Best Netflix Christmas movies in 2020: Holidate, Operation Christmas Drop, etc
Ho ho ho
I'd hate to sound like a Grinch (or Melania Trump, who purportedly hates Christmas) but there's a high chance that the holiday blues will hit pretty hard this year. Travel is still limited; social gatherings are encumbered by COVID-19 regulations; while large-scale festivities have been scrapped entirely. Tempting as it might be to wallow in self-pity, I'm opting to realign my attention on the things I can enjoy. At the top of my list: every single sweeping, tawdry, and clichéd holiday production Netflix has in its arsenal.
2019 saw a slew of absurdist flicks that were somehow bizarre and heartening in equal measure — a high bar to meet, indeed. And so, remains the question: will 2020 be able to live up to last year's saccharine sweet offerings? I endured countless hours of jolly tunes, hackneyed romances, and shockingly bad seasonal puns to rank 'em all. Happy holidays and happy watching, folks.
The Princess Switch: Switched Again
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, and Nick Sagar.
The gist: The sequel to fan-favourite flick, The Princess Switch, is set two years after the events of the first movie. Stacy and Margaret come back together to witness the latter's coronation; an occasion made tricky after they decide to swap places — yet again — so Margaret can get make amends with ex-boyfriend, Kevin. Of course, more complications arrive in the form of a third lookalike thirsting for the Montenaro fortune. It doesn't get any juicier than this, folks.
Stream, or skip: A solid follow-up to the OG production, featuring just enough drama to titillate without veering into campy territory. Hudgens plays the washed-up cousin Fiona and prim Margaret with aplomb, swerving from wide-eyed naivety to scheming shrew in a matter of minutes.
Starring: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, and Kristen Chenoweth.
The gist: Two cynical, eternally-single folk come together to be each other's plus-ones during festive occasions so as to skip out on their family's judgment and meddling. Our leads are presented as flawed yet loveable; commitment issues are conveniently dismissed in its one hour 42-minute duration; and charming accents (Australian, to be specific) are involved. Its appeal lies largely in the performances by supporting entertainers, Kristen Chenoweth and Manish Dayal, both of which make the most of the trite script to deliver upon charismatic performances.
Stream, or skip: We'd watch it purely for the unconventional amount of swearing involved. There's just something thrilling about witnessing a large number of F-bombs being dropped in a Hallmark-esque Christmas movie — something which lead, Sloane (Roberts), does to a devastating degree. Cheap thrills? You know it.
Operation Christmas Drop
Starring: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, and Virginia Madsen.
The gist: No one is getting any Oscars for this fluffy flick based on an actual military tradition — but it does get points for trying to break out of the norm that is wintry-fueled romances. Instead, Operation Christmas Drop takes place on the sunny shores of Guam. It follows uptight, high-powered career woman, Erica (Graham) who is sent by her congresswoman boss to evaluate the efficiency of a U.S. military base known for Operation Christmas Drop: an initiative that airlifts large crates of gifts and essentials to deprived communities in Micronesia. Air Force captain, Andrew (Ludwig) is against the decision to abort their humanitarian efforts. Sparks fly, set to the backdrop of balmy beaches and clear skies.
Stream, or skip: What you see with this movie is pretty much what you get, but it remains inoffensive and sincere in its efforts of spreading holiday cheer. We'll take it.
Midnight at the Magnolia
Starring: Natalie Hall, Evan Williams, and Alison Brooks.
The gist: I actually had to look this film up to make sure it was produced in 2020. Maybe it's the stilted delivery of every line, or perhaps the dated BFF handshake (*shudder*), but everything about Midnight at the Magnolia screams early '2000s. The plot, in itself, is a throwback to the Y2K era — best friends and co-workers Maggie (Hall) and Jack (Williams) fake a relationship in hopes of getting their radio show syndicated. The entire story is pretty much spelt out in the scene when her current boyfriend asks Maggie if she's ever been attracted to Jack. "What? No, never," she stutters, barely mustering an unconvincing show of disgust. Uh, right.
Stream, or skip: Meh. Its short duration time is probably the best part about it.
Christmas Made to Order
Starring: Jonathan Bennet, Alexa PenaVega, and Jacob Young.
The gist: Aaron Samuels?! Yup, our favourite dude-bro from Mean Girls makes an re-appearance in this Hallmark-turned-recent-Netflix transfer. He plays Steven (Bennet), an architect who hires a decorator, Gretchen (PenaVega), to deck out his abode after his family decides to head to his place for the holidays. She's controlling and anal-retentive; he's a workaholic with a chip on his shoulder. There's an awkward clash of wills, shenanigans, and forced banter aplenty. Still, no amount of meet-cutes and lingering stares is enough to fabricate chemistry. Eep.
Stream, or skip: I'm sad to report that even copious twinkle lights and Christmas wreaths can't distract from the glaring plot holes of this film. How is being a full-time holiday decorator an actual, sustainable job? Why is it that Steven still does presentations using Microsoft Powerpoint, even in the year 2018?! Did the producers blow the entire budget on Christmas baubles and cookies instead of a decent scriptwriter? So many questions, and yet no answers are in sight. I'll be holding a grudge about this until next year's holiday releases.
Starring: Emily Osment, Ryan Rottman, and Kelly Hu.
The gist: Why is it every that female lead in a Christmas movie is ambitious, go-getting, and completely content to play second-fiddle to their commandeering bosses? That's the case for Heidi Nelson (Osment), at least; an aspiring painter who takes on an assistant curator role to "get her foot through the door." She returns to her hometown to watch after her niece and nephew, which gets the creative juices flowing again and reignites her passion for art. We're introduced to a lacklustre love interest at some point, but he's so unmemorable I have no recollection of this.
Stream, or skip: I would have rather spent an hour and 18 minutes watching paint dry. I mean it. It's movies like these that have me thinking that Netflix could stand to be more discerning about their imports.