Preparing for Christmas, the wholesome way, with a Netflix Christmas movie binge.
Christmas movies are magical, aren’t they? Frighteningly magical.
After writing this old 2017 Netflix list of mine, I decided to never again binge. After all, how many times could you watch the same story of finding love in December, or re-discovering the spirit of the festival, before suffering indigestion?
Well, didn’t happen this year. I streamed one earlier this month and would you believe it? I couldn’t stop watching thereafter.
Night after night this advent month, I’ve been streaming Christmas movies on Netflix. On some nights, I watched two back-to-back. I even set aside Hawkeye so that I could glut on more.
Is this magic of Christmas? Something invisible, intangible, that makes you inexplicably yearn for stuff you spend the rest of the year rolling your eyes at?
I think … IT IS. And so here’s the warning. If you’re watching any of the titles below, be warned! Like Christmas cookies, they make you want more. Before you know it, you’ve finished ten boxes.
And with that, well over twenty Christmas rom-coms too.
All movie posters belong to producers, studios, etc.
Scribbling Geek’s 2021 Netflix Christmas Movie Binge
Couple of things to highlight before I start.
First, I watched all of these movies on Netflix Singapore. I assume that all these kid-safe movies would be available worldwide too.
Second, these aren’t the only ones I watched. Just the ones I finished watching. (Goodness!)
Third, these aren’t my usual snappy reviews. Neither am I recommending or dissing any of these shows. In short, this list purely contains my thoughts after watching. I mean, binging.
Consider it a consolidation of what I would otherwise, err, post on Letterboxd.com as comments.
1. Single All The Way
Synopsis: For years, Peter has not been able to find a great boyfriend, much to the dismay of his loving family. Things, however, might change when Peter is forced to return home for Christmas with his roommate cum best friend, Nick.
Comments: This was what started my Netflix Christmas movie binge this year! I read an online write-up about it being the first ever gay Christmas rom-com. Out of curiosity, I streamed a few minutes for a peep. What followed was as I wrote above.
The gist of it, it’s in-and-out, a template finding-love-in-snowy-New-Hampshire holiday movie. Except that instead of a dude and gal, and dude, you have three dudes.
Everything is also extremely sanitised. To the extent, even the impeccable Jennifer Coolidge feels, what’s a fair word, banal?
Not something to watch for story or emotions, I’d say. And nope, I don’t quite feel it’s LGBT progressive. It’s just dumping gay guys into straight roles.
2. The Christmas Chronicles
Synopsis: Kate loves Christmas and believes in Santa. For her brother Teddy, however, the holiday is but a painful reminder of their late father. Would an unexpected encounter with the jolly one himself change gloomy Teddy’s mind?
Comments: The main attraction of this is, of course, Kurt Russell’s cool granddad Santa. But that aside, this holiday flick contains quite a few truly euphoric moments. Segments that will fill you with soaring festive joy, as long as you ignore the illogic.
Performances by the two young leads are impressive as well. Not exactly award-winning performances, but you’d be a Grinch if you have too many complaints.
And oh, the elves are adorable in this one. Rather too inspired by the Minions, if you know what I mean, but still great fun overall. The big revelation at the end will furthermore put a big smile on your face.
3. The Christmas Chronicles 2
Synopsis: Disgusted by her mother’s newfound romance, Kate runs away and falls victim to Belsnickel, an elf with a huge axe to grind with Santa. Worse, even Santa himself couldn’t guard against the devious machinations of Belsnickel. The entire Christmas village at the North Pole is at risk of being shut down forever.
Comments: It’s hard for me to put a finger on what went wrong with this sequel. Wait, I shouldn’t use the word “wrong.” More accurately, it should be “didn’t work.”
Let’s see. Most of the original cast returns, and all threw in enthusiastic performances. There’s also an expansion of mythos, lots of magical scenery, and overall, an otherworldly flavour.
But somehow, this Christmas comedy just lacks the infectious, exuberant energy of the first movie. On this, I’d say it could be due to most quests never exhibiting any real challenge or threat.
The melodious ending is also a shade too maudlin for my tastes, even if it’s perfect for kids. Not that I’m against such traditional conclusions but with this version of Santa, I expected something funkier. Something with more invention too.
4. The Claus Family
Synopsis: After her husband’s passing, Suzanne is forced to relocate to Belgium with her children for the sake of employment. The move expectedly upsets Jules, Suzanne’s young son. Everything changes, however, when Jules experiments with the magical snow globe in his grandfather’s shop.
Comments: I had high expectations for this Dutch-Belgian Netflix Christmas movie, and was quite disappointed.
Other than a curious lack of European festive scenes, the story is decisively undecided on whether it’s family drama or magical fantasy. One moment it’s about inter-generational struggles with death in the family. The next, a boy is teleporting around the world dumping presents.
Worse, a gloomy ambience smothers the show from start to end. Even Santa’s workshop feels dreary.
Too little cheer in this one, in other words. I only recommend you to watch if you learning Dutch.
5. The Knight Before Christmas
Synopsis: The valiant Sir Cole Christopher Fredrick Lyons, of Norwich, is magically transported to 2019 by a mysterious crone. What is it all for? Is Sir Cole’s strange visit his final test for true knighthood?
Comments: Like Single All the Way, this is a template, finding-love-before-Christmas, romantic comedy. With the male lead now that of a tall, chivalrous, and impossibly suave knight from medieval England.
It’s a fun watch. As well as beautiful. Everything in this movie, from the leads to the town, to the horse, to even the shiny armour, is so beautiful.
Plus, there’s a certain King’s Quest flavour. It’s unlikely that the producers intended this but the way the story plays out, I was repeatedly reminded of the silliness of Sierra’s top game series.
To repeat, a fun watch. If there’s a sequel, I’d most surely watch it.
6. A California Christmas
Synopsis: What does the wealthy scion of a real estate tycoon need for Christmas? More women? More wine? Or no more than a sweaty day of shirtless work under the hot Californian sun?
Comments: I confess. The only reason I watched this Netflix Christmas movie was because I finally opened a bottle of cheap Californian wine that I’ve kept for years.
Explanation: California = Californian wine. Equals, oh! There’s a Californian show! Must watch while drinking Californian wine!
But it was surprisingly likeable. The story is completely absurd but the use of arid California as the backdrop, instead of some snowy New England town, is a refreshing change. David Del Rio’s hyper Mandy was also the life of the whole show with his absurd antics.
That the story didn’t end on a perfect note additionally made this love tale a small cut about the usual. Some viewers might have issues with this; it’s still a Christmas rom-com, after all. To me, though, the imperfection of life is what keeps Christmas relevant.
As some would remind you, Christmas is not just about love and presents, it’s also about hope and memories. And a reason to keep celebrating the year-end each year.
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7. Love Hard
Synopsis: The first rule to Internet romance: always assume you’re being lied to! Column writer Natalie learns this the hard way when on a whim, she flies across the country to visit a man she connected with via a dating app.
Comments: Truth be told, I wasn’t that keen on watching Love Hard. Not because I was tired of finding love Christmas stories at that point, but because it featured a Chinese guy as the male lead.
Despite progress in recent years, most Asian-American actors are still given roles that rely on stereotypes for humour or effect. Things are nowadays seldom as offensive as the 70s or 80s, of course. But if you were to compare these roles with how Asians in Asia are actually living today, well …
Love Hard, thankfully, keeps such stereotypes to a minimum. The way the story plays out, race quickly becomes irrelevant too. To my surprise.
If any, my only complaint with this “cross-cultural” Netflix Christmas movie is that Jason O. Yang’s Josh was wasted. The character was scripted with a certain complexity but most ambivalence was forsaken in the second half for the sake of a quick, wholesome wrap-up.
This is one Christmas rom-com that could have, in my opinion, been much more memorable, had it ended on darker notes.
8. Last Christmas
Synopsis: “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart. But the very next day, you gave it away …” Could these famous lyrics contain special meaning for miserable Katarina “Kate,” a Yugoslavian migrant trapped in a dead-end job as a Christmas shop assistant?
Comments: The thumbnail for this popped up right after I finished A California Christmas. Half a minute later, I was watching the prologue. Reason for the enthusiasm being, of course, because I played Wham’s Last Christmas on the Electone this year.
How to put it? Star-studded as this is, the whole show is an uneven ride. The cast delivers praiseworthy performances. Festive London, while in the midst of Brexit fever, is also the perfect backdrop for such a story.
But developments take forever to get anywhere, if they even do so. For most parts, one gets the feeling of a tipsy night that has gone on too long. In overcrowded London.
The big twist at the end, while innovative, leaves a weird taste in the mouth too. I’m not saying it’s bad or too abrupt. Just that, events depicted earlier did not set up the proper stage for such a transcendental climax.
Frankly, I thought it would have been way better had the show ended on more grounded notes.
9. A Boy Called Christmas
Synopsis: Believe it, or not, Christmas was once unknown to the world. There was also no gifting of toys to children for joy and happiness. And it would have stayed that way had an impoverished boy not ventured into the frigid north to find his beloved papa.
Comments: I haven’t checked but my guess is, A Boy Called Christmas is the most expensive production on this list.
Because it looks that way throughout. Expansive snowscapes, a medieval elf village, there’s even flashy elf lightning magic.
Which is great because these scenes draw your attention away from the fact that the story barely strings together. It’s not incoherent; you are constantly reminded that it’s about a boy looking for his father. But probe a little deeper and much unravels. For example, just what is Christmas? How did Nikolas’ dad, and his burly gang members, “see” Elfhelm?
Where did Nik get his magic? It’s pretty powerful magic, mind you.
My take: this is something to watch for the ambience. To experience like a dreamy winter’s tale without too much thinking.
To also enjoy for the superb narration of Dame Maggie Smith. Her actual lines are minimal but what she does say are perfect in delivery and sense. To share, I’d be taking some of her quotes with me into the New Year.
Synopsis: All of us are now familiar with the multiverse theory, aren’t we? Well, in another world, Santa is a reclusive woodcutter, living on a frigid island with feuding families that would put those from Romeo and Juliet to shame. His companion in “crime” is also not an elf but a sardonic postman. In fact, it was this postman who started the whole tradition of good children receiving toys for Christmas. And bad ones, receiving coal.
Comments: Oh gosh, why did I skip this animated masterpiece when it was released two years ago?
It’s downright naughty in every sense. Beginning with how everything from the artwork to the story, to the characters, invoke memories of that legendary Christmas great, Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas.
While watching, and munching cookies, I also constantly thought: Hmm! Had this been a game, I’d have played it all year long … Because the unique art style is simply wall poster perfect with every other scene.
Yup. This creative, visually distinctive wonder is easily the best show I’ve watched during this year’s Netflix Christmas movie binge. Its pensive conclusion also affects more than any wholesome climax or epilogue.
I will definitely be re-watching this come next Christmas. Actually, Klaus might even become one of those rituals. Something to snuggle up in bed with, come every December 25.
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
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