The Holiday Calendar (2018)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Holiday Calendar (2018) from Netflix
Rated TV-G. 
Drama, Christmas, Romance, African American Actors
My rating: ★★★1/2

Description (from Netflix): A talented photographer stuck in a dead-end job inherits an antique Advent calendar that may be predicting the future—and pointing her toward love.

My thoughts: Here we have a story that’s warm, lighthearted, and magical with no big surprises, and yet the path to the ending isn’t a straight shot.

Some biggish plot points are kind of rushed, though. And I’d personally go for a milder but natural story climax over cases like the one here, where in the effort to create necessary conflict for a turning point later, the conflict goes too overboard to really match the characters in question. You don’t have to take it that far, all of a sudden, to make a conflict work.

Nevertheless, this flick is plenty Christmassy without being too corny, with friendship, family, career dreams—and romance, of course. (Romance with a little more comfort than chemistry, but that’s okay. It’s still sweet.)

Oh, and the clips of characters in this Netflix movie watching Netflix movies? So obvious a thing to put in there. Too easy. But I got a kick out of it anyway.

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Arthur Christmas (2011)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Arthur Christmas (2011) from Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation
Rated PG. Animated, Christmas, Comedy, Family Film

My thoughts: It’s complicated. But basically, there’s a Christmas Eve screw-up at North Pole Mission Control, and Santa’s eager but accident-prone younger son, Arthur, races against the clock in an effort to save one little girl’s Christmas from near-certain ruin.

How did I go nearly ten years without knowing this merrily daring holiday adventure exists? Well, I’ll admit I passed it up when I first caught a glimpse of it last Christmas season. I was so full of the sheer and utter wonder that is Klaus, my soul didn’t have room for another animated Christmas picture so soon.

Thank you for your patience, Arthur. You were worth coming back for.

No, he’s not American, but the awkward hero of this movie has about as much heart as Steve Rogers has even before anyone knows him as Captain America. Arthur’s dogged and almost crazy determination is something to see.

Such a fun story full of clever and imaginative nuggets, great characters, and plenty to laugh or chuckle about as it delivers a resounding message to echo around the globe: Every child matters!

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Klaus (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Klaus (2019) from The SPA Studios
Rated PG. Animated, Christmas, Comedy, Family Film

Description (from Netflix): A selfish postman and a reclusive toymaker form an unlikely friendship, delivering joy to a cold, dark town that desperately needs it.

My thoughts: I heard a little positive buzz via Twitter about the return of 2D animation for Christmas, and being the lover of holiday flicks that I am, I decided to check this movie out. It had an entertaining enough start for me, and I settled in to watch something with middling but adequately fun humor. You know, mild amusement wrapped in about an hour and a half of holiday spirit.

I had no idea I would eventually laugh out loud as much as I did, or that I’d wind up with tears running down my face at more than one point in the movie. And at the last moment of the last scene that punctuates it all, I threw my hands straight up in the air, feeling as oddly triumphant as I was thoroughly touched.

Yes, this movie is fun and funny, cute and Christmassy, but it’s also a rather brilliant work of storytelling, adding clever and imaginative details and twists to bring a legend to life, so that even though you already know what’s going to happen at times, the story as a whole is fresh and refreshing.

I wouldn’t expect everyone to wind up weeping as I did, but don’t prejudge or dismiss this as “just a kid’s cartoon” or “only a Christmas comedy.” It’s an entertaining and beautifully developed story of friendship and family, love and loss, discovery and growth, risk and adventure, reconciliation and redemption. It has to go on my list of all-time favorite Christmas movies.

And yes—I do dig the wonderful 2D animation!

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If You Believe (1999)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

If You Believe (1999) from Hearst Entertainment Productions
Rated TV-PG. Drama, Romance, Family Film, Christmas

Description: Jaded book editor Susan Stone (Ally Walker) has pretty much given up on finding happiness in life. But after receiving a hard bump on the head, Susan gets a strange visit from a cheerful and plucky girl named Suzie (Hayden Panettiere)…who looks an awful lot like Susan’s niece, Alice…and kind of like Susan herself. While she’s determined to be rid of her unwanted little guest, adult Susan may have to take a detour to rediscover her inner child first.

My thoughts: “Once upon a time we believed in love and magic. Then one day you stopped. That’s why you never found it…
“We need to fix that.”

There aren’t many made-for-TV flicks that end up on my all-time favorite films list. But this is one of them. Yes, the critical writing/editing/publishing industry aspect of the story is a huge hook for my literary self. And, yeah, this movie has much that wholesome holiday movies are made of, with the Christmas cheer and warmth and romance of it all.

But this isn’t just another hour and a half of predictable holiday fluff. I mean, yes, you can predict what will ultimately happen in a holiday film about a modern-day Scrooge lady. Still, this story hits some very real points along the way, uncomplicated but wise nuggets. The humor and heart doesn’t resort to outpourings of slapstick silliness or easy schmaltz. And when there are tears (not the comedic ones but the real ones), they’re unforced, unpretentious. You see the tears, and you get it.

Not to mention how the joint heroines leading this story play their acting duet well together, with a big sister/little sister “on the way to being BFFs” kind of chemistry. And as for the romance thread, where Susan and a possible Prince Charming are concerned—yup, there’s some fun, down-to-earth chemistry there, too.

When I first watched this movie years ago, I expected to be pleasantly entertained, and I was. I didn’t expect to find a truly great story, though. But I did. And I’ve been watching it every year since then.

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Confession: I’ve wanted to post this movie on my blog for years, but I couldn’t find a trailer for it. Now, well—this clip is the closest I could get. 😀