I’m a Jewish guy that loves Christmas. I send out Christmas cards. I love all the decorations and lights everyone puts up (as long as it’s not before Thanksgiving). I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas songs (Lennon and McCartney gave us two of the worst), and I hate to admit — I always had a soft spot for the Wham! song Last Christmas.
I hate to admit that I even like some bad Christmas movies, just because they put me in the spirit. I’m one of the few critics that gave a good review to The Holiday (Jack Black, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet).
And here, Emma Thompson wrote a screenplay incorporating the Wham! and other George Michael songs, into a movie [side note: nobody will ever do that better than Jordan Peele did in Keanu, with gang members groovin’ to his tunes].
We all adore Thompson as an actress, and she won an Oscar for one of my all time favorite movies — Sense and Sensibility. So, what could go wrong here? Well, where do I start?
Casting two actors from Crazy Rich Asians was a good start. Michelle Yeoh was so good in Crazy, yet here she’s just crazy. It was horrible casting (and it’s a part some might be offended by).
Her son in that movie, played by Henry Golding, is perfect as a romantic lead. Every film he’s in, my wife grabs my arm and exclaims, “He’s so good looking.”
It wasn’t until we were in Las Vegas for CinemaCon, and having a cigar near him and director Paul Fieg…and as I was wondering why he was wearing such an ugly red shirt…that I too, declared him the most handsome man I have ever seen in person. If I would’ve known this was the film they were promoting, I would’ve put my cigar out in one of their faces.
The main problem is that it is so silly, that none of these characters come across as the least bit realistic. And for a romantic comedy, the two (Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones and Me Before You), had absolutely no chemistry together. It also never makes sense why she keeps having all these one night stands. We get it with the first guy in the bar. He’s charming and being supportive of her floundering singing career. But when she goes to stay on the couch of a friend, and acts terribly obnoxious…you wonder why she’d bring a man home the first night she’s there. Hard to rally behind a character like that. Thompson probably felt it was a quirky character trait. It’s merely irritating.
Speaking of irritating, when Tom (Henry Golding) shows up, he has goofy advice like how she should always “look up” because she’ll notice things she never has before (even if that means she walks into bags of rubbish). For some reason, he also walks and dances down the sidewalks, as if he’s Gene Kelly or a chimney sweep from Mary Poppins. I looked at my wife during one of his twirls in the street and asked, “What is going on here?”
Kate’s mom is played by Emma Thompson, a war refugee who constantly badgers her with phone calls. That’s mostly because Kate had major surgery and she’s concerned about her.
The movie had a few funny lines. When the boss meets a middle-aged man she’s interested in (in one of the dumbest meet/cute moments in screen history), after showing him a monkey that plays “Last Christmas”…they both stare into each other’s eyes in the weirdest way. Kate mutters, “That was like watching a short Scandinavian film.”
I also chuckled when Kate, who yearns to be a singer but is working as an elf at a store, says something morbid to Tom. He tells her that’s rather dark coming from an elf and she explains, “These are dark times.”
Something about the way Thompson can write lines like that, make me smile. Yet so much of this merely made me frown.
Some reviews are spoiling the big reveals, and I wouldn’t dare do that. I will say, it’s somewhat predictable. And, if you want the ending spoiled, and to read one of the funniest criticisms of a movie I’ve read in years…find the piece Inkoo Kang wrote for Slate. My wife and I have been laughing all morning at that story.
1 star out of 5 for this mess. Bah humbug.