Netflixable? Vanessa Hudgens hearts “The Knight Before Christmas”


Netflix, it would seem, has decided to take on The Hallmark Channel when it comes to seeing who can produce the most cheesy, inconsequential Christmas movies.

But really, dumping them all on us just in time for Halloween isn’t fair.

“The Knight Before Christmas” is a Vanessa Hudgens romance that turns her into a suburban Ohio science teacher visited by her literal “knight in shining armor,” literally, right before Christmas.

Josh Whitehouse of TV’s “Poldark” is Sir Cole Christopher Frederick Lyons of Norwich, a 14th century night who stumbles into an old crone (Ella Kenion) in the snowy forest during a falconry contest. We know she’s an “old crone” because she answers to that.

She promises the young knight “the quest you’ve dreamed of.” Thanks to a magical medallion, she’s sending him to “your destiny,” a place where there are “flying steel dragons” and “a magic box that makes merry.”

That’s what hurls him, in chain mail, broadsword in hand, to The Christmas Castle that dominates the center of Braceburg, Ohio every holiday season. He thinks he sees a way out. But Mrs. Claus is not the “old crone” he’s looking for.

Science teacher Brooke (Hudgens) is more his speed, taking him in, with her “trusty steel steed” and carols-upon-command Alexa. And that “magic box?” It’s loaded with Netflix, showing “Holiday in the Wild,” a somewhat better holiday stocking stuffer from the streamer.

Because as cute as Hudgens and Whitehouse are as a couple, as game as Whitehouse is to throw himself into this nonsense, there’s precious little nonsense to get into.  Screenwriter Cara. J. Russell finds a laugh or two, but leaves an AWFUL lot of funny potential at the poker table, here.

Sir Cole is quite taken with this “mead” they serve during long Ohio winters. Hot chocolate, is it?

“Delicious! WENCH! Another round!”

Brooke has an ex who left behind clothes she offers to Cole.

“SIR Cole!”

The ex? “He turned out to be, as the kids say, ‘a real douche.'”

“I should THANK the douche for the garments!” And later, “Your dalliance with the douche” questions come up.

“Douche” is a funny word that keeps on giving. Perhaps something might have been made of the fact that a knight of the realm of the early 14th century would be fluent in French, and is confused by this simple French word that’s taken on a whole new meaning in America. More “douche” jokes, I say!

Or hearing this or that carol via Alexa could have inspired a witticism. “Good King Wenceslas? I knew his daughter!”

Brooke’s “You’re really a Renaissance Man, aren’t you?” could have set up a quizzical look from the man from the Medieval, not (later) Renaissance, era.

And so on.

As it is, the playt\ers wring what little life there is out of “Medieval enthusiast” explanations for Sir Cole’s behavior, just one of “the cosplay knights at the Christmas castle.”

“Must be one of those ‘Method’ actors.”

Hudgens’ science teacher Brooke seems rather blasé about all this unscientific “time travel,” not particularly swept off her feet by the Knight in Shining Armor who is staying in her guest house (Teachers in Ohio are rich!).

Whitehouse has the fun part, but he can’t make mead out of powdered hot chocolate. The “quest” is remembered, here and there — rescuing this or that damsel in distress. Emmanuelle Chriqui is wasted in a bit part as the teacher’s sister.

But on the whole, “The Knight Before Christmas” is one to skip, a sweet nothing that’s a lot more “nothing” than sweet.



MPAA Rating: TV-14.

Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Whitehouse, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Ella Kenion.

Credits: Directed by Monica Mitchell, script by Cara J. Russell. An MPCA/Netflix release.

Running time: 1:32

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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