CHRISTMAS WITH YOU (2022)

Leads sitting at a piano together as Miguel looks at Angelina. There are three decorated trees behind them. The title and their names are below.

Christmas with You is a gentle, heartwarming movie for you to add to your YuleTubing list. It hews closely to the tried, true and comforting Christmas rom-com formula—which is not without its glaringly problematic aspects—however with a Latino/e/x cast it naturally incorporates several cultural rites and holiday rituals. And about frickin’ time. 

Angelina (Aimee Garcia) is a big-time Latin pop-star with tons of bilingual hits and masses of fans, BUT there are rumblings that she’s getting a little long in the tooth (by industry standards) and everyone keeps comparing her to the younger, fresher-faced Cheri (Nicolette Stephanie Templier), who made the cover of Rolling Stone and is more adept at using TikTok. What the record label wants is for her to write a brand new song. By when? Why, by the charity gala she throws just before Christmas every year! Angelina is tired and fresh out of inspiration. Her mother died around Christmas, so it’s always a very difficult time for her, and she just wants to fall back on her tried and true standards. Plus, she’s on some lettuce diet until the gala and we all know how not eating affects our creativity! The woman is tired and hungry.

Meanwhile, outside the city, Cristina (Deja Monique Cruz) is blaring Angelina’s music while she looks at pictures of potential dresses for her upcoming quinceañera. Downstairs, her father (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is failing to compose a song over the blare of his mother’s telenovela, which she refuses to turn down because Ricardo just “got up from the dead.” I mean, fair enough. When he goes upstairs to beg Cristina to turn down her music, she convinces him to accompany her on guitar while she records a video of herself singing one of Angelina’s songs. Anyway, longish story shorter, while feeling sad and frustrated and missing her own mother Angelina happens to see Cristina’s video, which is dedicated to Cristina’s dead mother, and she’s very touched. Then, the owner of the record label pulls a last minute switcheroo and replaces Angelina with Cheri for the coveted cover of Fashion Beat magazine. (All I can think of is Tiger Beat.) So, Angelina grabs her manager Monique (Zenzi Williams), gives her driver the day off, and heads out to find Cristina and fulfill her wish of getting a selfie with Angelina. The drive will also give her some time to clear her head and come back even stronger and ready to write the heck out of that song. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Let’s pause here to talk about a few things. As you’ve gathered. Cristina’s dad, Miguel, is widowed, which, as we’ve discussed ad nauseam in other reviews, is the only kind of dad who counts in a movie like this one. Sad dads are rad dads, but they have to be the right kind of sad dads, you know? Divorced dads are too messy. They’re likely to live in pathetic apartments, not knowing how to cook or clean or be appropriately selfless, plus they cannot simply revere their former wife like she deserves sainthood. I guess we could say that a dead wife is the best wife in these movies? Ouch. That’s a patriarchal sucker punch. Moving on! Actually, no. I hereby request that writers come up with another plot device for a single dad that doesn’t involve the ritual annual slaughter of fictional wives and mothers! Okay, now we can move on. Cristina is deeply invested in finding her father a date. Why? No good reason is given. She just really thinks he needs to get out there and hit the apps, as is always the case in these movies. Also, Angelina’s manager is a Black woman because Black women are almost universally cast in the role of book editor/best friend or manager/best friend. Monique is a lovely and great addition, but does she really not have any family or friends with whom she would want to spend any time with leading up to or during Christmas? Her entire career and her entire social life is Angelina? Come on. Do better.

Anyway, after taking the selfie, Angelina and Monique can’t return to the city because it’s snowing and their car, which is the size and weight of a small tank, couldn’t possibly make it through the inch of snow. Cristina offers that they could have dinner and spend the night at their house where her father has made pozole (because he’s widowed and so can cook). Monique has the good sense to think this is a little sketchy, but Angelina is pretty much all in. I will say that Angelina lacks any real diva snobbery. Yes, there’s a scene where she puts plastic bags over her shoes because they’re expensive and she doesn’t want to get them wet, but she’s almost laughing at herself. There isn’t any real sneering at the house or the way regular people live or the clothes they’re offered to wear. If anything, everyone is gently laughing at Angelina for having forgotten how the real world works. It gives the movie a feeling  of instant community and comfort. Angelina, of course, tries not to eat any food, but she can’t resist Miguel’s delicious pozole (not a euphemism—or is it?). She also realizes that in addition to being a music teacher, Miguel composes songs and she gets the idea to rope him into helping her write her song, strictly as a business agreement, of course. Ha! As if!

At the same time, Cristina is preparing for her quinceañera and I have a lot of questions. Like, would she really still be deciding on a dress just a couple of weeks before the event? This seems like she’s cutting it very close. The same is true about deciding on who should go as her chambelán, right? Wouldn’t they have to practice those dances a lot? (Whatever. Not to spoil too much, but Cristina chooses independence anyway.) I do not have questions about Cristina’s tías Connie (Elisa Bocanegra) and Conchi (Helena Betancourt), who are a solid addition to the fun. Of course, there will be scenes when Angelina just so happens to be there to help the kids with tricky parts of their dances and to bemoan the fact that she never got to have a quince of her own! 

Some of my favorite parts are when Angelina and Miguel are writing their song and get just so excited about some seemingly mediocre lyric that they come up with. It’s incredibly endearing and predictable. You know what else is endearing and predictable? The rest of this movie! From Angelina’s telenovela actor kinda boyfriend, to what happens when the song premieres, to the will-they-won’t they between Angelina and Miguel, to Crisitina’s quinceañera it will all fill your heart with just enough warmth, schmaltz, decent acting, realistic enough looking snow, Spanglish, and some truly empty advice. Honestly, if anyone ever tells you that “what’s in your heart is simple, you just need to follow it,” you should probably check your surroundings for signs you’ve been sucked into a YuleTube movie.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

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THE HOLIDAY FIX UP (2021)

Sam on a wooden ladder holding the end of large colored light string up toward the title made out of gold letters (the letter ex is made out of a saw). Coop is holding the ball of lights in his hand and laughing.

I’d like a quick word with whomever decides to play loud plucky music throughout the entirety of movies like The Holiday Fix Up. It makes me want to stuff my ears with piles of fake snow, and also seriously reconsider watching. It’s especially egregious in this movie where the acting is all perfectly fine! You don’t need to distract us!

This movie is pretty low energy, which I think is meant to be more of a feature than a quirk. Sam (Jana Kramer), the host of a design show, is capable and competent when it comes to home demolition and construction. Currently, her schedule is so jam-packed that she doesn’t even have time to connect with the guests on her show, which really bums her out. In fact, she’s so tits to the bricks busy that she has to catch power naps during meetings with her producer. Plus, she’s losing leverage to a younger, up-and-coming host. Her producer suggests she take Christmas to reconnect with her social media and let her followers see more of her personal life. How caring of him. Sam plans on spending Christmas alone until a tree falls through an inn in her hometown of Bell Harbor and she hustles home to help rebuild it before the annual HarborFest. The inn is owned by Jack (Steve Vinovich ), a kind, older man who has known Sam for years and recently lost his beloved wife Rita. (Please note: he’s too old to be a Sad Single Man, so he’s just Sad Sage Man, who doles out advice on cue.) You better believe that every other sentence in this movie is something about what Rita would have wanted or what Rita used to say. Now, I know this is going to shock you, but Jack has arranged for Sam’s ex-boyfriend Coop (Ryan McPartlin) to help Sam rebuild the inn in a miraculously short time. Coop and Sam split when she left to start work on her television show and he stayed behind to run his small woodworking business that uses reclaimed wood and operates entirely by word of mouth. He also eschews social media and only uses a flip phone, which is all romantic sounding until it’s absolutely annoying.

As I said, Sam gets to be very capable, but she does have to do it all in HIGH HEELED BOOTS. Oh, they’re styled to look like work boots, but they’re not fooling anyone. The tripping hazard these would be in on an actual construction site! Also, at one point Coop teaches her to use a hand saw? It’s unclear to me why in the name of time management they would be using analog tools when they have SUCH a crushing deadline. I mean, clearly it’s just an opportunity for him to stand behind her with his arms around her, but COME ON!! Sam does set Coop straight on making decisions for her, which I very much liked. However, the movie does not ever really address the work/life balance question and I’m concerned that her design show will grind Sam down to nothing. And speaking of the show, please brace yourself for some serious product plugging. It’s like a-sledgehammer-to-your-noggin subtle. Not to give you spoilers, but they spend this whole entire movie talking about how hugely important HarborFest is to the town and to the inn and then it’s just kind of a dud, which seems about right for this mostly okay, but not that great movie.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

2-Sometimes I have the distinct desire to remove an eyeball to relieve the pain, but I can’t complain too much. Drugs would dull the discomfort, but I can get through without.

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CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM (2O21)

Background a split image between city and farm. Emmy in a yellow dress in the center with a wheelie bag. Title at the top.

You probably won’t do any harm by watching Christmas on the Farm, but it isn’t strictly a Christmas movie. It’s just a middling-ish rom-com with meh acting that takes place around Christmas. However, Christmas does not play any active role in helping anyone realize what’s been missing from their life or recapturing their lost soul or somehow creating magic. The drama could just as well take place around Australia Day. 

When Emmy’s (Poppy Montgomery) mother dies, she travels back home to Fig Tree Farm in Emu Springs, Australia to eulogize her in front of Miles (Nicholas Brown) and David (Hugh Sheridan), the couple who run the farm, and several of her beloved animals. As much as Emmy loved her mother, she hates farm life. When a spider crawls onto the nightstand, she spends the night sleeping in the bathtub, where she is awoken by Gerald the rooster. I mean, fair enough about the spider. Australians measure their spiders by handspan instead of finger distance. Obviously, the farm is perfect and idyllic and deep in debt because Emmy’s mom sucked at finances. So, Emmy will need to figure out a way to save the farm or she’ll lose her greatest connection to her mother. 

Emmy is also busy ignoring calls from her agent (Carie Kawa), who is eagerly awaiting a draft of Emmy’s book, which she (of course) hasn’t started writing. A couple of not-so-minor questions. 1. Why in movies like this one are the authors always white women and their agents/editors are always women of color? (That’s rhetorical, but also not.) 2. Emmy is supposed to be a first time author and she has an agent without having produced a word? Or even having an idea of what her book will be about? Really? 

Meanwhile, over at London and London publishing Jack (Darren McMullen) is getting a stern talking to from his boss (Jeanette Cronin), who is also his mom, to get off his ass and find some new material to boost their lagging sales. Aside from the fact that he’s asleep at his desk when she walks in, it’s unclear if he totally shirks his work or if she has extremely high expectations. Or both. The movie doesn’t really bother to figure it (or much of anything) out. It’s the same with Emmy’s drinking, which is alluded to as being maybe interfering with her work and then never mentioned again. 

These two kind, down-in-the-dumps chumps meet at a bar where he’s out having a drink alone and she’s supposed to be meeting some guy from an app. They hit it off immediately and end up spending the whole night drinking and laughing and getting to know each other naked. In the morning, she leaves him a note and little something that will be vitally important later on, and then disappears. 

Anyboodle, on the flight home Emmy had gotten the idea to use her mother’s journals to write a fictionalized account about how she just up and moved them to the country to start farming with zero experience, and how she eventually became an expert herbalist, gardener, and animal caretaker. Emmy writes AN ENTIRE DRAFT in about 48 hours? Um, okay. However, her agent says it won’t work because it’s about the past or some shit like that. Uh, the historical fiction genre would like a word! She says that it must be current and Emma must be the protagonist. So, Emma writes ANOTHER BOOK in what appears to be a matter or day or two where she writes as if she is her mother currently living in Australia with a husband and a daughter (who is based on Emmy when she was young). Whatever. This is getting very meta. Of course, everybody fucking loves this version, which has got to kind of make Emmy feel like crap, you know? Even though she did write TWO WHOLE BOOKS IN A FEW DAYS!!!  But you know who super super loves it? Jack over at London and London publishing. But of course he doesn’t know she wrote it and she doesn’t know he’s the publisher. 

Everything is going super well (aside from the multiple lies and subterfuges) and it seems she’ll be able to save the farm UNTIL [dramatic music] Emmy learns that there is a clause in the contract stipulating that Jack and his mother must visit her on the farm over Christmas to verify that everything is on the up and up. So now she has to get her ass down to Australia to change her whole look, re-find her lost accent, find a faux husband, learn to not hate nature and animals, and locate a willing child to be her daughter before they arrive. Totes doable. Oh, and then there is the small matter of her realizing that the man she spent an incredible night of passion with is now on her farm, believing she is her mother (kind of), which he has to keep believing in order for her to get the (ludicrously unbelievable) book deal she needs to save the farm. COMPLICATED! 

The acting here is fine. The montages of her shopping with Miles and David are amusing. Animals are always fun. There is going to be an ex-girlfriend of Jack’s who is convinced she’s still his actual girlfriend, who makes disparaging comments about Emmy’s appearance and really didn’t need to exist at all. She adds nothing to the movie, unless you like extra helping of Patriarchy with your rom-com viewing.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

2-Sometimes I have the distinct desire to remove an eyeball to relieve the pain, but I can’t complain too much. Drugs would dull the discomfort, but I can get through without.

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A ROYAL CORGI CHRISTMAS (2022)

Leads in their ball attire standing facing each other with decorations behind them and title at waist level. Mistletoe is sitting on the floor with the leash in his mouth. the tagline says: Training this dog could get ruff.

My chief complaint is that if you’re going to have Corgi in the title AND you promise a rambunctiously untrained, unroyal corgi, then you should be able to deliver some primo, cute, and abundant doggo content. A Royal Corgi Christmas falls woefully short of the mark.

Playboy Prince Edmond (Jordan Renzo) heads home to the small kingdom of Comfrey to make nice and put in a visit to his mother the Queen (Susannah De Wrixon). In hopes of winning her favor—or something like that—he brings her a Corgi named Mistletoe as a gift. But oopsy doodle, turns out that Mistletoe is just as good as Prince Edmond when it comes to grabbing tabloid headlines. He hasn’t been in Castle Christmas more than an hour when he manages to pull down an entire spread of food for a royal luncheon. Worse yet, it’s all caught on video, and the video goes viral! I mean, if this is the worst scandal to hit Comfrey in the last decade, I think they’re doing pretty well. The Royal Corgi Wrangler, as Edmond calls him, flat out refuses to train poor Mistletoe because he doesn’t come from royal lineage and because he’s already a year old and is therefore untrainable. I find it difficult to believe that royal dogs would somehow have fewer behavioral issues, especially when we’ve seen how some of the royal humans comport themselves! But, it turns out that Mistletoe MUST BE TRAINED by the night of the Royal Ball!! Or else. I don’t really know or else what, but it must be done.

The Royal Dog Wrangler, who doesn’t like that title, is a jerk and has a little something going with Edmond’s sister Princess Victoria (Julie Lamberton) who quietly keeps the whole kingdom from falling apart. While Edmond could care less about the throne, she has quite literally thrown her entire life into making sure that the monarchy keeps humming along. The big question is: which of them will be declared monarch when their mother steps down at the annual Christmas ball? I mean, that’s what I’ve sussed out. This movie isn’t big on really building tension, so everything is related through side conversations and shrugs. At one point the Royal Dog Wrangler says to Victoria that Edmond is just traveling all over the world juggling women like swords.” And she responds that “those women are more dangerous than swords because they’re just after him for his money and title.” Phew. Thank goodness they didn’t forget to some add misogyny to this movie.

Anyway, American celebrity dog trainer Cecily (Hunter King), who is desperately trying to fund her non-profit that will help save and train adult dogs, hears about Mistletoe and thinks this could be a good chance to find a deep pocketed donor. Off she goes, but when she and Edmond lock eyes it is…I guess love at first sight? They have okayish chemistry so it feels more like good pals at first sight, but obviously it’s supposed to be love. I don’t know. I was also distracted by the fact that it looked like Edmond borrowed his ceremonial military uniform from a cousin and didn’t have time to get it tailored. Now, Cecily can’t just train Mistletoe, she has to train Edmond with Mistletoe—and you know what that means? Yes, sadly it means less screen time for Mistletoe and more of just Cecily and Edmond. There’s a lot of emphasis on how they are both Mistletoe’s person to explain why they must be together. This is some weak sauce logic, but I’ll let it stand. The dialogue is as stiff as you would expect and everything that could be shown is said out loud. These are not people with an inner monologue. 

This isn’t a totally terrible choice for a YuleTube movie, but it won’t deliver pooch proportionally, it lacks any real energy, and I’ve already forgotten the ending.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

2-Sometimes I have the distinct desire to remove an eyeball to relieve the pain, but I can’t complain too much. Drugs would dull the discomfort, but I can get through without.

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