Any rom-com with “Christmas” in the title is bound by law to have a stale whiff of “Hallmark” about it, and Netflix hasn’t been shy about trying to grab that audience.
So any cute or touching moments in “Christmas With You” will have to come from stars Aimee Garcia (TV’s “Lucifer”) and Freddie Prinze Jr., whose rom-com heyday was the ’90s. They manage a couple of “awwws,” but making a mark in any movie designed to have most of the rough edges of life rubbed off is always going to be an uphill battle.
Garcia plays a pop star famous enough go by one name — Angelina. But like Britney, Mariah, J. Lo and even Beyonce, there’s a wall staring her in the face at 40 and her record label’s chief (Lawrence J. Hughes, amusingly callous) isn’t making any bones about it.
Talented bombshell or not, when you’re looking to “the past” and your “greatest hits,” he’s looking to the future. He yanks her planned mag cover appearance and tells her to come up with a Christmas song — “get in touch with your ‘Holly jolly,” — and quick, for a Thanksgiving New York showcase.
That’s one thing her confessor/manager (Zenzi Williams) can’t help her with.
Cristina (Deja Monique Cruz) is a cute teen in some snowy town out in the provinces, a Latina about to turn 15 and have her quinceañera. Widowed dad (Prinze), the music teacher at her school, is pulling out all the stops for the party. But Cristina’s idol, and her late mom’s favorite singer, was Angelina. A heartfelt plea to meet and “get a selfie” with Angelina is posted online. And one of the 20 people to see it is the singer.
Yeah, it’s gotten that bad. Not-really-dating a telenovela star-influencer (Gabriel Sloyer) hasn’t helped Angelina’s social media decline.
On an impulse, the star and manager Monique take the Escalade into the country, just for a pop in to make a fan’s day. As no good deed goes unpunished, a blizzard sets in and Angelina and Monique are trapped, staying with their “biggest fans.”
I’ll bet there’s a Christmas song in that.
Like any romance of the Hallmark genre, there’s sadness underneath the cute and cuddliness. The audience demands it, because everybody is going through something. This script attempts such tugs at the heartstrings, but never hard enough to pay off.
The rare light touches — Angelina almost seriously sexing up a 15 year old’s “Baile de Sorpresa,” Cristina’s abuela’s efforts to “Dios, mio” this visitor out of her “lettuce diet” because she’s too skinny — play, but are played-out.
Garcia sings and dances like this could be a new genre for her to make her mark in, and one always admires professionalism in these movies. It might serve her well, just as it didn’t do Lindsay Lohan any harm in her Netflix debut.
Prinze takes to the “dad” role easily enough. But he’s rusty at generating that romantic sparkle and the script doesn’t give him much to do.
Because there’s always another worn out cliche or trope of the genre to get to. When the goal is TV comfort food, you can forget the idea that anything will be spicey, or that dessert will offer anything more than empty calories.
Cast: Aimee Garcia, Freddie Prinze Jr., Deja Monique Cruz, Zenzi Williams, Gabriel Sloyer and Nicolette Stephanie Templier
Credits: Directed by Gabriela Tagliavini, scripted by Paco Farias and Michael Varrati. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:29