This holiday season, Netflix has given us an invaluable gift: SIX new, original Christmas movies that are each delightfully bad in their own way.
We — Seattle Times Netflix enthusiasts Taylor Blatchford and Amy Wong — took it upon ourselves to watch these movies. It was painful, but entertaining in its own horrifying way. Here’s what we thought of each holiday flick, with a handy snowflake scale to rate them in relation to one another. Light spoilers ahead — but these movies are so predictable, there’s not too much to be spoiled.
“Holiday in the Wild”
After sending her son off to college and abruptly finding out her husband is leaving her, Kate Conrad (Kristin Davis) takes a solo trip to Africa for a safari. During a detour through Zambia, she meets pilot Derek Hollistan (Rob Lowe) and finds new purpose at an elephant orphanage.
Taylor: This didn’t need to be a Christmas movie, and the holiday aspects don’t add anything to the plot, but the adorable elephants (at real sanctuaries!) are the redeeming quality.
Amy: A random white woman shows up to an elephant sanctuary in Zambia and is immediately crowned as some sort of savior to everyone, even though her only veterinary experience was with cats and dogs, several years ago… Yeah, OK….
Amy: Not even five minutes into the movie, Kate’s husband leaves her. I can’t even remember his character’s name, the departure was so abrupt and absurd.
Taylor: There are a lot of parallels between Kate’s relationship with her real son and her elephant “son.” I can’t decide if this is cute or overdone.
Fun family fact
Kate’s son in the movie is played by Rob Lowe’s actual son, John Owen Lowe.
“Let it Snow”
A group of teens in tiny Laurel, Illinois, experience romance, friendship and adventure when a snowstorm hits their small Midwestern town the day before Christmas. Based on the bestselling book by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, “Let it Snow” stars Isabela Merced, Shameik Moore, Odeya Rush, Liv Hewson, Mitchell Hope, Kiernan Shipka, Jacob Batalon and Joan Cusack.
Taylor: This movie is a cross between “Love Actually” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” and maybe it’s the Coloradan in me talking, but there’s not actually *that* much snow.
Amy: I love a good teen rom-com, but I could not get past some of the problematic clichés “Let It Snow” fell prey to. Can’t believe I still have to say this in 2019: Just because you have romantic feelings for your friend does not mean you are entitled to control who they hang out with or lash out at them just because you are jealous.
Amy: Shameik Moore’s handsome face. That’s it.
Taylor: I’m still confused about Joan Cusack’s spiritual, fairy godmother-esque character, who drives a tow truck and wears a tinfoil suit.
Best unintended crossover
D’Arcy Carden — who you might recognize from her turn as Janet on NBC’s “The Good Place” — has a cameo as the publicist for Stuart, Shameik Moore’s pop star character; she is on her phone the whole time and refers to hand sanitizer as “hand sany.” We think this movie is actually set in the Bad Place, not Laurel.
In this animated film, Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) is stationed as the postman on a small island above the Arctic Circle, in the frozen gloom of Smeerensburg, where the locals feud with each other — until a mysterious carpenter, Klaus (J.K. Simmons), and a local teacher, Ms. Alva (Rashida Jones), bring the community together.
Taylor: As a 23-year-old with no children, I’m not the target audience for this movie, but it was cute and I enjoyed the clever interweaving of Christmas traditions.
Amy: The animation was beautiful and the storyline was fresh, making for a movie I’d be happy to watch with my family during the holiday season.
Taylor: Alva pays for all her classroom upgrades with her savings, which is a little too on-the-nose.
Amy: Not necessarily a moment, but I loved that each character had a distinct face and body shape. Too many modern animated films end up making all of their characters generally look the same.
The two feuding families of Smeerensburg describe their extensive history of fighting and competition using various mediums to demonstrate their most notable battles, including a wooden pop-up of “the great mooning of ’86.”
“The Knight Before Christmas”
Medieval knight Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse) is transported to present-day Ohio at Christmastime, where he meets Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens), a science teacher who helps him figure out the modern world and complete a quest so he can return home.
Taylor: Vanessa Hudgens is adorable, and I get a lot of “Enchanted” vibes here, but set at Christmastime, unlike the Disney musical classic. (Amy’s reaction to this: “How dare you slander ‘Enchanted’!”).
Amy: All of these movies were very cliché, but there wasn’t a single scene in “Knight Before Christmas” that did not have some sort of overdone rom-com trope in it.
Taylor: This is the only film of the bunch (we think) that references other Netflix Christmas movies: “Holiday in the Wild” plays on the TV when Cole is flipping through channels, and there’s a reference to Aldovia, home of “A Christmas Prince.”
Amy: After a night of binge-watching television, Cole somehow picks up on modern lingo — “Modern technology is lit af” — but ended up sounding like my editor when I explain to her how young people talk nowadays.
Worst product placement
An Amazon Alexa that gets more screen time than some of the human characters in this movie. Cole refers to the device as “Lady Alexa.”
Popular New York radio DJ Rush Williams (Romany Malco) has been spoiling his four children since they lost their mom, but their lives are upended when he loses his job weeks before Christmas. To keep Rush on the air, producer Roxy Richardson (Sonequa Martin-Green) and his Aunt Jo (Darlene Love) plan to help him buy another station. As the Williams family embraces a simpler life, they’re reminded of the true meaning of family and Christmas.
Taylor: So many cringeworthy moments in this movie, but I’m most confused about how it moved both too quickly and too slowly — I had very little sympathy for this family because there’s almost no character development, especially with the bratty kids.
Amy: “Holiday Rush” was so bizarre, I spent the whole movie alternating between, “Huh?” and “What?” So many plot points introduced and solved so quickly.
Taylor: I’m a journalist, not a financial planner, but even I know Roxy should DEFINITELY NOT give up her 401(k) to buy another radio station.
Amy: Rush’s daughters set up a GoFundMe fundraiser after they find out they’re “poor,” faking a medical emergency: “Those crutches [in the photo] are lacrosse sticks!”
La La Anthony, wife of NBA player Carmelo Anthony, has a brief cameo as Rush’s late wife, Paula, showing up in family photos and old video footage. Oh, and there’s also a glowing ghost “Paula” that interacted with Rush intermittently throughout the movie. Weird.
“A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby”
In the third installment of the “Christmas Prince” series, Queen Amber (Rose McIver) and King Richard (Ben Lamb) are expecting a baby, but first, they have to renew an ancient truce with another country — and find the stolen treaty before a curse strikes on Christmas Eve.
Taylor: A myriad of different plot elements make this movie feel disjointed and all over the place, and it might just be the cheesiest of all six films we watched (which is quite a high bar).
Amy: This movie has everything: Meghan Markle references, teen romance, Asian people (for once!), dungeons, an impending war, people who somehow believe in curses and modern science at the same time.
Taylor: Queen Amber sticks to her journalistic roots even during childbirth, while she’s still investigating things … but then, suddenly, she’s not in pain? I’m also skeptical that calling contractions “surges” makes them less painful.
Amy: King Richard’s sister suggesting he and Amber name their baby “Khaleesi” makes me think this movie was filmed before the final season of “Game of Thrones” aired.
Worst portrayal of journalism
After the treaty goes missing, Amber says “investigative journalism 101” in thinking about where it could have gone (which just seems like common sense, but OK). But isn’t the real Journalism 101 lesson to not fall in love with your source and fake your identity, both of which she did in the first movie?