, Kristin is fellating Jackson’s finger (yea that finger). In any normal universe, that scene would provoke revulsion and not jealousy. But ok.
At the bar, they get into a fight because Sloane brought a date and Jackson might f*ck Sloane’s crazy aunt. One of these things is not like the other. In a huff, they call off the holidate arrangement. Then, the bride dances with her dad to “I’ll Make Love To You.” Yikes. I thought this was set in Chicago, not Alabama.
Cut to, crazy aunt grinding on the Hot Doctor. In a spinning accident gone wrong (yea I know), Kristen falls and sprains her ankle, so Hot Doctor rushes to her rescue and whisks her away. Meaning the Holidate arrangement is back on! And this time, it’s Halloween. This is a stretch but given that couples costumes are very much a thing, it’s a lot more believable than shoehorning in St. Patrick’s Day.
Turns out Sloane’s ex is invited to this party with his girlfriend in tow, and she’s 9 months pregnant. She’s at a party because she’s like, “I told you, this baby isn’t going to change our lives!” This is honestly just one of many plot points that did not need to make it into the final cut.
This realization for some reason has broken Emma, who realizes that her ex and his gf conceived on Valentine’s Day but she herself didn’t even have sex on Valentine’s Day. Very weird comparison, considering two of these people are in a relationship, where sex is mostly guaranteed, and one is single. She’s beside herself crying over how embarrassing it is for her—but like, I fail to see how this reflects poorly on her. If anything she dodged a bullet by not getting knocked up by this French douchebag? Feels like we’re at a point in the script writing process where the writers just got drunk and thought all their ideas were genius.
Also somehow somebody spiked Emma’s drinks with laxatives, which causes her to race to the bathroom. Again, I do feel like this is another plotline that could have been removed in editing because it makes no f*cking sense, but at least we get a sweet moment where, after Emma has shat her brains out, Jackson helps her shower. Right, because if a guy didn’t think you were hot on NYE when you were in your best “f*ck me” dress, he’s really going to think you’re hot after he’s washed your own sh*t off you. Now I know what I’ve been doing wrong! From now on, all my dates are going to take place at Taco Bell.
DOUBLY SO because the next morning is when Emma and Jackson finally bang. Cool, the Chipotle workers are going to LOVE me.
These psychopaths wake up the next morning feet to head, not sleeping side-by-side. Anyone else notice that??
The next morning, Sloane’s sister is knocking furiously because she kissed Jackson’s friend (who I have failed to really mention until this point because he honestly served no purpose other than the occasional sassy one-liner). Anyway, the sister is distraught because she is married with kids.
So then it becomes this weird scene where the sister and Jackson are both like, “I should go… no I should go…”
And it ends with Emma being like “no Jackson, you should go.” Now, this has Jackson f*cked up because he has never in his life not been pressured by a girl to have brunch the morning after they have sex. Omg your life must be sooooo hard with women getting attached to you left and right!
Just as out of his f*cking mind is the friend, who’s insisting he and the sister (whose name I am just now learning is Abby) “had a connection”. All this movie is teaching me is that the secret to getting hot guys to like me is to openly reject them a few times and make them question their self-worth.
We’re back to Thanksgiving, and Kristin Chenoweth did not bring Hot Doctor because she’s a “one and done” type bitch. Honestly, I respect it.
Emma has to run out to get some sh*t because her mom burned Thanksgiving dinner. She and Jackson are in the grocery store (why do these two do everything in a f*cking store) when Jackson full-on confesses his love for Emma. And she DGAF! What the actual f*ck is this movie.
Jackson: You’re trying so hard not to feel anything that you’re an asshole.
And now we’ve come obnoxiously full-circle, with Jackson doing a full recall about their whole little quip about Ryan Gosling that they had on New Year’s Eve that isn’t even that good of a metaphor to begin with.
Back at the house, the table is suddenly split in two? I feel like Tim Gunn because I’m yelling at my TV for these people to EDIT.
Well, this is a sh*t show. Emma’s sister sh*ts on her for her personal life always being a mess (wouldn’t be a mess if y’all weren’t so weirdly up in her business about it, but ok). Emma blurts out that at least she didn’t kiss the Black Panther (Jackson’s friend). The husband overhears because he’s walked in right at that moment, and Kristin Chenoweth’s holidate has a heart attack.
And GUESS WHO is the attending physician for this heart attack? That’s right, hot doctor! Apparently, there is only one doctor in all of Chicago!
In any case, Kristin Chenoweth apologizes to Hot Doctor and says she just got scared, and confesses her love for him. He says I love you back, and they make out in the waiting room. Of the ER. Excuse me, this man is the only ER physician in all of Chicago, his time is precious! This is not the time for this!
Christmas time again, and we’re—you guessed it—back at the mall! Where all the girls of the family are shopping, and who’s there? Obviously, Jackson! Because there are no other stores in the entire city. Yeah. They should have set this movie in like, Milwaukee. Then it would have been understandable.
Anyway, Emma’s family turns to her and is basically like, “go get him” so she chases him through the crowded mall. She ends up on stage with a gospel choir (can’t even get into that), and after the choir sings JACKSONNNN to get his attention, the whole mall falls silent. Sure, just like the whole dance floor would part on NYE for two randos to have a dance routine. I’ll take “things that would never happen” for $1,000, Alex.
Emma grabs the mic and confesses her feelings and says she—say it with me now—messed it up because she was scared.
This speech feels less of a love confession and more of a custody agreement: I want you on all holidays, and weekends! And weekdays too! And nights!
After a fake-out (you slick bastard), Jackson obviously rushes to her and they make out in the mall. And all is well! And everything is great! The end.
So what I’ve learned from this movie is:
-I am truly blessed that my dad only asks why I’m single every few months
-Men will fall in love with you if you ignore them (tbh this tracks with what I’ve experienced so far)
-The best way to get a date is to lose your sh*t (literally)
-It’s a good idea to get marry someone you’ve only known for three months (seriously, I couldn’t believe that this subplot with the brother didn’t end in divorce considering the writers spent half the movie underscoring how little these two knew each other… but again, ok)
Overall, I actually didn’t hate this movie. It was stupid, but it was obviously supposed to be stupid. Could it have been about a half hour shorter? Yes. Did any of it make sense? Like, some of it, but not all. But it was entertaining and didn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s all I can really ask for in a rom-com anyway. I’m not here to learn groundbreaking truths about the power of love—I’d much prefer a hand job in a mall parking lot. With that said, I am now accepting applications for my 2020 holiday date. Happy holidays!
Images: Steve Dietl/NETFLIX; Giphy (2); samifish1 / Twitter
Listen. I am a SLUT for Christmas. The lights. The music. The decor. The ever-present scent of evergreen. The built-in excuse to drink liquified chocolate without having to explain yourself. It all fills me with a pure, unadulterated joy that I can only describe as childlike. It’s also important to note that I am a lover of romantic comedies—the cheesier, the better. There’s nothing I love more than looking Cinema Dudes in the eye, and telling them that I sincerely think Clueless is a better movie than Fight Club. Give me your sappy, your cliche, your stringent skeptics yearning to love free, and I will binge watch each and every one of them, alone, a glass of wine in hand and a potential tear in my eye.
So you can only imagine the peppermint flavored excitement that coursed through my body when I opened up Netflix a full week before Thanksgiving, only to be greeted by a deluge of sappy, romantic, Christmas themed, made-for-TV movies. It’s like Hallmark and Lifetime got together, drank a bunch of peppermint schnapps, and then puked into my queue. I was in heaven.
I decided, in that moment, that it was my responsibility—nay, my destiny—to watch every single one. And we’re not just talking the Netflix original movies here, with actual production budgets, recognizable names and semi-digestible plotlines. We’re talking all the Netflix Christmas romances, even the ones that look like they were shot on an iPhone 4 and derived from screenplays that are one smut scene short of verifiable fan fiction.
Why did I do this? Why did I put myself through 826 minutes of wholesome yet ultimately mind-numbing Christmas cinema? It’s a simple answer, dear reader: ’tis the season of giving.
I ranked all the Netflix Christmas movies, so you didn’t have to.
*Minimal spoilers ahead but also it takes merely a simple synopsis and two brain cells to figure out how most of these would end*
8. ‘Christmas Wedding Planner’
The premise: If your idea of a Christmas classic includes Lily van der Woodsen playing a watered-down Lily van der Woodsen and Joey Fatone playing what I would imagine is just Joey Fatone, then this is the movie for you. Super quirky, yet inexplicably sad orphan Kelsey Wilson is trying to prove herself as a wedding planner by pulling off the perfect Christmas wedding for her cousin, who is not only beautiful but also kind and also outrageously forgiving (you’ll see).
The problem? A mysterious private investigator, who just happens to be the bride’s ex-boyfriend, arrives in town the day of the engagement party, dead set on uncovering some salacious skeleton in the groom’s closet that will ruin not only the wedding of her beloved cousin, but also Kelsey’s only shot at becoming a successful wedding planner. Why is her entire career riding on the wedding of a relative, something that she probably isn’t getting paid for and would likely be discounted in any legitimate portfolio? No one knows, and it doesn’t matter, because this is Christmas.
The dialogue in this movie is, for lack of a better word, bad. The romantic progression is non-existent, until the moment that it very much exists. The ending made me want to shove some especially fragrant Douglas Fir pine needles into my eye. I will absolutely be watching it again next year.
Christmas Rating: 7/10
What this movie lacks in any discernible screenwriting, it makes up for in decor. I think there might actually be a Christmas tree in every single shot. Kelsey is clad in vibrant red and forest green at any given moment. Watching it evoked the same vaguely festive warmth as drinking peppermint hot chocolate.
Chemistry Rating: 2/10
Kelsey and the P.I. inevitably team up to unearth whatever secrets lie in the groom’s past, and their half-assed investigative work has me wishing Veronica Mars would show up and beat the sh*t out of both of them. What’s worse, their stunted attempts at flirting would have you thinking that they were both being held at gunpoint just off-camera. It’s the kind of chemistry that you have with the only other person your age at a party hosted by your parents: forced and potentially incestuous.
7. ‘Christmas in the Smokies’
The premise: Disaster strikes the Haygood family when they find out their historic berry farm is in danger of being seized by the bank due to a line of credit that they were under the impression would never have to be repaid. Living in the country must be nice.
Hardworking, independent career gal Shelby Haygood is hell-bent on saving her family’s farm, despite the fact that both of her parents spend the first half of the movie being entirely unconcerned about the very real possibility that their home will be repossessed by the bank in mere days. This would probably have made for a stressful enough holiday season, but fate has decided to throw another twist Shelby’s way in the form of Mason Wyatt, her high school sweetheart-turned-bad-boy-country-star who has just returned to town.
Mason walked out on Shelby when they were 17 years old, an event which has had a formative impact on her entire adult life. This woman is clearly in her thirties and yet still harboring a grudge bordering on obsessive towards her teenage boyfriend who (and I’m only guessing here because this movie wouldn’t dare provide a semblance of context) left her on Christmas Eve to…pursue his music career?
This movie’s saving grace is Mr. Haygood, played by Whitey from One Tree Hill. He is, in fact, the exact same character, except now with a handlebar mustache. Much like Whitey, Mr. Haygood’s wisdom knows no bounds and he has zero time, patience, or regard for the temper tantrums thrown by his students daughter.
Christmas Rating: 5/10
The first 15 minutes of this movie had me positively charmed. The classical, nostalgic Christmas music that I haven’t heard since the last time my parents forced me to go to church on Christmas Eve was a welcome reprieve from the contemporary covers that we’ve come to expect from these kind of productions.
But that initial charm was immediately overridden by the overt religious undertones that kicked in after about 20 minutes. Yes, I know. Christmas is a religious holiday. Sure. But also, no it’s not. There is Christmas the religious holiday and there is Christmas the cultural event and we all know that we came to this very specific Netflix category for the latter. Let’s not try to make this something it’s not.
Chemistry Rating: -4/10
Mason Wyatt had more natural chemistry with Whitey than his actual love interest. In fact, Whitey was the most likable character in this entire movie. I would watch another hour and a half of him and his friends eating breakfast and making vague sexual innuendos via grits and bacon.
Not only could you not convince me that these two people were ever in love, but I barely believe that one wouldn’t sell the other into indentured servitude for 50 cents and the knowledge that they would suffer for the rest of their lives.
Like, I get it. It’s a little hard to focus on a romantic sub-plot when there are serious things like bankruptcy and foreclosure on the line. But guess what? I didn’t pick Christmas in the Smokies for the far-too-realistic storyline of financial hardship during the holiday season. I chose it because I wanted to watch some vaguely country themed Christmas love play out between two people who are even the slightest bit attracted to each other, and I didn’t even get that.
Because you know what’s required in any kind of romantic movie? The one thing that’s pretty much make or break for the success of your film? A KISS. THESE TWO IDIOTS DIDN’T EVEN KISS. I haven’t been deprived this level of closure since every relationship I’ve ever been in.
6. ‘The Spirit of Christmas’
The premise: Our protagonist Kate is your typical Lifetime movie lead: a strong, yet perpetually frazzled, working woman who takes her job, and by extension herself, far too seriously. Kate doesn’t have time for love! There are frantic phone calls to answer! And very important deals to close! And overbearing father figures masquerading as bosses whose approval she has to win! If only there were a man who could teach her that there’s more to life than being rich, successful, and shattering the glass ceiling.
Kate is offered a last minute job before Christmas (not that she celebrates anyways, she’s too busy proving her worth at the office!!), one that will catapult her career to the next level and finally win her the begrudging respect of the men at work. She’s been tasked with heading out to a quaint, historical bed and breakfast in a nondescript New England town and ensuring that it’s appraised and sold before Christmas. Easy right? From here, you probably know where the story is going.
Kate heads to picture-perfect bed and breakfast. Kate meets man. Man shows Kate the ways of the world, complete with Christmas decorating montage. Kate falls in love and forgets that she spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on law school, only to throw it all away for the owner of a bed and breakfast.
Oh yeah, and he’s a ghost.
Woman who had sex with 20 ghosts is now engaged to a spirit https://t.co/TSpVqbh30c pic.twitter.com/ruiVs9lEmE
— New York Post (@nypost) October 30, 2018
Christmas Rating: 7/10
This movie not only has modern Christmas, but also colonial-era Christmas. There are not one, but TWO Christmas balls. There is snow everywhere. Kate and the ghost decorate a tree together because a very specific curse allows him to become human for one week a year and therefore do things like pick up Christmas ornaments. We have sufficiently checked the Christmas box here.
Chemistry Rating: 4/10
Kate and the ghost spend the first good half of the movie hating each other—Kate because the ghost stands in the way of her appraisal and therefore advancement in her career, the ghost because Kate is intruding on his one week a year to be corporeal, eat pancakes, and sulk about being dead.
Usually, I’m a sucker for the hate-turned-friendship-turned-love trope, but in this case we went straight from all-out hate to inexplicable love, without any real indication as to why. I get that that’s par for the course with these things, but this case was especially jarring. I don’t know, maybe because the love interest was dead and pining for his dead fiancé up until about 10 seconds before they were suddenly in love.
However, once the ghost decided he no longer hated Kate, he truly committed to being unnecessarily in love with a human that he had spent all of four days with and that, I can respect.
5. ‘Holiday Engagement’
The premise: Part-time writer Hillary finally has it all: a minimum-wage paying gig at her local small town paper, which exists despite the fact that she appears to live in LA or New York or some other Metropolitan city, and a fiancé named Jason who was gushingly described as “fiscally responsible” by Hillary’s best friend. You may have thought that list was going to go on, but no, those two sad things are all she has.
But it’s enough for Hillary, because now she finally has a man to bring home for Thanksgiving to appease her overbearing mother, who might actually just be the mom from Pride and Prejudice who somehow managed to find a time machine that allows her to harass a whole new family of daughters into loveless, wealth-accumulating marriages.
However, tragedy strikes when Hillary implies that she doesn’t want to uproot her entire life and burgeoning part-time journalism career for Jason’s promotion, and he dumps her mere days before they’re set to spend the weekend at her parents’.
Naturally, the only thing Hillary can do now is to hire a struggling actor to play the part of Jason and convince her entire family that their wedding, set to take place at the end of December, is still happening. This may sound like an inane plan to you, but having had to watch an hour and a half of this woman interact with her children, I would say it was the best possible course of action.
Christmas Rating: 6/10
Being set during Thanksgiving weekend, I was initially concerned about the amount of Christmas they could actually pack into this movie. Clearly someone else felt the same way, and managed to shoe-horn an entire scene in which the mother singlehandedly decorates the whole house at midnight after Thanksgiving dinner. Her ungrateful children never recognize this selfless task, and it was at this point that I found myself aligning with the suffocating and needlessly dramatic mother. Couldn’t possibly tell you why that is.
Chemistry Rating: 2/10
Everything about this couple made me uncomfortable. Their kissing, their body language, their half-assed attempts at pretending they’ve known each longer than two days. Honestly, if you’re going to commit to such an over-the-top plan, you would think you’d actually, I don’t know, rehearse? Do some research? Act as if you liked each other? I haven’t seen such a disheartened attempt at acting since I was forced to take improv classes in middle school. I found myself screaming “YES, AND” at the TV every time they tried to pull together a cohesive story from their supposed shared past.
4. ‘Merry Kissmas’
The premise: The story opens on Kate, a woman whose only discernible character trait is that she’s stuck in a loveless engagement with an egocentric choreographer named Carlton, who possesses zero redeeming qualities and one Lindsay Lohan-esque, nationality agnostic accent. If nothing else, we must give the screenwriters credit for their unique take on a Christmas romance.
Carlton is choreographing and producing his own twist on The Nutcracker, which is to take place in San Francisco. The unhappy couple decides to kill two birds with one stone and hold their engagement party the same week, in Kate’s native Palo Alto.
It is clear to Kate—and to everyone but Carlton, really—that this relationship is doomed to fail. While contemplating whether or not she actually wants to get married, Kate finds herself in a sticky situation that can only be solved by diving into an elevator and kissing the attractive guy inside. We’ve all been there.
This kiss ignites a passion in Kate that she hasn’t felt in years, driving a further wedge between Carlton and herself. As she grows closer to the kind, caring, not emotionally abusive elevator man who also happens to be the caterer for her engagement party, Kate must decide whether or not to marry the small dancing troll who treats her like an unwanted stepchild. What’s a girl to do??
Christmas Rating: 2/10
The writers seem to have been under the very mistaken impression that an abundance of nutcrackers and cookies can make up for the total lack of any actual cozy Christmas atmosphere. I mean, you’re really setting yourself up for failure when your Christmas love story takes place in sunny Palo Alto, California. No snow to inspire a spontaneous snowball fight? No roaring fire place to curl up in front of? No scarves to playfully tug on? How dare you come at me with this absolute pretense.
Chemistry Rating: 5/10
Other than presenting me with the first truly believable kiss of this entire movie marathon, I couldn’t quite figure out why I was so invested in Kayla and the Catering Man. They were a pair of two-dimensional saltine crackers who made for a generically attractive couple, but nothing worth getting worked up over. But then, the words of the ingenious and immortal Natalie Walker rang through my head, and it hit me.
“The screenwriters are assuming if they give the audience enough reason to root against and , they’ll forget they’ve been given no compelling reason to root for and .”
This sad, blonde whisper of a woman may have been devoid of any real personality other than a weird obsession with collectible nutcrackers, but that doesn’t mean she deserved to be sentenced to a lifetime of misery at the hand of the tap-dancing goat she was currently shackled to. Hell, I’ll root for her with anyone, as long as it means she’s free of Carlton’s (undoubtedly tiny) grasp.
3. ‘Christmas With a View’
The premise:n Disgraced restaurant owner Clara is back in her hometown, managing a local high-end ski resort and trying to get back on her feet after a vague but apparently life-altering failure in the Chicago culinary scene. Like any good romance heroine, she’s too focused on her career to have time for men…until New York’s most eligible bachelor/chef snags the Head Chef position in the resort’s restaurant. That’s right. Bachelor AND Chef. What a multi-faceted creature.
Will they fall in love? Yes. Will there be hurdles? Yes. Will there be an extensive winter-activity-falling-in-love-montage? You better believe it.
Christmas Rating: 7/10
Not only was this movie chock-full of Christmas cheer, but it had layers to the festivity. Different locations offered up different vibes, juxtaposing the cozy, homey decor of Clara’s childhood hotel against the glamorous yet sterile aesthetic of her current job. Of course, this was a thinly veiled metaphor for family run businesses, the unsung heroes in these small ski towns, diametrically opposed to corporate holiday resort conglomerates. You know, a classic Christmas movie message.
Chemistry Rating: 6/10
Clara and the hot chef receive the highest rating thus far for the simple reason that I actually believed these two people wanted to have sex with each other. That’s it. It’s that easy. Just look into each other’s eyes and try to offer up a modicum of affection. I’m not asking for that much.
2. ‘The Princess Switch’
The premise: Stacy is an uptight pastry chef from Chicago who’s been unlucky in love despite having the hottest best friend/sous chef of all time. It sounds like she acquired her accent by watching one season of Shameless and that one Chicago Bears SNL skit from the 90’s.
Margaret is the equally uptight but apparently inwardly rebellious Duchess of Montenaro, who also happens to be begrudgingly engaged to the Prince of Belgravia. It sounds like she acquired her accent by watching one season of The Crown and the trailer for the new Mary Poppins movie.
The two are distant cousins who meet by chance at an international baking competition in Belgravia. They are, of course identical twins, played by Vanessa Hudgens.
Margaret hatches a diabolical and never-before-seen plan to (gasp) switch places so that she may experience a normal life before being swept up in the high profile lifestyle of the royal family of this miniscule fictional eastern European country.
While Stacy has never even considered the possibility that her best friend Kevin is an absolute snack, and Margaret has never thought to try and pursue a romantic relationship with her attractive royal fiancé, the same can’t be said once the two take up each other’s lives.
Christmas Rating: 10/10
This movie is Christmas porn. Lest you drop me smack dab in the middle of a Christmas market in Vienna, I could not be happier. Margaret’s holiday color palette of exclusively blush and cardinal is not only iconic but also revolutionary. Take note ladies, this year we throw caution to the wind and mix our pinks and reds.
Chemistry Rating: 8/10
Once I was able to work past Vanessa Hudgens playing a British Vanessa Hudgens trying to sound like a Chicago Vanessa Hudgens, I settled right into everything The Princess Switch was selling. These beautiful people are throwing longing, romantic glances left and right in this absolutely perfect Christmas village and my feeble little heart can’t take it.
Am I projecting because I would be happy with either of the love interests (but mostly Kevin)? Maybe. Are my standards outrageously low, having been so recently burned by Christmas in the Smokies? Perhaps. Do I just have soft spot for Vanessa Hudgens, having come of age in the High School Musical era? Yeah. Sue me.
1. ‘The Holiday Calendar’
The premise: Abby Sutton is a struggling photographer, stuck in a sh*tty hometown holiday job and living vicariously through her crazy-hot best friend Josh, who actually managed to turn his traveling photography blog into a successful venture. In a movie literally centered around a magic advent calendar, that is the single least believable plot point.
Two important things happen this holiday season: Josh comes home for good, bringing his overtly obvious unrequited love for Abby with him, and Abby receives a magical antique advent calendar from her grandfather. With each passing day, the toy behind every door of the calendar dictates the course of Abby’s life. She is lead to love, loss, and an excessive amount of elementary school events.
Christmas Rating: 9/10
This movie reeks of Christmas. Abby works as the photographer at a Santa pop-up in town square. Everything is covered in snow, garland, and joy. The entire story relies on an advent calendar, the most Christmas themed subplot imaginable. I went to sleep filling fulfilled and wishing that any one of my childhood friends even slightly resembled Quincy Brown.
Chemistry Rating: 10/10
These two are head over heels in love with each other from the second they appear on screen and I. AM. HERE. FOR. IT.
Pull out your romantic trope checklist folks, because we’ve got it all:
- Longing looks while the other glances away
- Quincy Brown serving us The Look™️ in general! Here is an entire Twitter thread dedicated to The Look in case you don’t know what that means.
The number one thing a man in a romcom needs, TV or movie, is the ability to look at their love interest REALLY WELL. The man barely even needs to speak if he just knows how LOOK at a person.
— alanna kelsey claire bennett (@AlannaBennett) March 28, 2018
- Family members practically begging them to get together
- Falling asleep on the couch and ending up cuddling when they wake up
- Ultimate despair at having to watch the love of your life date other people
- Jealousy! So much jealousy!
- A grand romantic gesture followed by an admission of love! ARE YOU KIDDING ME.
I’m going to make my own advent calendar, and each door is going to reveal a Post-it note that says “Watch The Holiday Calendar again, you lonely idiot.” It is the Christmas Netflix movie we all wanted, but never one I thought we would deserve.
Stay tuned for part two of this series, where I review the rest of the Netflix Christmas movies this streaming service throws at me in addition to the ones that haven’t even premiered yet.
Yeah, I’m talking about the sequel to The Christmas Prince.
Images: Giphy (5), @AlannaBennet, @nypost / Twitter; Netflix