The holiday season is in full swing, and while 2020 has been a whirlwind of chaos, we can still rely on one constant: a surplus of Christmas movies, new and old.
Last year, we agreed to watch all six of Netflix’s new Christmas movies and suffered through 10-plus hours of terrible acting, contrived plots and cringe-inducing dialogue. Did we learn our lesson? No. Alas, we watched another six brand-new Netflix Christmas movies — a testament to how desperate we are for things to do at home nine months into a pandemic.
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.
Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) hate the holidays, constantly finding themselves single, or stuck with awkward dates. But when they meet after one particularly bad Christmas, they make a pact to be each other’s “holidate” for every festive occasion throughout the next year, assuring themselves that they have no romantic interest in each other. However, as the year goes on, Sloane and Jackson find themselves bonding over their holiday hatred.
Amy Wong, features producer: I swear, this movie’s script was written by a bot. Everything from the dialogue, to the plot, to the characterizations felt so uncannily nonhuman.
Taylor Blatchford, news producer: I concur with Amy, and I’m not sure if this totally counts as a Christmas movie, considering it spans a whole year and holidays including Easter and Cinco de Mayo. I also feel obligated to tell any parents reading that this is not a family-friendly movie to park your young kids in front of.
Amy: During a Halloween party, Sloane’s sister accidentally gives her some laxatives, and as you can imagine, quite a bit of chaos ensues. I’m not entirely sure if it was more funny or shocking or disgusting, but my jaw was on the floor for a full three minutes.
Taylor: Sloane and Jackson have known each other less than a week when they (mostly) pull off the iconic “Dirty Dancing” lift despite never having practiced or danced together. Even in a movie with bizarre plot points and unrealistic dialogue, this scene stood out as especially far-fetched.
“Holidate” created quite the stir online when viewers thought they spotted a cameo from Ryan Gosling after Sloane mentions the actor’s name. Alas, it was just a coincidental lookalike extra.
“Operation Christmas Drop”
While gathering evidence to support closing a tropical U.S. Air Force base, congressional aide Erica (Kat Graham) warms to its generous captain, Andrew (Alexander Ludwig), and finds hints of true holiday spirit in places she’d never expect.
Amy: “Operation Christmas Drop” is meant to reveal the giving nature and true spirit of Christmas, but it ended up falling flat and feeling pretty soulless.
Taylor: This film felt like Air Force propaganda at times with a bit of an American savior complex. One scene, where Erica gives local village girls random items from her purse, like a hairbrush and scrunchies, was particularly cringeworthy.
Amy: For a movie that was filled with breathtaking scenery, I actually laughed out loud at the terribly CGI-ed gecko that appeared in Erica’s living quarters. Couldn’t Netflix shell out a few more bucks for some more realistic-looking wildlife?
Taylor: We learn Andrew’s nickname is CLAWS, and I thought it was a sly allusion to Christmas … but then we later learn it stands for Can’t Leave Anyone Without Santa. I groaned.
The movie was filmed on Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, with some scenes shot on Air Force aircraft.
“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
Set in the vibrant town of Cobbleton, legendary toymaker Jeronicus Jangle’s (Forest Whitaker) inventions burst with whimsy and wonder. But when his trusted apprentice (Keegan-Michael Key) steals his most prized creation, it’s up to his bright and inventive granddaughter Journey (Madalen Mills) to heal old wounds and reawaken the magic within.
Amy: OK, THIS is a real Christmas movie. I’ll admit, it’s corny and the ending doesn’t really make sense, but visually stunning sets and costumes, plus great musical numbers, combine to create the perfect holiday film.
Taylor: I was impressed with the animation, visual production and music, even though this movie was a bit longer than it needed to be, clocking in at 122 minutes. Unlike “Holidate,” this will entertain and uplift the whole family.
Amy: This is absolutely unrelated, but Journey and Jeronicus discussing derivatives and integrals (because I guess you need to know calculus to make toys) gave me war flashbacks to college, when I considered breaking my own arm to get out of a calculus final. Don’t skip out on math, kids, and maybe one day you can become a great toy inventor, or at least avoid dreaming of fracturing your own limbs.
Taylor: The toy at the heart of the movie, The Buddy 3000 (which director David E. Talbert apparently named after Outkast’s André 3000?!), is a near-identical knockoff WALL-E, the robot in Disney/Pixar’s 2008 animated film of the same name.
The 11-year-old Mills, who shows off her singing, dancing and acting skills, made her Broadway debut at age 8 in a tour of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” and appeared again on Broadway in “School of Rock.”
“The Princess Switch: Switched Again”
In this sequel to 2018’s “The Princess Switch,” when Duchess Margaret (Vanessa Hudgens) unexpectedly inherits the throne to her home country of Montenaro and hits a rough patch with her boyfriend Kevin (Nick Sagar), it’s up to her lookalike, Stacy (also Vanessa Hudgens), to save the day before her cousin and party girl Fiona (… also Vanessa Hudgens) foils their plans.
Amy: This movie is unhinged, UNHINGED I TELL YOU! My roommate and I had to pause for 10 minutes to map out which Vanessa Hudgens was which and who was in love with whom, and then even after that we spent the rest of the movie yelling, “What the [expletive]???”
Taylor: I’ve had a soft spot for Vanessa Hudgens ever since growing up with Disney’s “High School Musical,” and I can only hope she got paid triple for playing three characters. There’s a third “Princess Switch” coming to Netflix next Christmas, and I’m crossing my fingers that Hudgens will be playing four characters.
Amy: I don’t want to spoil what I think was the only redeeming scene of the whole movie, but if you’re a Netflix Christmas movie aficionado, you’ll notice a split-second cameo toward the end of the movie, and it actually made me scream.
Taylor: I genuinely got confused about which Vanessa Hudgens character was which during some of the double-switch scenes. Seriously, give the woman an Oscar for pulling off three different characters, wardrobes and accents.
“The Princess Switch” was filmed in Romania, but this sequel was filmed in Scotland. Where are either of those places in relation to the fictional Belgravia and Montenaro? We’re not quite sure.
“Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square”
Rich, mean Regina Fuller (Christine Baranski) returns to her small hometown after her father’s death to evict everyone and sell the land to a mall developer right before Christmas. However, after getting to know the local townsfolk and accepting the guidance of an actual angel (Dolly Parton), Regina starts to have a change of heart.
Amy: I’m an American, which means that I abide by true American values, the most important of which is: You NEVER slander Ms. Dolly Parton. And because of that … I plead the fifth on saying anything about this movie.
Taylor: I had high expectations for a Dolly Parton Christmas musical. Unfortunately, this movie did not meet any of them. I’m sorry, Dolly.
Amy: Whoo boy, there’s a lot to choose from here, but I’ve gotta go with a pivotal moment for Regina, when she receives both a glass of whiskey and some sage life advice from a kid bartender. Some kind of idyllic town, huh? Resorting to child labor in their local taverns.
Taylor: Without going into too much detail and spoiling the plot, Dolly Parton the angel performs some medical miracles with a sparkling wave of her hand, and on Christmas Eve, no less. There are a lot of bizarre moments but this topped the list for me.
Parton wrote all the songs in the film and ALSO released a separate Christmas album this year (“A Holly Dolly Christmas”). How many Christmas songs can the woman write?!
“The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two”
It’s been two years since siblings Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy Pierce (Judah Lewis) saved Christmas, and a lot has changed. But when a magical troublemaker named Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) threatens to destroy the North Pole and end Christmas, Kate and Jack are unexpectedly pulled into a new adventure with Santa Claus (Kurt Russell).
Amy: I adore Julian Dennison and I’m happy to see him in anything, but I must say this movie was … weird. It relied a lot on CGI for its elves and setting, which killed some of its holiday spirit.
Taylor: I must confess that I haven’t watched the first “Christmas Chronicles,” so I was a bit confused at the beginning. While the premise is sweet, the weird CGI elves and an airport musical number from Santa were a bit too much for me to suspend disbelief.
Amy: In one scene, Mrs. Claus describes how she invented a new type of food, where she can disguise vegetables to look and taste like cakes, cookies and other sweets. I’m a full-grown adult, but low-key, that’s still my dream …
Taylor: When Mrs. Claus explains the origin story of Belsnickel, my roommate’s ears perked up and she said “like Dwight Schrute in ‘The Office’?” We had to pause and watch the clip, and while the movie’s version looks a little different, both portrayals are based on the same German folklore.
Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, who play Santa and Mrs. Claus, are longtime partners in real life, and are parents to actors Kate Hudson and Wyatt Russell. Hudson (whose biological father is Bill Hudson) says that this movie “marks the only time my parents have been married.”