Outside of Hallmark, Christmas movies were dead for a span of time, then experienced a resurgence in the last few years, thanks in part to streaming hits such as The Christmas Chronicles, Jingle Jangle, and Happiest Season, not to mention one animated Grinch, a Nutcracker movie, and a delightful rom com (Let it Snow). Now, on the heels of one too many duds, we might be looking at another drought sooner rather than later.
Love Hard (NETFLIX)
The first 20-30 minutes of this movie are such a failure I began to question whether it belonged on Hallmark versus the hallowed streaming halls of Netflix. The editing is a patchwork of ill-advised fades and meandering structure, and the content itself is no great shakes either, regurgitating the internet debate around Die Hard as a Christmas movie for the thirtieth time and arguing the merits of Love, Actually (get the title now?). The next hour-plus is funnier and more well-made, with Jimmy O. Yang acting circles around Nina Dubrev. Much like Netflix’s other Christmas offerings, this is a mediocre film made somewhat enjoyable by the prospect of yuletide drinking games. This feels like it was written eight years ago, but even the most unremarkable rom coms have their sweetest moments, such as when Yang and Dubrev belt out a duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
Home Sweet Home Alone (DISNEY PLUS)
One of the worst movies of 2021, a pitiful excuse for a reimagining, and a picture that fundamentally misunderstands what made the original such a classic. Somehow, director Dan Mazer and co. have deduced that making the two bumbling thieves more sympathetic would make the narrative story more “complex.” All it does is utterly defeat the purpose of watching them suffer under a child’s booby traps. We’re not laughing if we like them more than the bratty, entitled kid, a title which poor young Archie Yates earns over the course of ninety minutes. In fact, the entire plot is set in motion because he steals an invaluable doll from the open house event of a down-on-their-luck married couple (Ellie Kemper, Ron Delaney). The only silver lining here is a cameo by Devin Ratray as beat cop Buzz, the one-time bully older brother of Kevin McCallister. There’s an ingenious reference to Kevin pranking Buzz via his uber-successful home security company, and we desperately needed more of that movie.
8-Bit Christmas (HBO MAX)
As a video game agnostic, somebody who hasn’t touched a controller since they were sixteen, I had trouble relating to a tale about a gaggle of 80’s kids on Christmas desperately trying to get their hands on a Nintendo system. At thirty-four, I find myself less and less relating to children in movies and more and more amused by the parents, should they be given true, likable personalities. The child’s tale here is nothing more than a typical plot about learning the “true meaning of Christmas,” as told by Neil Patrick Harris as the protagonist Jake Doyle (Winslow Fegley) all grown up telling a yuletide jingle to his impatient daughter. In fact, so much time is spent on the many strained efforts to afford and/or nab a Nintendo for themselves, including a Boy Scouts-esque wreath-selling ploy, that the entire picture feels completely perfunctory by the time Christmas message time rolls around in the last ten minutes. Thank Santa then for Steve Zahn, however, as he is absolutely hilarious as Jake’s amusingly grouchy father, an old-school hammer-and-nail type who’s always working on the house with lumber and large tools. The 80’s callbacks are quite funny too, from the early days of ADHD and video game fear-mongering, to acknowledging the joyful reality of kids allowed to run around town at the time, versus being monitored at all times.