I don’t know about you, but holiday-themed entertainment is one of my favorite parts of this time of year. 2018 marks my twenty-fourth year of living without Hallmark, so this year I will once again be turning to Netflix to get my Christmas movie fix. Unfortunately they chose not to bring my favorites back this year (namely Christmas Cupid and Christmas Kiss), so I am being forced to venture out into the unknown to discover some new favorites. But between the Netflix Originals dropping basically every week this month and a bunch of other movies I’ve never heard of, it can be hard to know which ones are worth your time. I thought I would offer you guys my thoughts and ratings for a few of them in hopes that it will make your decision process a little easier! If you decide to watch them, let me know if you agree or disagree with my ratings!
- The Holiday Calendar – 4 1/2 stars
The first 2018 rollout from Netflix, The Holiday Calendar stars The Vampire Diaries’ Kat Graham and features a storyline that finds her character Abby working as a holiday mall photographer while dreaming of finally following her dream of becoming a full time photographer. While plodding along at her day job, Abby is also forced to deal with the return of her successful, travel photographer best friend, Josh, and the gift of an old school wooden Advent calendar that starts predicting events in her day. I personally found Kat’s acting a refreshing break from the typical Christmas RomCom female lead. She inserted a lot of personality and sass into her stock character. I also thought Josh’s character was a nice break from the stereotypical Christmas RomCom guy characters. The entire cast, in fact, adds some well needed diversity to a genre typically dominated by the petite blond lead and scruffy rugged male lead, who looks like he belongs on The Bachelor. This movie lost half a star from me because the ending felt a bit rushed and not as emotionally deep as the rest of the movie, which cheated the viewer of the full emotional resonance the film could have had. Still a fun watch, though!
2. The Princess Switch – 4 stars
Netflix continues its diversity trend with High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens (part Filipino) as the duel lead of The Princess Switch. She plays both Stacy, a baker who gives off some serious grown up Gabriella vibes, and Lady Margaret, a duchess with a questionable accent, in this modern holiday retelling of The Prince and The Pauper. When the two girls run into each other right before the biggest baking contest of Stacy’s career and Lady Margaret’s wedding to a prince she’s met twice, they decide to switch places for a few days so Lady Margaret can find out what it’s like to be normal. A bit of a poor motivation for the swap, but it’s the whole premise of the film, so just go with it. After the switch, the two ladies continue into their individual Christmas RomCom storylines for a double dose of holiday romantic magic. The “rich and poor girl switch places” plot plays out a bit predictably, with a few tiny twists. The biggest weakness of the film, in my opinion, is the overwhelming focus on Stacy’s character, which left me with much less of an emotional attachment to Lady Margaret at the end of the film. Overall, however, The Princess Switch is a fun film that utilizes several classic cinematic tropes for a final product that is as sweet as Stacy’s baked goods.
3. Christmas Wedding Planner – 2 1/2 stars
The only non-Netflix original on the list, Christmas Wedding Planner is based on a Harlequin novel with a much more creative title. It follows a first time wedding planner planning her cousin’s wedding while also trying to protect the event from her cousin’s meddling, private investigating ex-boyfriend. Of course, along the way, our well-meaning heroine must join forces with the dastardly wedding ruiner and they, of course, start catching feelings for each other. In fact, the whole film suffers from a sense of obligatory “fill in the blank”-ness. Now the romantic leads must bond. Cue montage. By now they should be falling for each other. Insert an almost kiss. The film is saved mostly by the female leads, even if Kelly Rutherford and Rebecca Dalton are basically just playing their characters from Gossip Girl and Good Witch (respectively). The lead actress manages to bring some layered and shaded elements to her character, whose various aspects don’t quite make sense together on paper. In contrast, the lead male actor lacks the acting props to bring nuance to the badly written dark horse love interest. The whole film suffers from poor writing and a lack of compelling performances from the male actors (including Joey Fatone from NSYNC fame). It was basically a solid three star film, but I took off half a star for the ending. No spoilers, but it revolves around a huge romantic moment between the two leads that felt unearned. Overall, some fun concepts and a few good performances, but seriously lacking quality execution.