Thursday, November 16, 2023

Best. Christmas. Ever!: Movie Review

A messy comedy filled with cynicism, jealousy, loss and depression.
Best. Christmas. Ever! is not intentionally using that title ironically even though the first half is a cynical mess and the second half uses grief and depression to make everything worse. The premise fulfills the first half of the movie, two jealous friends who want to bring down the other person no matter the cost. It’s a common cynicism in comedies which I hate; this is not good-natured ribbing, this is jealousy and animosity wrapped up in forced laughter.   2023

Directed by: Mary Lambert

Screenplay by: Todd Calgi Gallicano, and Charles Shyer

Starring: Heather Graham, Brandy Norwood, Jason Biggs

Let’s start with how we even get here. Charlotte (Heather Graham) and Rob (Jason Biggs) and their two kids are off to her sister’s place for Christmas. She tells their son to put the address into their GPS, so he decides to put in the address of Charlotte’s former friend and Rob’s former girlfriend Jackie (Brandy Norwood) instead. Because she just sent out a Christmas letter complete with a photograph of their massive house decorated to the nines and what kid wouldn’t want to spend Christmas there? So we’re to believe that Charlotte and Rob drove absentmindedly for hours aimlessly following the GPS not even paying attention to what direction or town they are driving towards. These are the types of people who are stupid enough to follow a GPS off a cliff and deserve that fate.

Brandy’s smile and overall demeanor is infectious but even she’s not enough to save this. Mostly because the film can’t never decide if it’s based in reality or not. Charlotte and Rob are supposed to be a normal family, Jackie’s life is supposed to be too good to be true (because some of it is a fa├žade), but her daughter is so unrealistic and carries the cynicism of the adults’ squabbles into the kids’ storyline. Beatrix is an 8-or-9-year-old who goes to Harvard who somehow knows fluctuations in housing markets for every neighbouring community and how that affects mortgage interest rates for banks. Her main goal in the movie is to prove that Santa isn’t real. The point of her character is to make the actual 8 and 9 year olds who are watching this movie to feel dumb and stupid and worthless when compared to this highly unrealistic super kid when thus far everything else is planted in reality.

The second half of the movie features an unexpected u-turn. The fake pleasantries are gone, the jealousy is gone, it’s finally time for some Christmas cheer, except the film decides to go the route of loss and grief and depression instead. But in a positive way, since we’re going use a lot of CGI and end the film on a completely different note from everything that came before it. It’s a mess of a movie trying to create comedy out of cynicism and then spin it into something unique and hopeful for the season.

Perhaps the uniqueness of the story it eventually tells should be more celebrated, but it seems to be on the wrong side of each shifting sentiment.

This is a big weekend for Christmas movies on the streamers with Amazon Freevee’s EXmas and Disney’s Dashing Through the Snow due out Friday.

EXmas is aiming at a more mature audience and hits with the right comedic tone.

Dashing Through the Snow is an off-kilter movie about believing in Santa Claus for the whole family.

Want a different Christmas movie or just more holiday-themed movies? Holiday Movies