You shouldn’t make a Cinderella movie without having some killer “Steps” in mind. “A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish,” has some doozies.
You don’t have to be a tweenage girl to get your back up at how LOATHESOME the evil stepmother (Hallmark Channel favorite Johannah Newmarch) and her daughters, Joy (Lillian Doucet-Roche) and Grace (Chanelle Peloso) are.
They are SO mean to poor Kat (Laura Marano of “Perfect Date” and “Ladybird”). Her dad married Deirdre (Newmarch, perfectly vile) and died, leaving her stuck cleaning up after and even financially supporting these golddigging neer-do-wells.
Stepmom bullies and steals and connives and will not HAVE you interrupt her time to “bitchwatch ‘The Real Housewives of Manhattan Beach.'”
Joy has a vlog, and never misses a chance to humiliate Kat, videoing her after she stumbles while toting their shopping and massive Starbucks order.
“You’re TRENDING, Starbucks Girl!”
Grace and Joy take turns trashing her appearance.
“You could use some color. You look like a fetus!”
And gauche? Fuggedaboutit! They’ll be right at home at the big Chrismas Eve gala.
“It’s pronounced GAW-la! I’ve been working on an upper class accent!”
At some point, MANY points in this little ditty of a holiday musical comedy, you may find yourself wishing Kat would just nunchuck the lot of them.
NOT that kind of movie, though. It’s a simple holiday wish-fulfillment romance about a girl who just wants to write songs and sing songs and “sell out arenas.”
For now, she sings and dances in the show at Santa’s Village with BFF Isla (Isabella Gomez), wearing an elf costume as they do.
But wait! There’s a new Santa joining the ensemble. He’s their age, but he’s already got the beard on every time they see him. “Hot Santa” they call him, not realizing he’s rich boy/would-be music impressario Dominic Wintergarden (Gregg Sulkin of Hulu’s “Runaways”), the VERY guy Kat tripped up and spilled all that Starbucks product all over herself in front of.
All these movies are offspring of that 2004 Hilary Duff hit, “A Christmas Story,” which took its plot from the famous fairy tale. No magical mice or glass slippers are here, and actress/choreographer/writer/director Michelle Johnston doesn’t make the movie “fit” the tale’s parameters as neatly as you’d hope.
Glass snowglobe, not glass slippers? Nah. It’ll take “A Christmas Miracle” to throw the downtrodden Kat and handsome Prince/Son of the Richest Guy in Town together. We know it’s coming.
The emphasis here is on the wish fulfillment stuff, not the romance. So “chemistry” barely matters. Marano has a cute, plucky presence, and Sulkin isn’t “sulkin'” when they’re together (Sorry!).
The songs? Think “Autotune: The Musical.”
Truthfully, there’s no much to it save for some some pleasantly-underwhelming choreography, and lots of righteous bullying. Those “steps” do it like they were born to pick on the less fortunate.
“Potatoes wear sacks better than you!”
MPAA Rating: PG for rude and suggestive material
Credits: Written and directed by Michelle Johnston, A Warner Home Video release, on Netflix.
Running time: 1:26