The Holiday Calendar benefits from its early arrival in Netflix’s 2018 Christmas movie schedule. For now it’s the only game in town for viewers who’ve overdosed on The Christmas Prince and other charming 2017 Christmas films.
As a rule, Christmas movies — especially those with a romantic slant — are shamelessly predictable. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There’s a certain skill in keeping viewers invested even when they see everything coming.
The Holiday Calendar manages to snatch all the fun out of calling every big moment by being so by the book it ignores important elements…like chemistry between the two leads, a plot that manages to be cute instead of silly and sensible twists.
Maybe the film’s biggest offense is that sense that everyone was on a clock so essential character development moments are rushed along to get to the next scene. Watching this film is like trying to listen to someone sing the 12 Days of Christmas in 30 seconds. You can’t appreciate anything and are just along for the ride.
Abby Sutton (Kat Graham) is a photographer with dreams of putting her talents to better use than taking children photos with Santa. The film loses a ton of credibility early on when the ‘struggling artist’ Abby goes to her luxury apartment. It’s hard to empathetic when Abby starts complaining about her tough life considering all the square footage at her disposal.
At the start of the holidays, her best friend, Josh (Quincy Brown), returns from travel blogging and eager to catch up.
For anyone reared on 80s and early 90s R&B, Brown looks like a clone of his father Al B. Sure. Brown isn’t going to be winning any Oscars anytime soon, but this is the kind of role that will help develop his acting skills.
Screenwriters Carrie Freedle and Amyn Kaderali abandon any trace of subtlety with Josh’s intentions. He’s the old friend who’s yearning to be more. Naturally, Abby is the only one that’s oblivious and doesn’t see how over the top Josh is with his sweeping gestures including assisting her at the Santa photo shoots.
Abby’s family is Team Josh all the way including her sister Sarah (Genelle Williams) and Gramps (Ron Cephas Jones, Luke Cage). Gramps gives Abby a family keepsake, an Advent calendar, which keeps teasing gifts and big moments leading up to Christmas. That isn’t a bad Christmas movie gimmick, but it’s not used effectively.
Abby isn’t a huge Christmas fan, which kills some of the fun of the film as the theme comes off more like a gimmick than an integral part of the story. And it’s hard to spend much time setting up and paying off these daily incidents without it coming off rushed.
Of course it’s probably best not to dwell too long on the chances of Abby finding Christmas theme items like a tree, a wreath and ice skates throughout December. They all seem too convenient and it’s amusing that the character that points out these coincidences is made to be the Scrooge.
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Abby can’t open the doors herself as they’re timed to open at midnight although Abby is convinced it’s magic. Even stranger, the doors tend to pop open when it’s clearly still daytime.
Graham gives an earnest performance, but never truly comes across comfortable with the material. Her best scenes are with Jones and Williams. Josh’s pal. Fernando (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll), seems like he should be part of another movie that needs a silly comic relief character.
Freedle and Kaderali want viewers to immediately buy in to this relationship by painting Josh as a perfect guy. Just to make things interesting, Abby meets Ty (Ethan Peck), a handsome doctor who seems like a dream catch.
Introducing Ty proves more problematic than it’s worth as a quickie courtship has to get established followed by an even quicker split to clear the way for Josh.
Freedle and Kaderali aren’t sure if they want Ty to be a romantic rival or a bad guy leaving his character in a weird limbo spot with no resolution. It doesn’t help that Graham has a far more natural chemistry with Peck than she does in any scene with Brown.
With the inevitable onslaught of better options arriving in the next few weeks, The Holiday Calendar is going to get passed over like leftover fruitcake.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix