Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA, 2021. Muse Entertainment Enterprises. Screenplay by Chad Hodge. Cinematography by Eric Cayla. Produced by Joel S. Rice. Music by Anton Sanko. Production Design by Guy Lalande. Costume Design by Véronique Marchessault. Film Editing by Adriaan van Zyl.
The Christmas Movie cliché map is spread out on the table and screenwriter Chad Hodge makes sure to hit each landmark on it, with one notable exception: the romance that the entire operation revolves around involves two fellas. Netflix has taken all the formulas of Hallmark’s holiday movies and recreated them almost to perfection, the one glaring exception being that Hallmark movies, best applied as background noise for when you’re wrapping presents or, perhaps, planning to murder your family, are absolute torture to endure at 85 minutes and here, at 102, the pain is increased by many more exponents than a mere seventeen.
Michael Urie is fully committed to the toothy-grinned joy as a social media ad campaign manager who is excited to put his glamorous Los Angeles life of photographing models for a shaving cream company on hold to bring his new boyfriend home for Christmas. When that plan doesn’t quite work out as expected, he begs his roommate (Philemon Chambers) to come home with him instead and pretend that they’ve fallen in love despite having been best friends for almost a decade. They arrive in his perfectly quaint home town, which like all quaint home towns in Christmas movies looks like it’s made entirely of gingerbread, and his cheerful, nosy mom (Kathy Najimy, who is magnificent) announces that she has set him up on a blind date with the only gay man in town, her personal trainer. Urie goes out with this handsome hunk (played by Luke Macfarlane), but the rest of the family gets wind that something is happening between him and Chambers and set about to get these two to realize something that they themselves are not facing.
This would all be adorable if Urie and Chambers had the least bit of chemistry, as actors or characters, and maybe his family is stupid enough to think that they’re a good match, but the rest of us know that nothing on this earth is more boring than starting something new with someone whose secrets you already know. If these movies want us to believe that people spend that much time and money on holiday decorations, fine, we can suspend our disbelief enough for it, but the idea that you can share a bathroom with someone for a decade and then decide that you’re suddenly in love is fiction more speculative than the wildest Star War.
Attempts to liven up the proceedings by bringing in Jennifer Coolidge as the fabulous Aunt Sandy, director of the local Christmas pageant, doesn’t quite amount to the sparkling camp that she was likely meant to bring (which I blame more on a director who seems upset that he might not get a G rating than I do on the actress herself) and, in the final analysis, it’s only Najimy who manages to deliver something cherishable. Her character may be as big a bundle of tired tropes as everyone else in this film, but Najimy finds a great deal of intelligent affection within even the lamest lines she has to deliver; hold on to that warmth when you get to the incredibly embarrassing dance number, you’ll need it.