“You need to calm down. It’s only Crimbo.”
Genre: Family Holiday Drama Made For Laughs
New Holiday Spirit or Ghost of Christmas Past?: released 2021
Where I Watched: Netflix
Synopsis: The four Christmas sisters – yep, that’s the family names – are coming together for Christmas. Before their claws get truly sharpened on each other, their father arrives. The father who left twenty-seven years earlier on Christmas day. No reason, just bolted…and radio silence ’til this reappearance. So naturally, the family is a-OK. Best Christmas ever!
Worth the Eggnog?: The family’s last name is Christmas, and this film stars Kelsey Grammar and John Cleese. That’s all you really need to know to figure out that this is a mix of dry UK humor, dysfunctional shenanigans, and happy endings all around. Did I figure out exactly how this story was gonna go before the quarter mark? Yes, yes I did. You will too. But that didn’t stifle my enjoyment of the way the performers sunk their teeth into their characters. Elizabeth Hurley’s bimbo-tastic inflencer of an eldest sister Joanna, Nathalie Cox as her uptight mirror image Caroline, Talulah Riley as Vicky, the free-spirited baby of the family, and Naomi Frederick as Beatles-obsessed forever student Paulina don’t have much of a resemblance to each other, but all the actresses are great at showing a sibling connection that’s believable and hilarious.
As for Kelsey Grammar? His American accent is explained away as losing his British one over the many years he’d spent in the States. It’s a decent explain-away, and he and Cleese have a deliciously wicked brotherly back-and-forth that is fun to watch. My special shout-out this review goes to Caroline Quentin, who plays the matriarch Elizabeth Christmas with love for her children and wicked sexual glee. And okay, I have to thank the casting powers-that-be for placing Love, Actually‘s Kris Marshall as Caroline Christmas’ hubby Peter Hope. Yep, that means her name is Caroline Christmas-Hope.
Again, you know exactly what’s in the tin with this story. And the way they get their might be more of the same ol’ that we’ve seen in other holiday films, but the level of talent here – in front of and behind the camera – makes it worth the watch. The silly puns delivered with dry wit are enjoyable, like the local pub’s name (that’d be The Plough Inn…GET IT), and the unabashed, fun and flirty sexuality of the characters is a refreshing change from all that “We’re So Chaste” characters from Hallmark cut-outs.
Then why the score below? Well, though the cast is game, the location beautiful, and the lines delivered with gusto, it is a bit too paint-by-numbers to be truly great. You’ll see every “twist” coming not a mile away, but from [Insert Far-away Country Here]. And while that’s fine with a movie you’ll put on as you wrap presents, it doesn’t make for much of an engaging story if you’re sitting down, hoping for a film you can sink into. Yeah yeah, it’s a typical crazy holiday story – the poster assures everyone of that – so what else would I expect? But with the family dynamics these characters have, and the chemistry between the actors, it could have been more of a fun holiday classic, rather than a cash-grab quickie that takes the easy way out with wrapping up each sub-plot. Especially when a few could really turn into emotionally affecting payoffs instead of “okay, cool, that’s done then” finales.
I may watch it again because I love how much fun the cast seems to be having, but only for holiday background noise. Or if I’m glugging wine like one of the sisters does when her plans go awry. It’s okay, it just could have been…better.
Score: 3 out of 5 Hos.