We are a sucker for a good family Christmas movie, you know the ones that you sit around year after year and watch with the fam. Apart from the classics, Home Alone, Elf, Die Hard (yes) and The Santa Claus (maybe not number 3), we are blessed with a steady stream of new releases each year. We have decided to review these like the troopers we are (because lets be honest a lot of them are trash..in the best possible way) and place them in your one stop shop for Christmas family fun. But because parents deserve some kid-free Christmas fun too, we are also whacking in the new breed of Christmas movie….the Netflix romantic-comedy Christmas trash. What a time to be alive! So sit back, grab a mug of egg nog and a packet of mince pies and enjoy.

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square

Runtime: 98 minutes
How to watch: Netflix
Rating: PG
Short version – Dolly is an icon. The Steve Irwin of country music. She is also immortal.
Suitable For: Everyone. Except people who hate Dolly Parton, which is of course, nobody.

To be fair, this is a tough movie to review because on one hand Dolly Parton is such an ageless icon (seriously…she is immortal. Have a look at her pic and then guess her age. She looks 23) that you can’t criticise anything she touches, but on the other hand this movie is hilarious and not always in a good way. Dolly is brilliant as always, this time playing a homeless angel who is either dressed in rags or floating around in a sparkly white dress on a cloud. There is no inbetween with our Dolly. She is either a homeless wreck or a cloud angel. Sort of sums up this year nicely. I have either been dressed up and off to work, or a homeless hobo hitting up the zoom calls working from home.

Be warned, this is a Christmas musical (plenty of original Dolly songs for the die-hard fans), where a greedy developer returning to her home town wants to evict everyone on Christmas Eve so she can build a mall. Now here is where the plot gets murky. If she evicts the whole town, who will actually be around to go to the mall? These are the things that keep me awake at night. Most of the cast are hilariously camp and over the top, but the pastor and his wife just hit it out of the park every scene with Meryl Streep level acting (joking. They are atrocious but also hilarious) and an ability to create accents never before heard on screen. The highlight for me was Dolly floating on a cloud, in a never-to-be-repeated take on the Ebenezer Scrooge tale (wonder if Dickens imagined this version when he wrote it?).

It obviously didn’t have a budget much bigger than a public school Rock Eisteddfod performance, but a lot of people will love it for the good vibing story, others will love the over top acting and others will just fast forward to the Dolly songs. What was most remarkable was how friendly the towns folk were with someone who was essentially making them all homeless with 24 hours notice. Can’t say my first response would be to break out in song with a bunch of my mate but, this is Dolly’s world and we just live in it.

How good is it? Well it will make you feel good. Probably. Unless musicals make your skin crawl with anger, then maybe not so much. But it has such an upbeat and happy feel, that even if you hate it more than pineapple on a pizza within the first 5 minutes, by the end of the first hour you will be genuinely concerned about where these poor people will live after the eviction. Give it a try. Try it with wine if necessary. In fact, that is a direction.

3.5 out of 5 floating Dolly’s on a cloud – She is 74. 74 years old! What the actual fire truck!

The Christmas Chronicles 2

Runtime: 115 minutes
How to watch: Netflix
Rating: PG
Short version – Kurt Russel is officially Santa forever. Sorry Tim Allen but you’re outta here.
Suitable For: At a nudge under 2 hours, its long. Little ones will get restless but nothing scary to worry about. The CGI elves are interesting enough to keep them entertained. Older crew who aren’t teenage grinches will be all over it like Santa on a cookie platter.

Didn’t see The Christmas Chronicles 1 a couple of years ago? You missed out. It was a beauty. Probably the best Christmas movie since The Santa Clause series back in the late 90s. Kurt Russel was an awesome Santa, because he kind of had a hard streak which made him scary AF but also kind of magic and awesome. Pretty tough mix to nail to be honest….a bit too much angry and suddenly he is Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa!

The first movie was about a couple of kids, one true Santa believer and one who stole cars, who steal a ride on Santa’s sleigh, ruin Christmas and then have to fix it again. Standard Christmas movie fare really, but it worked. Harry Potter fans (me) will be excited to know that Chris Columbus directs this one, and he pretty much just cut and pasted the feel from Harry Potter 1 and 2 into a Christmas movie with a bunch of elves. Not complaining mind you. Love me some Harry. They have added in Goldie Hawn as Mrs Claus, because well she is awesome and Tyrese has shifted gears from the Fast and the Furious (see what I did there) to be the new step dad.

What I loved about this, without spoiling the plot (come on, what do you think happens? Santa, kids, something bad, christmas threatened, fixed, happy days), they turned this into a sort of Santa superhero origin story which was kind of cool. Who would have thought Santa was just some dude doing his thing in ancient Turkey until he was given some sort of magic star or something. Personally, his choice to use that power to create a magical toy factory at the north pole so he could live with a million tiny elves and deliver presents once a year was an odd one. I would have just gone down the Aladdin path and made myself Sultan and married Princess Jasmine. But whatever Santa, you do you.

So is it good? Yeah it rocks. Best family Christmas franchise in ages. Get the whole fam around this, rewatch the first one and roll into this one. Eat all the mince pies, just really go all out and see how many you can smash in The Christmas Chronicle movie double. The record is 8.

4.5 out of 5 sort of angry Santas – If you are wondering, which you would be, you know the angry elf as the funny kid from Hunt for the Wilderpeople. You’re welcome.

The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again

Runtime: 98 minutes
How to watch: Netflix
Rating: PG
Short version – The Nutty Professor…..if Eddie Murphy played a heap of Christmas princesses in the same movie.
Suitable For: 10s and up will love it more than the younger ones, who will get bored and wonder why all the actors are the same person.

Covid has hit every industry hard. With budget cuts now in full effect, poor Vanessa Hudgens has had to cover about a third of the cast herself, even playing a large letterbox seen in the background during the first half hour. This is the movie equivalent of the group project in high school where one kid does all the work (Hudgens) and everyone else in the group (rest of the cast) ride off her work and get all the glory. What am I on about? Glad you asked. In this sequel to Princess Switch, Hudgens plays a baker who looks identical (because you know…its the same person) to a Queen of Bavarian or some other cheesecake sounding made up country. So they swap for reasons….blah blah true love.

In this instalment, the lookalike baker and the Queen find yet more people who look like them and hilarity follows. Well by hilarity I refer mainly to Hudgen’s attempts at a posh Euro accent. It comes across a bit like a fancy Borat, but she is playing 94 characters so good on her for giving her all. In the scheme of cinematic history, this won’t be saved to the National Archives alongside Citizen Kane and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, but in a lockdown themed bullcrap Christmas, it is a good family night in. It won’t be the best Christmas movie you watch this season but it won’t be the worst either (Christmas Made to Order….thats your prize)

For my Netflix Christmas Nerds (big shout out), pay attention to the crowd in the end scenes because the Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe is NOW A THING!…you will recognise some familiar faces from other Netflix Christmas movie trash and your mind will be blown by the cross over opportunities this presents!

3 out of 5 Vanessa Hudgens – She got a point for every character she played.

Alien Xmas

Runtime: 42 minutes
How to watch: Netflix
Rating: G
Short version – Space Grinch who stole Xmas
Suitable For: Nailed it for the perfect xmas flick for the under 7 crowd. Older ones will get bored without their phone.

Its funny how movie plots could either be a horror movie or kids xmas classic, just with a tweak of the tone and some bright colours. Alien forces invade the Earth intending to steal the planet’s gravity and steal all of the presents from the North Pole. Sounds almost like a Will Smith movie from the mid 90s but this is in fact a claymation (you know, Shaun the Sheep, Wallace and Grommet etc) kids xmas movie! There you go.

Remember that old Rudolph claymation from 1980 they played every xmas? This is way better than that. Alien Xmas, brought to you from the maker of The Mandalorian (so you know it will be good), revolves around a race of thieving aliens (Kleptos….because Kleptomaniac….I see what they did there) who have pretty much stolen everything worth stealing and decide that Earth is their next target. Cue little alien meets loving elf, discovers love and friendship and all the feels. It is short, sharp, very well made little kids fare that they will actually bloody love. Mr 6 couldn’t get enough of it and watched it twice in 2 days.

Unlike a lot of little kiddie flicks, the ‘message’ (because there always is one) isn’t shoved down your throat in an annoying way so you will be able to explain to your kids the perils of consumerism and the importance of friendship and love at the end if you so desire. Or you can give them a biscuit. Each to their own. I chose the biscuit.

4 out of 5 alien grinches – Fun Fact….the claymation is done by the same crew who did the claymation for the classic Elf!

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Runtime: 122 minutes
How to watch: Netflix
Rating: PG
Short version – The Greatest Showman – Christmas Edition.Runtime: 122 minutes
Suitable For: All ages. Little ones will enjoy the colour and magic.

Dear Netflix. Thank you for releasing this epic Christmas movie for the whole family right when we needed it most. Turns out we didn’t really need a $200, 000 shiny metal giant pigeon to make us smile, but we instead needed the most magical Christmas movie since Die Hard (yes. yes it is a Christmas movie yippee ki yay).

Jingle Jangle is the story of Jeronicus Jangle, a toy maker/inventor and probably a wizard if we are honest, who in the 1800s owned a lot of very bright clothes and defies the laws of physics…a lot. But within the first 5 minutes you will just be in love with this soon-to-be family classic. This is the classic Christmas story, wizard toy maker creates an evil ‘Chucky’ style doll that happens to have fantastic ability to dance whilst being evil, which is in turn stolen by his scheming apprentice. Yada yada yada, journey to re-discovering magic, yada yada yada The End. Roll credits.

This has an all star cast and is a big budget extravaganza which is a feast for your eyes. Also have a feast for your stomach at the same time because Covid YOLO. My snack of choice is Pringles, which are specially designed to make it impossible for you to eat too many, because your big old fat hand won’t fit in the tiny little tube anymore. Perfect snack for the diet conscious. (Pringles hack: Tip them out onto your stomach). Starring the always awesome Forest Gump Whitaker, plus “you done messed up A-A-Ron” (google it. Best comedy skit ever) and some fab supporting peeps including the Earl of Grantham himself! This really is one of the best family Christmas movies in years and the whole clan will get around it.

4.5 out of 5 magical flying toys – They also sing. A lot. Fast forward those bits. You won’t miss much.

Operation Christmas Drop

Runtime: 195 minutes
How to watch: Netflix
Rating: pg
Short version – Based on a true story too! Not the love part. Love always fails. But the Air Force dropping of presents thing. Which was nice.

Netflix Christmas season is in full swing with the release of this pearler. Starring, Cato the evil district kid from The Hunger Games as a ‘heart of gold military pilot guy’, along with ‘I think she is probably famous but I never watched the Vampire Diaries’, these two star in what turns out actually to be not too bad a Christmas flick.

Some of these B grade trash Netflix movies seem to have the budget of an SAFM Rock Eisteddfod show, but they have really stretched the dollar here with exotic location shoots on the tropical islands of Guam. Join Erica, a career driven politics type who is hell bent on closing down Andrew’s Air Force base because….reasons. Her angry boss said so? Either way the best way to save money is to send someone on a tropical holiday for a week it seems, and low and behold who should chaperone Erica around the base but old mate Andrew. Yada yada yada, true love blossoms which was as anticipated as Trump going loony after losing the election. The Christmas Drop thing revolves around the dropping of supplies at Christmas to the surrounding islands. Go good guy Andrew…. you show Erica the true meaning of Christmas!

These certainly aren’t M. Night Shyamalan twist style movies. You can predict the plot from the opening credits. That isn’t where the fun is with these movies, it is the low budget and corny thrill ride where we arrive at the expected destination of true love. Thankfully this is no different but it really isn’t as corny and shite as some others I have watched this season on Netflix and chosen not to write about (Christmas Made to Order….what the actual shizenhouse was that? They literally went out and cut down a live tree and put up a fake one! Like we wouldn’t notice! Then there was literally 5 Christmas trees in EVERY room of the house. At all times. Madness)

So if you have watched Holidate, this is more of the ‘romantic’ and less of the ‘comedy’ but you know, 2020 has been anubis horribilis so lets enjoy every light hearted movie that comes out because it really is all we have at the moment!

3 out of 5 Tributes – I will never watch The Hunger Games and be angry at Cato again.

Holidate

Runtime: 103 minutes
How to watch: Netflix
Rating: M
Short version – Don’t watch it with the family. Unless you are the Addams Family

2020 has taken away so much from us but they won’t take away our goddam Netflix B Grade Christmas trash movies. Our guilty pleasure, with all those actors that sort of ring a bell but you can’t quite put a name to the face. They suck so hard but at the same time they are so bloody good. Holiday In the Wild has to be the best Netflix Christmas movie ever….it is the tale as old as time. Divorced New York vet travels to Africa for a solo safari after her husband leaves her, and ends up living in a tent on an elephant reservation …..over Christmas! Anyway moving on….

Holidate stars an unknown Aussie hunk dude who could well be a lost Hemsworth….lets call him Steve Hemsworth, paired up with an Anna Kendrick’ish lead as they play 2 singles who can’t be bothered finding dates over the holidays, so they promise to be each others plus 1 for different events. Sounds fairly shite right? Here is the real Christmas miracle, it is absolutely hilarious. I mean it is crude as all hell, so please don’t sit down and watch this with your 15 year old daughter unless you want to have some REALLY awkward conversations within the first 3 minutes and then pretty much every 7 minutes after that. Really awkward.

These movies are supposed to be terrible, which is half the fun. The fact that this is surprisingly probably the best romantic comedy of the year is harder to believe than the fact the Crows finished last this year. Surely that was a dream right? The trailer is linked below but don’t watch it, just go into this colder than your mother in law and ride it out. You won’t be disappointed. Unless you don’t like crude humour, in which case prepare to be extremely disappointed. Like a Crows fan every year since 1998. The leads are brilliant and we laughed the entire way through, even through the usual romantic boring bits at the end when they kiss and blah blah love blah blah. The supporting cast are also fabulous and honestly, it is almost worth a rewatch.

If you need to sell this to an unwilling partner….describe it as a bit of American Pie and Hangover mixed with Bridesmaids and a dash of Love Actually. I would almost guarantee they will like it.

4 out of 5 Ugly Christmas jumpers – Watch the first scene or 2….you will know what we are talking about.