He’s pretty, she’s prettier, a gorgeous under-filmed Pacific isle location, a true story about a tradition of service members doing humanitarian work — “Operation Christmas Drop” has all the ingredients of a lightweight Christmas romance of the “fun for the whole family” school.
But its perfunctory script does little more than move characters from point A to point B. The writing has all the charm of an Air Force procurement budget and sets up no romantic sparks, so the leads are left on their own. And the location — Guam, and its surrounding atolls — is rendered so Air Force Base generic that I honestly wondered if they shot two days of second unit there, and filmed the rest in Pensacola.
Kat Graham of “Vampire Diaries” and “All Eyez on Me” stars as Erica, a Congressional aide working for a no-nonsense Congresswoman (Virginia Madsen) who needs to find “efficiencies” and savings in the military budget. In other words, she’s looking for a base to close.
A newspaper article picturing an Air Force pilot in a Santa hat playing a ukulele suggests “Guam.” Erica finds herself giving up her holidays and flying out to inspect the base, which seems to be spending taxpayer money and using military planes and crew on a charity.
She’ll also have to check out “Major Eye Candy in the Santa Cap.”
That would be her tour guide, the pilot who put his base in the Congressional bullseye. He’s not a major, but a Captain. Andrew (Alexander Ludwig of TV’s “Vikings”) will try to distract the Congressional hatchet-lady, Code Named “Blixen,” and explain how this 70 year tradition of making low-altitude supply drops of Christmas cheer isn’t done on the taxpayers’ dime.
Their first exchanges, delivered with a smirk or a smile, are totally geared to generating friction. She is a “bean-counter,” a “condescending pencil pusher.” He’s just a pretty boy “with a big heart and a nice smile.”
The dialogue is a bland blather of “putting it in my report” and “Does that line work on all the girls?”
The “local color” consists of beaches, snorkeling, shots of Andrew’s Jeep cruising the coastal road and the barely-glimpsed natives they’re helping.
Don’t chase that gecko out of your bungalow, Miss. It’s good luck. And CGI.
There’s nothing here to hate, but even less to love. The titular holiday tradition — the flights — is impressive and lump-in-the-throat righteous. But that seems to have given everybody in the production the excuse to phone it in.
Erica meets Andrew not on the tarmac, setting up her officious efficiency and the obstacles to saving the base and romance. No. They meet on the beach. I guess that necessary transitional scene got slashed. This sort of obvious boner happens more than once. Rare is the movie that does a worse job at hiding its budgeted shortcuts.
The Hallmark Channel, Netflix, Hulu and everybody else will carpet bomb us with Christmas movies this holiday season. There’s little sense wasting 100 minutes on stale fruitcake like this.
MPA Rating: TV-G
Cast: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Virginia Madsen, Trezzo Mahoro and Bethany Brown
Credits: Directed by Martin Wood, script by Gregg Rossen, Brian Sawyer. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:35