This isn’t a good sign.
The first Christmas movie of this year’s online holiday onslaught is rubbish wrapped in tinsel from Blighty.
Is there a laugh in it? Feel free to check behind me, because if there was, I missed it.
It’s a boorish “sex” comedy without a line or sexual situation that amuses, an all-star all-in-one-house holiday romp that never romps and a Britcom-ish farce that would never make it to British TV, even boiled down to a half hour of its “best” bits.
The Christmas family is all wrapped up in having another “perfect” holiday at Dunnock Manor.
Caroline Christmas-Hope (Nathalie Cox) wears the perma-smile of the wrapped-too-tight/keeping up appearances crowd. Husband “PEEE-tah” (Kris Marshall) endures her overdoing it, tries to keep their two kids involved and accepts his lot. Because he gets to live in Dunnock Manor, after all.
But the annual gathering of “The Christmas Sisters” at the manor will be a smidge more fraught this holiday season. Yes, older-sister-pretending-to-be-young fashion editor Joanna (Liz Hurley) is going to brawl with promiscuous slacker Vicky (Talulah Riley), pick on perpetual grad student Paulina (Naomi Frederick) and insult Caroline to her face.
“Nice outfit. Sexual repression is ‘in.’ You’re ahead of the curve…for once.”
Mum (Caroline Quentin) isn’t up for being the one who keeps the peace. Neighbor squire John (John Cleese) drops in to bat his eyes at her again.
And they’re all about to put on a show for Joanna’s latest beau, Felix (Ray Fearon), who replaced Hamish, the beau they thought she was bringing.
“Are you at the beginning or end of a three month relationship with my sister?” Vicky wants to know. That’s Joanna’s average.
But the sisters have barely had time to bicker and bond over their hatred for the father who “abandoned us at Christmas” 27 years before, when Father Christmas (Kelsey Grammer) returns to the fold and to his family’s historic pile, flying in from Miami.
He’s shed his British accent and taken on the latest of his 30ish bimbo American girlfriends (April Bowlby).
“This castle is ADORABLE! How could Princess Meghan EVER leave it?”
Screenwriters David Conolly and Hannah Davis have “Mothers and Daughters” and some episodic British TV under their belts — nothing produced in the past decade, according to IMDB. It’s not like they were stockpiling funny situations and killer one-liners in the interim, either.
Few of the players have had much luck in comedy in recent years, but they can’t make funny that which isn’t on the page.
Grammer has yet to make a movie for Netflix that wasn’t a stinker. And I take it as an indicator of his degree of commitment that they wrote his character’s “accent” away, rather than having him trot one out. I dare say he can manage one that would fool Dame Judi or Dame Maggie
And one last lump of pertinent coal before I take my impertinent leave. Co-director Mick Davis keeps getting work, and has never made a good movie. Not one. You can look it up.
Rating: PG-13, sexually suggestive material, language (profanity)
Cast: Elizabeth Hurley, Nathalie Cox, Talulah Riley, Kris Marshall, John Cleese, Ray Fearon, Naomi Frederick, Caroline Quentin and Kesley Grammer
Credits: Directed by Mick Davis and Philippe Martinez, scripted by David Conolly and Hannah Davis. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:45