Have you been feeling a little un-merry this year? Much like Meghan, I am desperately trying to whip up a festive frenzy inside of myself, because things generally feel kind of blah. But instead of doing good works, reaching out to my friends to tell them how much I love them or joining a choir, I decided to watch five Netflix holiday movies in 32 hours like some sort of Christmas maniac.
It will come as no surprise to the seasoned holiday rom-com viewer that these movies are incredibly formulaic — so formulaic that I actually created a rubric by which I judged each individual flick. This was mostly for your benefit. Need a little pepping up this holiday season but don’t know where to turn? Unsure of what to watch while attempting to avoid your cousins? Can’t decide on the best gingerbread-house-building background noise (honestly the best use)? Look no further.
Below, reviews of five holiday flicks that are guaranteed to put you in some sort of spirit, broken down to ease your choosing. Spoilers ahead, but are they really?
The Princess Switch
Festive level before: Willing, open and even hopeful for a festive feeling, but not quite there yet.
Festive level after: Perplexed but ready for holiday cookies.
How Netflix got me: When a down-to-earth Chicago baker and a soon-to-be princess discover they look like twins, they hatch a Christmastime plan to trade places.
This movie is like a Parent Trap/Princess Diaries/90 Day Fiance mash-up and it is wild. Vanessa Hudgens plays an uptight baker from Chicago AND a loosey-goosey princess excited to see the world. Her princess accent makes her sound like a British Samantha Jones. Within the first two minutes there is a reference to The Nutcracker, heartbreak, and the female protagonist’s own uptightness. The film features such cliches as almost getting caught in a lie and falling in love in the general vicinity of a piano. There’s even a weird mystical old man who might be the spirit of Christmas (?). The soundtrack is made up of the worst CVS-versions of Christmas carols. My main takeaway from this movie is that all Christmas movies should be set in Chicago.
The love interests: A generically handsome blondish prince (the casting for these movies could really benefit from this Reductress test) and a jacked single dad who is also a baker (a true fantasy).
Sassy sidekick: A child who is wise beyond her years.
Insurmountable obstacles: A stuck up rival baker, years and years of monarchical tradition, Baker-Vanessa’s own stubbornness and a horse.
Is there a reference to a dead relative? Honestly, I can’t remember, maybe? Def a divorce.
Is there a wedding?: Yes. And it is speedy!
The Holiday Calendar
Festive level before: Eating soup — so pretty fucking festive.
Festive level after: Less festive, but optimistic and truly wanting the best for Kat Graham.
How Netflix got me: “A talented photographer stuck in a dead-end-job inherits an antique advent calendar that may be predicting the future — and pointing her towards love.”
This movie is charming enough and full of more non-white people than all of the other movies combined. Kat Graham shines in the flirtation scenes, making them the most engaging part of the movie. Ron Cephas Jones plays a supportive grandfather, bringing some residual This Is Us emotionality to the proceedings. This movie had the best soundtrack; the protagonist in this had the best apartment; and if a movie is not going to be set in Chicago, this cute, small multi-ethnic movie-town is an excellent alternative choice.
The love interests: There are two love interests! Love Interest #1 is on the matrix of tall and white, but he does take Kat Graham’s character on a hot cocoa date. Love Interest #2 is a long-standing friend, but not the most reliable. I don’t want to spoil anything but she does break up with one of them because he talked shit about horoscopes/her calendar, which: respect.
Sassy sidekicks: There’s an uptight sister, the aforementioned supportive grandfather, and a random friend for comic relief.
Insurmountable obstacles: Just men’s general inability to get their lives together.
LI #2 equated his fucking up Kat Graham’s big break (and getting her fired!) to her missing a date with him because she (Kat Graham) was with LI #1 feeding the homeless? The true Christmas miracle is the fact that men like this find people willing to marry them at all when they’re such trash.
Is there a reference to a dead relative?: Yup! A grandma!
Is there a wedding? No, but there is the opening of a small business! And her grandfather did NOT die which is something I was worried about the entire time. I’m telling you this in the hopes that you will be able to enjoy this movie without fear.
A Christmas Prince
Festive level before: Started this at the laundromat so mostly just furious.
Festive level after: Still furious but with more clean underwear.
How Netflix got me: “Christmas comes early for an aspiring young journalist when she’s sent abroad to get the scoop on a dashing prince who’s poised to be king.”
As a single media professional hungry for the big story that will one day make me — just like this movie’s protagonist — I expected to relate to this one. I did not. I did not enjoy this movie. Once again, someone fell in love in the vicinity of a piano, there’s a mishap on a horse and the main guy looks like a Winklevoss twin if you squint. There’s a secondary guy who is just the “guy with a boat” character but with an accent. There’s a plot twist that was truly unexpected so points for that, also a wolf attack, so I guess this one takes the cake for originality.
The love interests: A prince who has a beard and then doesn’t have a beard.
Sassy sidekicks: A gay best friend and a black friend, both of whom do nothing but support our heroine and provide exposition.
Insurmountable obstacles: Once again a pesky monarchy gets in the way, as does a web of lies.
Is there a reference to a dead relative? Yes! One from each of our romantic leads, how sweet!
Is there a wedding?: No, but there is a proposal and a sequel about a wedding. Shout out to these very smart producers.
Christmas Wedding Planner
Festive level before: Pretty festive but apprehensive as I have been burned by so many of these movies already.
Festive level after: Ready to chop down my own Christmas tree.
How Netflix Got Me: “A wedding planner’s world is turned upside down when a handsome private investigator is hired to disrupt one of her biggest jobs.”
I legitimately liked this movie. Maybe my brain is broken but I had a great time. There was something that was vaguely different about it, prompting me to ask, “Is this Canadian?” Starring Serena van der Woodsen’s mom (Kelly Rutherford), Joey Fatone and other more generically-attractive white people, it clipped along nicely. Serena van der Woodsen’s mom gets in tons of sick WASP burns so it’s actually kind of funny. There’s a full A Star is Born moment in that a man rolls down an SUV window to yell at a woman walking into her house. It’s clear that all of the film’s budget went to paying actors, leaving the set design to be pulled from a Homegoods circa 2010. I think I live, laugh, love this movie.
The love interests: The love interest is a super charming bad boy who is actually not that bad who is actually a private investigator and also owns an Italian fusion restaurant. The two leads have actual chemistry, a first in these proceedings.
Sassy sidekicks: There’s a breakdown of the three types of bridesmaids and one of them very clearly steals the secondary character show. Also a cute neurotic baker. Where are all of these cute bakers IRL???
Insurmountable obstacles: The bad boy love interest’s bad boy reputation.
Is there a reference to a dead relative? Yes. The lead woman, um, texts with her dead mom the entire movie and that’s all there is to say on that.
Is there a wedding?: Yes. And it is speedy!
The Christmas Chronicles
Festive level before: So festive because this was my last movie.
Festive level after: I’m exhausted, man.
How Netflix Got Me: “After accidentally crashing Santa’s sleigh, a brother and sister pull an all-nighter to save Christmas with a savvy, straight-talking St. Nick.”
This is not a rom-com! I have no idea why I thought it was. I legit thought this stressed out single mom was going to fall in love with this hot Santa played by Kurt Russell? I don’t know, is it January yet? I just want to go back to watching Schitt’s Creek. Looking back this is very clearly a movie for kids! There are even CGI elves. The characters do spend a lot of time in Chicago, which may be the second city but is clearly first in Christmas-focused straight-to-TV movies. Proud of my city!
The love interests: None. Which is a waste but Kurt Russell is a hot Santa. I apologize for not including him in the silver fox slideshow. There is an equally hot Mrs. Claus (one guess who it is) and they seem very happy together. We should all be so lucky.
Sassy sidekicks: There are no sidekicks, just a trio: one young girl, one teenage boy, and one hot Santa.
Insurmountable obstacles: A broken sled, a lack of magic and a boy who no longer believes.
Is there a reference to a dead relative? Yup one dead dad coming right up.
Is there a wedding? No, too many hijinx!
Should you find yourself on a long flight or snowed-in or just really in the mood for something cheesy, these movies will fit the bill. Now if you need me I will be over here crying to the only holiday movie I love, The Family Stone.