Movie Guru: It’s already that time, so here’s the scoop on Netflix’s original holiday movies
It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but Netflix is taking a page from Hallmark, Lifetime and the rest of corporate America — have you been in a store lately? The titan streaming service is already starting to roll out a selection of original holiday movies. Here’s a look at what’s already available streaming, from a brand-new Christmas classic to the kind of awkward holiday disaster you should skip.
Though it’s not nearly as Christmas focused as the title makes it seem, “Jingle Jangle” is pure, unadulterated magic. It’s got all the wonder and joy kids (and adults with an active inner child) could hope for, yet deals with issues of regret in as meaningful and grown-up a way as “The Christmas Carol.” It’s also chock full to the brim of forgiveness, hope, and second chances, which is exactly the sort of gift a lot of us need after the stresses and struggles of the past year. It feels like an undiscovered classic, both timeless and not quite like anything you’ve ever seen before.
If that’s not enough, the movie does everything else beautifully as well. It’s a musical with a killer soundtrack and fantastic dancing, illustrated with visuals that look like a storybook come to life. Forest Whitaker manages to be both tender and heartbreaking as Jeronicus Jangle, and Madalen Mills is an earnest delight as young Journey. Anika Noni Rose as a ton of depth to a relatively small role, and Keegan Michael Key should absolutely spend more time as a mustache twirling villain.
Grade: Four stars
“Operation Christmas Drop”
This is where Netflix starts moving even more fully into Hallmark territory. “Operation Christmas Drop” delivers a highly formulaic but somehow still charming Christmas romance. This one is textbook perfect, offering absolutely no surprises but hitting every single one of its marks with a surprising amount of class and grace. There’s an added element of emotional button-pushing with the inclusion of soldiers wanting to be with their family for the holidays and the real life charity work of the actual Operation Christmas Drop from the U.S. Air Force, but for some of us that’s just an extra dose of icing on the cake.
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Grade: Three stars
“Midnight at the Magnolia”
Another Hallmark-style classic, with less Christmas and just a touch more chemistry between the two leads. There’s just enough holiday trappings to make it qualify in the category (it runs from just after Christmas to New Year’s Eve), but the real charm is the warm relationship between leads Natalie Hall and Evan Williams. It’s a sweet, slightly ridiculous twist on a classic fake dating plotline, and if you’ve been craving a good rom-com you definitely want to check this one out.
Grade: Three stars
Normally I’m a big fan of quirky romances, but they also have to be well-written. “Holidate” runs through an entire year of holidays, where two strangers agree to be each other’s “holidate” so they wouldn’t be alone during related social events. The big problem is that it pretends to buck romantic movie cliches – one of the characters has a whole monologue on that very thing near the beginning – while succumbing to the very worst of them over and over again. There are moments of absurd, naughty charm, but you’ll be tired of it well before it crashes and burns in a completely non-sensical mess of an ending.
Grade: One star
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.