This time of year is filled with low-quality holiday movies from streamers. These films are poorly made and poorly written, making it difficult to sit through them without a lot of holiday cheer. It’s been 20 years since the release of Will Ferrell’s comedy, as well as Love Actually and Bad Santa. They all remind us of a special time for holiday films, each earning a spot for easy rewatching when November arrives.
It’s obviously, stupidly unfair to compare any of Netflix’s many many low-stakes films of the season to those beloved standouts, but while Best. Christmas. Ever! was never intended to be quite as good, it really doesn’t need to be quite this bad. Shoddy seasonal slop had been previously siloed on Hallmark and Lifetime channels, for those who had become accustomed to reduced standards all year round, but Netflix has enthusiastically got in on the game too, and while its brand has lost considerable lustre in recent years, it’s still the same platform that attracts small and big screen auteurs with a vision. Nestled next to the new David Fincher, again expectations would not be as high for a comedy headlined by Heather Graham, but it’s easy to forget throughout the rest of the year just how lackadaisical and low-rent these films can be, lofty comparison or no, from script to direction to performances. Arguably the most important role in these films is set dresser, jamming every scene with enough decorations to distract from the listlessness elsewhere, but no amount of tinsel can disguise how boringly tossed off this one is, a bleak reminder of what’s in store for the next six weeks.
The film is barely considered a movie at less than 80 minutes, instead feeling like a long montage of short scenes that lack definition. This is surprising, as the film’s script was co-written by Charles Shyer, known for his successful work on popular studio comedies such as Private Benjamin, Father of the Bride, Baby Boom, and The Parent Trap. Unfortunately, the film lacks any of the wit or skill that Shyer is known for, aimlessly telling the story of two old friends reuniting during the holiday season.
Brandy Norwood has a reputation of being an unstoppable success, while Graham is known as a self-proclaimed failure. Graham often feels inferior and doubtful due to Brandy’s boastful Christmas newsletters. However, when they are unexpectedly brought together for the holiday, their competition reaches its peak.
This premise suggests a mixture of both salty and sweet elements, but the film, directed by Mary Lambert of “Pet Sematary,” is lackluster and unengaging. It fails to embrace its potential for dark comedy and instead becomes a sickly family movie with contrived life lessons and overly sentimental child characters. The lack of depth in the plot prevents the two main characters from fully embracing their roles and instead leaves them stuck in a monotonous state. Unfortunately, even the talented Graham struggles to bring any lightness to her comedic scenes. The script also fails to establish a clear dynamic between the two main characters and instead relies on vague romantic conflicts involving their husbands (including a lost Jason Biggs). The focus should have been on the women, but the film misses the mark by trying to create tension through unnecessary jealousy.
The final act of the movie takes a strange turn, as the ridiculous elements of the story escalate to the point where the film could be considered “so bad it’s good.” The main characters find themselves in a dire situation, riding in an uncontrollable hot air balloon powered by solar energy. Graham, who is a failed inventor, has a chance to save the day with his underutilized talent, but it may be too little, too late. His past failed invention, “chip mitts” that protect hands from Cheetos dust, is not enough to make up for the lackluster moments leading up to this chaotic climax.
This could potentially be the initial Christmas movie from Netflix this year, but it’s difficult to envision it being any worse.
The highly anticipated holiday movie “Best. Christmas. Ever!” is now streaming on Netflix.