Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Netflix Christmas

It's December. You know what that means...Christmas movie reviews! I'll first begin with a couple of Netflix original Christmas movies that were released just this year. It seems like Netflix loves to churn out Christmas movies.

We'll first begin with The Christmas Chronicles which stars Kurt Russell as Santa. It also stars Oliver Hudson and Kimberly Williams-Paisley (mini Nashville reunion!) as the parents of the two kids we follow, Teddy and Kate. When the movie opens we see a montages of Christmases the family has spent together from 2006 to 2017. In the current day, we find out that their fire fighter father is no longer alive and later we will learn the he died saving a family from a fire. Teddy and Kate seemed to be close when they were younger, but have seemed to drift apart. Well, what does Kate expect? Her brother is a teenager...why would he want to hang out with his little sister who is between the ages of seven and eleven years old? (I seriously have no idea how old she is). It is implied that they drifted apart after their father died. Tell me if you think this is weird: they used to call each other nicknames (and will resume calling each other once they inevitably reconcile at the end of the movie (like you didn't know that was going to happen!)) Kate called her brother "Teddy Bear" and Teddy called his sister "Kitty Cat." Is it me or do those sound like nicknames significant others would give each other, not siblings?

Kate is recording a video message for Santa (so that's what the kids are doing these days) and Teddy is about to let her in on a devastating truth, but he doesn't have the heart to disappoint his little sister, so he tells her, "There is no.....chance he's gonna watch your video." Kate wants to hang out with her brother, but he just ignores her and goes to hang with his hooligan friends. Kate follows him and records him helping his friend steal a car. She uses this as blackmail to get her brother to help her with finding out if they can catch Santa in the act. While reviewing some old Christmas footage, she sees a red-sleeved arm reach towards the Christmas tree. She is convinced it was Santa and wants to set up the camcorder, that night, which is Christmas Eve, to record him. She tells Teddy she'll destroy the incriminating tape if he helps her. Yes, that's right, it is Christas Eve and Kate was just recording her video message to Santa. No kid would ever procrastinate when it comes to telling Santa what they want.

Sure enough, they catch Santa and unbeknownst to him, end up in his sleigh. This is actually the first Christmas movie where the dangers of hypothermia and hypoxia are brought up when riding in Santa's sleigh. Of course you're going to get cold if you're several miles up in the sky going really fast. When Santa sees that there's two kids, he loses control of his reindeer and Kate is flung out of the sled and starts falling. Of course, Santa saves her, but you think that would have been the most traumatizing thing that has ever happened to her and she would just want to go home, but no! She wants to help Santa! His sleigh has crashed and he has lost his reindeer. The two kids from Massachusetts find out they're now in Chicago....(wait, why did Santa go from MA to Chicago without giving any presents to all the places in between?)

I did like the look of this Santa. Because he's played by Kurt Russell, he's more of a "cool" Santa (and we'll get this more in a later scene when he sings a blue-sy Christmas song with a bunch of convicts at a jail. Don't ask). He's not your typical "jolly fat Santa." Everything that is usually a snowy white is matted and gray (like his hair and beard and the fur trim on his coat. It looks like he's wearing a reindeer pelt around his neck...which is a bit messed up if you think about it! He also tells the kids he doesn't say "Ho, ho, ho" and that's "fake news." Ha-ha!

Santa tells the kids if he doesn't get his sleigh up and running in half an hour, then half the continent won't get their presents. We learn that it's important for Santa not to miss Christmas because, according to him, all the wars that have ever started were started the years he missed Christmas. WTF? Good job, Santa. So you're the reason for every single war that ever started! He tells them, "People need Christmas to remind themselves of how good they can be." This line and a following scene made me think this movie was going to be different that what it turned out to be. When they enter a restaurant, Santa knows the hostess (because he knows everyone) and that she wanted to be a fashion designer (because he knows what everyone wants), but she never had the money to pay to attend Parsons. I thought this movie was going to go an altruistic path and Santa and the kids were going to grant wishes for people they met along the way. For instance, giving the waitress the tuition money for Parsons. But alas, the movie doesn't go in that direction. Santa needs to fix his sleigh and find his reindeer and bag of toys so Christmas can go on (and so everyone doesn't wake up to World War III in the morning!)

They need a ride into the city (where the reindeer are) and Santa ends up stealing a car (it's okay because the car itself was stolen by someone who's always been on the naughty list). Kate finds and coaxes the reindeer out of hiding and she and Teddy fly them away while Santa is taken to jail for grand theft auto. That's when he sings with the other convicts.

Meanwhile, the siblings have discovered the bag of toys. It looks like a normal bag, but considering it's holding all the toys for all the children in the world, it turns into a Mary Poppins bag that can hold just about anything and everything. Kate crawls into the bag and is able to crawl further and further until she's in this black hole of gifts flying around. I laughed when an actual car is circling around her. This vortex takes her to the North Pole where she meets some interesting elves. They don't look dissimilar to the House Elves from Harry Potter. This movie was produced by Chris Columbus who also directed the first two Potter movies so maybe that was the inspiration. Also, there's a scene where the two kids stop outside a church to hear a choir and I'm pretty sure it's the same church from Home Alone, but we only see the exterior of it.

I need to touch on a minor fashion note for a sec: Kate wears this purple coat with a hood...and also a winter hat with a pom pom. (The winter hat is really cute by the way, it looks like a lot of confetti has been sprinkled on it; I would totally wear that hat). But what is the point of wearing a winter hat when your coat already has a hood attached to it? Seems a little redundant, no?

When Kate is in the North Pole she comes across a huge area filled with drawers upon drawers where Santa has apparently kept every single letter that every single child has ever written him. First of all, even though they only show us the "P" section (for Pierce, the surname of the kids) and even though what we see is pretty impressive, that thing would be MUCH bigger. Also, why does Santa save every single letter from the previous years? I understand why he would keep the letters of the current year, but why is he hanging on to Teddy's letter from, say, 2006? Also, does he keep all the letters from adults and senior citizens who wrote them when they were kids or do those get tossed when they reach a certain age? Does this mean Santa Claus is a hoarder? This is all very confusing.

So Kate convinces the elves to fix the sleigh, Santa is released from jail, and the kids help Santa deliver his presents to the rest of the continent because he's unsure if he will have time to do it himself. As a tearful Kate tells him, "There can't be Christmas without presents!", Santa tells them he'll be able to deliver the gifts twice as fast if he's not carrying his bag (and the movie has already established he's pretty fast when he is carrying his bag) and Kate will be the one to call out the names and addresses and throw the gifts to Santa while Teddy takes the reins, literally. It seems in this world kids only get one gift from Santa which seems pretty bogus to me. Can you imagine if you only got one present from Santa as a kid? Oh, man, I would be so ticked. We see a montage of all the cities they visit and this is the order they go in after they're done with Chicago: St. Louise, New Orleans, Denver, St Paul, Calgary, Anchorage, Honolulu, Vancouver, Seattle, Boise, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, L.A., and San Francisco. Is it me or do some of these seem out of order? Shouldn't Honolulu be your last stop? Why did he hit Seattle before Boise? I think Santa needs to learn some U.S. geography!

Teddy's letter to Santa was that he wanted to see his dad again and for a moment I was thinking, is the movie really going to go there? Are they going to bring back the kids' dead dad? No, he gets an ornament and when he puts it on the tree he sees a reflection of his dad who tells him he's proud of him. The movie ends with Santa back at the North Pole and he's with Mrs. Claus, who is played by, of course, Goldie Hawn. I should have seen that coming! And that's when I realized that Oliver Hudson is Kurt Russell's stepson. Now where was Kate Hudson's appearance?

This movie was fine, but nothing I would put in my must see movies to watch every holiday season. It's probably going to get lost in the slew of Christmas movies Netflix already has out and no doubt will keep churning every Christmas.

Speaking of the slew of Christmas movies Netflix churns out every year, our next Christmas movie  review will be The Princess Switch which stars a double dose of Vanessa Hudgens. Seriously, whoever pitched this to Netflix must have just finished watching The Parent Trap (the Lindsay Lohan version) because there are too many similarities. Vanessa plays Stacey, a baker from Chicago who finds out that her sous chef and best friend since high school, Kevin, and his daughter, Olivia (also Stacey's god-daughter) have enrolled her in a fancy schmancy world baking competition that takes place in the fictional country of Belgravia which I'm sure is near Genovia and Andovia. Hell, I'm sure they're all the same country! And don't worry, I'll get to A Christmas Prince in a minute. I was listening to a podcast review of this movie and someone called it "Bel-mashed potatoes and gravia" which made me laugh so hard.

We find out that Stacey recently broke up with her boyfriend of three years and just wants to mope around, but when she runs into him on the street (literally like two minute after she leaves the shop) and finds out he's seeing someone new, she changes her mind and decides to go to Belgravia with Kevin and Olivia. There seemed to be some hint that Kevin was into Stacey, but Stacey didn't reciprocate those feelings. As the movie progresses this seems more evident and it's clear that Stacey has put Kevin (who looks and sounds a lot like former POTUS Barack Obama) firmly in the friend zone. Olivia really wants her dad to get together with Stacey and even tells him that she wishes "they were a thing." Kevin tells her that they've been friends since high school and if sparks were going to fly, they'd know by now. To which the little brat replies, and I'm not joking, "You're not trying hard enough." Oh, no you did not, little girl! Stop trying to meddle in your dad's personal relationships.

They should have just called Belgravia "Christmasville" because that's what it is. Everything is decorated for Christmas, there are carolers, a Santa village, an ongoing performance of The Nutcracker, gingerbread making hut, etc. While Stacey is touring the studio where the competition will be filmed and held, she runs into Margaret Delacourt, the Duchess of Montenero (another fictional country...lol my computer automatically changed it to "Montenegro" the first time I typed it!)  who is set to marry Prince Edward, the Prince of Belgravia (who is played by the guy who played Gunner on Nashville...seems like everyone on that show is finding their way to Netflix Christmas flicks! Can't wait to see Hayden Pannetierre in the next one!) Oh! Did I mention they look exactly alike? Except that Margaret has shorter hair and some faux British accent going on. (Just like in Lohan-style Parent Trap!) Surprise! She's played by Vanessa Hudgens too!

There is somewhat of a (super lame) explanation of why the girls look so much alike. Margaret's great-grandmother's cousin ended up in the United States and his daughter married someone with the surname DeNofrio which is similar to Stacey's last name, DeNovo. So that would make them, what? Second or third cousins? Even if they were related, they wouldn't look exactly alike. Who has ever heard of identical cousins? At least in The Parent Trap, they're identical twins.

Margaret's only wish it to be a real girl and she wants to switch places with Stacey for two days so she can see what it's like to be "normal". She assures Stacey that Edward won't even be in town and the only thing she'll have to do is have tea with his parents. Stacey agrees to this and the only person who knows about this is Margaret's assistant. However, Olivia quickly figures out Stacey's not really Stacey when she can't do their complicated handshake (another bit taken from The Parent Trap). And also the fact that when Margaret makes breakfast the next morning, she burns everything, something Stacey would never do. She agrees to keep the secret, though.

Guess what? Edwards doesn't go out of town and ends up staying in Belgravia. Ruh-roh! Also, guess what? Stacey falls for Prince Edward and Margaret falls for Kevin. Insert groan here. There's a close call where the two couples almost run into each other at a toy store but the crisis is averted by the kindly man who keeps appearing throughout the film at just the right time and seems to know everything that is going on, almost like he has magical powers. You would think his character is going to have some kind of revelation in the end, but nope.

There's a really stupid scene where Kevin, Olivia, and Margaret-as-Stacey are painting ornaments in Chistmasville and Margaret has painted a heart on hers and claims, "Christmas should be about love." Kevin tells her that he's never seen her so sentimental and she actually has the gall to reply, "Maybe you don't know me that well." Yeah, no s**t. Of course he doesn't know you BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT WHO HE THINKS YOU ARE! And I'm guessing the real Stacey would never draw a heart on an ornament and get all sappy because he does know her. Duh!

Then we have another stupid scene where Stacey-as-Margaret is attending some royal soiree with the Prince and she is invited to play the piano as the Duchess is known for her remarkable piano playing skills. Of course Stacey doesn't know how to play the piano, not even the simple repeated four notes to "Carol of the Bells" when Edward suggests they play that as a duet. She blames it on "stage fright," but gimme me a freaking break! An accomplished pianist would be able to play four simple notes to a well known song. Yet nobody seems to find this very odd.

The best part of the movie (and when I say best, I really mean worst) is when Kevin and Margaret-as-Stacey decide to watch A Christmas Prince because that's Stacey's favorite Christmas movie. What the huh? That movie has only been out a year and it's her freakin' favorite Christmas movie? Seriously? SERIOUSLY? A Christmas Prince? Has this girl never seen Home Alone or Elf or It's a Wonderful Life? Has she never seen ANY Christmas movie if A Christmas Prince is her favorite? No shade to A Christmas Prince, but, c'mon! We even see them turn on the TV and scroll through the Netflix movies. Shameless promotion there, Netflix. However, I think they could have gone with two other options. The first is that they could have promoted the sequel to A Christmas Prince, which I believe was released a week or two after this one. They could have Margaret-as-Stacey say that she loved A Christmas Prince and that she's so excited to see the sequel and they could even show a little clip from the movie. But personally, I think they really missed the mark by not combining the two worlds together and having them exist in the same universe! Hello, Netflix! You could have had Vanessa Hudgens x 2  and her two beaus attend the wedding of whatstheirnames in A Christmas Prince 2 and you could have whatstheirnames attend Duchess Vanessa and Prince Edward's wedding at the end of this movie! I have no doubt that Belgravia and Andovia are right next to each other. There could even be a crossover movie called The Christmas Princess Switch. Obviously I am a genius! Whoever missed this at Netflix really dropped the ball. A missed opportunity in the Netflix universe if there ever was one.

When it is revealed that the girls have been impersonating each other, neither man is upset in the slightest that they've been deceived for the last two days. In fact, Edward proposes to Stacey and they get married at the end of the movie (which is about three minutes away from that point, although in the course of the movie it's the next year.) It is just ridiculous that she agrees to marry someone she's only known for TWO FREAKING DAYS!! I guess she really wanted to be a Princess! I must say, their wedding cake is on point. Even though they don't mention it, I'm sure Stacey made it. Who the hell makes their own wedding cake, especially one that elaborate? Who has time to when they're planning a wedding? And they all lived happily ever after. I especially love how Olivia wanted her dad to get together with Stacey, but is just as content with her dad getting together with Stacey's doppelgänger.

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