It’s December, and we all know what that means: a sparkly parade of new Christmas movies on Netflix. Following Seattle Times tradition, I watched and rated six of them — consider it my holiday gift to all of you! And after having done so, I know only one thing for sure: I want to live in a Netflix Christmas movie. While I figure out how to do that — clearly I need to buy a castle, find my doppelgänger and buy some antler earmuffs, for starters — here’s the list. Ratings scale: 0 to 5 Christmas lights.

“Single All the Way”

The premise: Peter (Michael Urie) invites his longtime best friend Nick (Philemon Chambers) to join him for Christmas with his family, planning to pretend that Nick’s his boyfriend. But things go awry when Peter’s mom Carole (Kathy Najimy) — who insists on being called Christmas Carole, because she is a lot — sets him up on a blind date with her trainer James (Luke Macfarlane).

The setting: Snowy New England, where everything is bedecked with Christmas lights, frosted cookies are always at the ready, and everyone seems to be required by law to look extremely cute in a parka and scarf.

The naughty: Nobody is remotely naughty in “Single All the Way,” except maybe screenwriter Chad Hodge’s overreliance on coincidence (the way Peter finds out, early in the film, that his current boyfriend is a liar is egregious even by rom-com terms). And also this movie has a very cute dog who isn’t allowed to figure in the plot (he spends nearly the entire movie off-screen at a doggy hotel), which seems like a missed opportunity.

The nice: Every character in “Single All the Way” is incredibly sweet — particularly Nick, who is not only extremely handsome but is a children’s book author who is good at fixing things, doesn’t mind being thrown into the middle of Peter’s very dramatic family and owns excellent leather luggage. Everyone watching this film will want to marry Nick, immediately.

The décor rating: Twinkle lights and antler earmuffs all around! And I love how this family is so into Christmas there’s even greenery decorating the headboard in the guest room.



“A Castle for Christmas”

The premise: When the reaction to her latest bestselling novel isn’t great, author Sophie Brown (Brooke Shields) heads for Scotland and attempts to buy a castle, as one does. The problem: the castle’s cranky (but cute!) current owner (Cary Elwes), who doesn’t want to sell to a foreigner.

The setting: This movie is not messing around, naming its star right there in the title — it’s not Shields or Elwes, but that glorious castle, with its curving stairways and wood paneling and picturesque tapestries. Though I was also partial to the local pub, which is the most twinkly, cozy place imaginable, and to basically every setting in this movie, including a very plaid taxicab. (There is a LOT of plaid in this movie, to remind us, I guess, that we’re in Scotland.)

The naughty: “You can’t just run off to Scotland and hide in a castle,” Sophie’s agent tells her. OH, YES YOU CAN. I intend to do so, as soon as it is feasible. “A Castle for Christmas” is, of course, guilty of being absolutely 100% predictable, but hey, that’s how this kind of movie works. Are Christmas cookies any less sweet when we already know what they’re going to taste like?

The nice: Even the grumpy castle owner dude (who I kept hoping would spout a few lines from “The Princess Bride,” but alas, no such luck) is as nice as can be. But it’s no knock on the cast when I saw that one of the best performances is from an extremely expressive dog named Hamish, which I hope is what all dogs in Scotland are named.

The décor rating: It takes a little while to get to Christmas in this movie — but once we do, it’s a plaid holiday dream.


“Father Christmas Is Back”

The premise: The four sisters of the extremely high-strung Christmas family — seriously, that’s their last name, I would not make that up — get their holiday plans thrown into disarray when their long-estranged father (Kelsey Grammer), who’s basically Frasier Crane in an infinity scarf, shows up.


The setting: Caroline Christmas-Hope (again, not making this up), the most uptight of the sisters, lives in a spectacular British country house with her frequently shrieked-at husband; it looks sort of like Downton Abbey’s only slightly less fortunate cousin. It would be a lovely place to spend the holidays, except the tiresome Christmases happen to live there.

The naughty: Sigh. I tend to be a fairly easy grader around holiday time, but there really isn’t much to recommend this very tired, way-too-obvious comedy full of annoying people.  

The nice: Joanna Christmas (Elizabeth Hurley), who vamps around the movie like she’s trying to distract us from the plot, hisses to a niece intrigued by her designer purse, “This bag is worth more than your kidneys.” This is, alas, the movie’s best line. By a longshot. Ho-ho-ho, indeed.

The décor rating. Mostly pretty standard, except for the family Christmas tree made up almost entirely of decorations constructed from what the Brits call “toilet roll” — and which is, unfortunately, the only thing in the movie with an actual personality.


“Love Hard”

The premise: Natalie (Nina Dobrev), a Los Angeles freelance writer who believes “Die Hard” to be the greatest Christmas movie of all time, flies across the country to meet her dating-app crush for the holidays — only to find she’s been catfished. Can she find love anyway?

The setting: The cozy, decorated-within-an-inch-of-its-life Craftsman bungalow in Lake Placid, where Josh Lin (Jimmy O. Yang) lives with his family — and where Natalie gets introduced as his girlfriend. The Lins are very big on tasteful swags of greenery and on “Love Actually” (which gets a nice shoutout late in the film).


The naughty: This is one of those movies you watch certain that you’ve seen it before — because there have been so many rom-coms exactly like it. And Natalie does not seem like the brightest Christmas light on the string, so to speak. But it’s the holiday season and I have a weakness for shiny rom-coms.

The nice: Dobrev and Yang are pretty adorable together, particularly when they sing a rewritten version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (props to whoever rhymed “my old friend Roy” with “lemon LaCroix”).

The décor rating: The Lins are clearly into Christmas — Josh’s mom has multiple holiday-themed aprons — and their very busy front yard display nicely combines the Nativity with sparkly penguins in top hats. And, this being Lake Placid, everyone’s scarf-and-hat game is solid.


“Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star”

The premise: Vanessa Hudgens plays three look-alike roles in this very twinkly holiday caper: Stacy, a former cupcake baker turned Princess of Belgravia; Margaret, Queen of Montenaro; and Margaret’s cousin Fiona, who is some sort of delinquent serving time working as a custodian in a convent, which I guess is how the penal system works in Montenaro. All of them team up to find a priceless missing relic, and it’s no spoiler to say that they eventually find it, made easier by the fact that Montenaro is clearly the most Christmas-light-bedecked place in the entire universe.

The setting: The castle in which I think both Margaret and Stacy live with their cute royal spouses (sorry, I haven’t seen editions 1 and 2 of this popular franchise, which presumably cover the cupcake baker-to-princess thing) wonderfully straddles the enormous-but-cozy vibe, with abundant upholstery and footmen in striped costumes perpetually hanging around. In other words, my own personal fantasy.

The naughty: The plot is very, very silly … but this is “Princess Switch 3,” so you knew that already.


The nice: It’s a lot of fun to watch Hudgens in her triple role: prim Margaret, down-to-earth Stacy, sexy Fiona. I particularly enjoyed a sequence in which one of them — I think it’s Margaret, but honestly in this film it’s not always clear — danced a slinky tango, interspersed with another one of them pulling off a heist like a holiday-themed “Ocean’s 11.”

The décor rating: Truly, I did not know there were this many white Christmas lights in the world. Every surface in the castle, indoors and out, is decorated, as if Queen Margaret is running some sort of Home for Not-So-Wayward Christmas Trees. It’s gorgeous.


 “A Boy Called Christmas”

The premise: Not a rom-com but a family-friendly origin story about Santa and his sleigh (based on the 2015 children’s book by Matt Haig), this British fantasy/adventure follows young Nikolas (Henry Lawfull) as he sets out — assisted by a talking mouse and a flying reindeer — into a winter wonderland to find his father.

The setting: There are two settings in this film, both charming: contemporary, holiday-decorated London, where an elderly babysitter (Maggie Smith) tells a story to three children; and snowy, fairy-tale Finland, where Nikolas travels to the magical realm of Elfhelm. Elves, apparently, are very good at gingerbread houses and urban planning (their town is adorable, as are the buffets at their parties).

The naughty: It would take quite the Grinch to find something naughty about this extremely sweet film, though I wish it had included more of an enchanting character called the Truth Pixie, who basically flies around and tells the truth about things. This makes her, as you can imagine, not very popular.

The nice: Any film narrated by the great Smith would probably automatically get a 4-Christmas-light rave from me, particularly when said film also includes the world’s cutest talking mouse. (Seriously, the eyes on that thing just slayed me. Perhaps I need to live in a children’s movie.) And “A Boy Called Christmas” gently touches on loss — the mother of the three London children has recently died — in a way that made me tear up, but in a nice way. “Grief is the price we pay for love,” Smith says softly, “and worth it a million times over.” (Wait, am I getting life lessons from Netflix Christmas movies now?)

The décor rating: Not a lot of Christmas décor, as most of the movie takes place in the snowy Far North, but the opening and closing scenes have enough holiday lighting to warm the most frozen of hearts. And besides, having Maggie Smith stroll around in a tweed cape is enough decoration for any film.