Here’s one last “Around the World with Netflix” holiday offering for 2021. Better yet, think of “1000 Miles from Christmas” as the first holiday film of 2022. Let’s get an early start — 360 days before Christmas — on the tidal wave of Christmas movies to come with a Spanish farce set in the snow, scenic Pyrenees of España’s far north.
It’s a time-honored holiday take on a formula that’s worked for much of the history of cinema, a “fish out of water” comedy in which an outsider comes in to a strange locale — often a business — and stumbles into the local way of doing things. There are hints of “The Coca-Cola Kid,” “The Efficiency Expert” and even episodic TV (an “Andy Griffith Show” episode) in this tale of an auditor who hates Christmas sent to go over the books of a candy factory in a mountain village.
The hook here is that Raúl (Tamar Novas of “The Goya Murders,” “Eye for an Eye”) builds his year-end around a Cuban holiday, a play where he can be “1000 kilometers from Christmas,” a holiday he’s long loathed. And just before that annual flight, his boss has shipped him off to a town that feeds Spain’s seasonal sweet tooth with famous fudge and marzipan. Valverde is so seriously into Christmas that the whole town is engaged in a Guinness Book of World Records attempt at creating the larging “living” Nativity scene.
You’d think there’d be more laughs in that set-up, a lovelorn loner with legitimate beefs about Christmas (we see death, divorce, betrayal and other trauma he’s associated with the holiday since childhood) forced to cope with quirky locals, the view out every window a decorated, snowy holiday card, an infectiously upbeat workforce and a cute stage manager (Andrea Ros) staging the Nativity who quickly figures out he’s “The Grinch.”
Sadly, a chuckle here and there is all this Álvaro Fernández Armero (“Blinkers,” “If I Were a Rich Man”) holiday rom-com manages.
Raúl arrives with a bang — or an accident. He crashes into Nativity sets that clog the streets. He stays at a B & B where the rooms are named Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar, after “The Three Wise Men.”
And La Navidad, the candy factory, is practically run by elves, everybody’s so giddy about the work and the Christmas season. Bubbliest of all is the owner’s son, Mateo (Peter Vives).
Raúl and Paula have their “meet cute,” which isn’t all that cute, when he crashes into her set. He’s up against an entire town’s “infectious” love of a holiday, people who at least laugh when they call him “Grinch,” a boss with a deadline and a plane ticket that represents another.
And those “books” he’s looking at? You guessed it. There are complications.
There’s a lot of “you guessed its” here, which I won’t give away.
What matters is that there are plenty of places where easy laughs could be found and just aren’t.
A sample of the humor — an expectant couple are named María José (Mar del Hoyo) and José María (Raúl Jiménez). That’s a real knee-slapper, that is.
Novas, who has a Clive Owen vibe (maybe it’s the mustache), manages a brittle sarcasm that plays but would play better with funnier put-downs. He’d be a fan of this or that about the holiday, he insists, “but I’m not six years old.”
Those assertions usually are followed by a flashback to his assorted holiday traumas, none of which play as amusing.
The gorgeous setting and can’t-miss formula — city slicker needs to slow down, find peace and joy and love, have a little marzipan — make you root for “1000 Miles from Christmas” to close that gap. It never does.
Late arrival for this year’s holidays, or early arrival for next year’s, “1000 Miles” misses the mark by miles and miles.
Cast: Tamar Novas, Andreas Ros, Peter Vives, Mar del Hoyo, Raúl Jiménez
Credits: Directed by Álvaro Fernández Armero scripted by Francisco Arnal and Daniel Monedero. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:42