Although nothing can go wrong with watching traditional Christmas films like Elf and Home Alone to get in the holiday spirit, it wouldn’t hurt to give the less popular ones a try once in a while. Over the past week, I chose three unconventional, lesser-known Christmas movies from Netflix to review, and two of them certainly don’t fall short of having the same, jolly substance as what we would traditionally watch on Christmas Eve.
White Christmas (1954)
Cast: Bing Crosby, Vera-Ellen, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, Dean Jagger
Synopsis: Two former army men, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), make it as Broadway singers after the war. They partner with the Haynes sister act (Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen), to produce a Christmas show at the Pine Tree Inn in Vermont. There they run into the retired General Waverly (Dean Jagger), who turns out to be the landlord of the place but is financially struggling with keeping it afloat.
Review: This movie may be more appreciated by an older audience due to the time it was filmed, but I enjoyed the entirety of it nonetheless. Going into a film from the 1950s, I was half expecting the characters to display exaggerated emotions and for the scenes to be composed of unrealistic sets and effects. It turned out to completely contradict any prejudices I had against old movies.
White Christmas has a perfect balance between the romance and musical genres, because the movie focuses equally on the evolution of Bob and Betty’s romantic relationship and the production of the final musical performance that they, Judy, and Phil take part in. Judy and Phil make an entertaining pair when they recklessly fake an engagement in an attempt to play matchmakers for Bob and Betty. While I appreciated this lighthearted storyline and the exemplary performance of the actors, coming from the perspective of someone who has a background in dance, the snippets of tap and ballroom dance were my absolute favorite parts. Not only did they perform these sequences cleanly and in-sync in a way that was satisfying to watch, but they also reflected the chemistry between the characters and the joy they were feeling. Despite there not being any snow until the last five minutes, the movie very much embodies an ideal “White Christmas” with its singing, dancing, and touching ending.
Overall Rating: 9/10
The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
Cast: Kurt Russell, Darby Camp, Judah Lewis, Goldie Hawn, Kimberly Williams
Synopsis: Ten-year-old Kate Pierce (Darby Camp) and her older brother Teddy (Judah Lewis) are two siblings who stopped getting along after the recent death of their father. On Christmas Eve, Kate convinces Teddy to help her set up a plan to catch Santa Claus (Kurt Russell). The night suddenly turns into a rush to save Christmas when the plan goes unexpectedly and Santa loses his sleigh, gift sack, and reindeer; practically everything he needs to make a successful trip of delivering all his presents before Christmas morning.
Review: Overall, The Christmas Chronicles’ family friendly approach, well rounded cast, and modern take on Santa Claus make an excellent option for a family night or friendly gathering for a younger aged audience. Kate Pierce’s adventure in this movie is almost every child’s dream, as she gets to visit Santa’s workshop and meet Santa’s reindeer, elves, and of course, Santa Claus himself. The bonding between Kate and Teddy is also present in the film to highlight the importance of family and reconciliation with loved ones during the holidays.
Throughout the movie, we get to see many of Santa’s magic capabilities, including the ability to conjure any object out of nowhere, to teleport, to know everyone’s names by heart, and his gift sack that was actually a portal to his workshop, where the elves resided. Although a good idea, what seems to be unlimited parameters of Santa’s abilities left a couple of confusing plot holes where Santa could have just teleported or used another one of his abilities to escape a difficult situation, such as when he was stuck in jail or was discouraged from being able to deliver the remainder of the presents. Although these inconsistencies had no impact on the movie’s primary purpose of promoting Christmas spirit and, for children, the belief in Santa Claus, I would’ve preferred a more carefully designed plot that included conflicts more relevant to and aligned with the characters and their abilities that wouldn’t leave me unanswered questions in the end.
Overall rating: 7/10
Let it Snow (2019)
Cast: Isabella Moner, Kiernan Shipka, Mitchell Hope, Odeya Rush, Shameik Moore, Liv Hewson, Jacob Batalon
Synopsis: Let it Snow, the screenplay version of the novel, is a compilation of three love stories between high schoolers from a small, midwestern town in Illinois. As a snowstorm hits on Christmas Eve and causes their Christmas plans to go down the drain, the characters are forced to discover and confess things they never have before.
Review: This film is exactly what you would expect from a typical, teenage drama and rom com Netflix original: teen angst, an obstacle in the protagonists’ relationship, and a predictable ending. The filming style and colors of Let it Snow reminded me of those from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Sierra Burgess is a Loser. Although none of these plots reiterate another, they are all generic and thus do not produce any unique takeaways.
The three main storylines include 1) a romance between famous singer Stuart Bale (Shameik Moore) and senior Julie Reyes (Isabella Moner), whose mother is ill, 2) one where Tobin (Mitchell Hope) is in love with his tomgirl best friend Angie (Kiernan Shipka) but does not know how to tell her, and 3) the breakup and makeup of two best friends, Addy (Odeya Rush) and Dorrie (Liv Hewson), who each have their own side drama. The first thing that was lacking was the essence of Christmas. Other than the snow, these plots could’ve taken place during any time of the year and still get essentially the same outcomes. Secondly, given that there is so much plot to cover in only an hour and a half, the events of each storyline moved way too fast for viewers to be able to understand the significance of them or see any major character development. The speed at which the scenes were switching made certain characters’ actions seem unrealistic at certain points in the movie.
All in all, I would recommend reading the novel over watching the movie. The book would allow for deeper insight into each of the stories and the characters’ identities, rather than what felt like a quick, underwhelming glimpse. Other than being a sustainable pick for a last-resort film to pass time, Let it Snow did not appeal to me in the way I would expect a Christmas movie, or any movie in general, to appeal.
Overall Rating: 3/10