Every day until Christmas Eve, we unwrap another one of Netflix UK’s Christmas films and sort the naughty from the nice. It’s the #12DaysofNetflix. (Click here for the full list.)
Christmas. The season of goodwill, turkeys and, somewhere in between the two, the festive ritual of the Hallmark TV movie. Specifically, the Hallmark TV movie starring Lacey Chabert.
The Mean Girls star has found herself in a groove, or a rut (depending on how seasonally good-willed you’re feeling), in recent years, always seeming to appear in the US channel’s Christmas flick, whether they’re not very good, bad or atrocious. When it comes to Hollywood opportunities for teen movie veterans, there are loads for Rachel McAdams, lots for Amanda Seyfried and none for Gretchen Weiners.
It’s not because it’s underserved – far from it. Chabert has a likeable, charismatic presence on screen, something that’s evidenced by the way she’s become associated with the happiest time of the year. It takes a lot of charm to sell the sparkling, feel-good vibe of a festive flick, especially when the quality of the script is far from deep and crisp and even.
Here, she plays Sara Thomas, the kind of woman who is happy to be a team player and work in her department without causing a stir. When her idea for a Christmas marketing campaign is stolen by her line manager, though, she wishes to Santa that she can have the courage to stand up for herself. That’s a literal plot twist, by the way – a man really does turn up at the office Christmas party and lurk in the corner, claiming to hand out magical pieces of paper. (Note: If you see this man in real life, call the police.)
But before anyone can cry creepy wolf, what do you know? Her wish really does come true and she starts to speak her mind to everyone for 48 hours. The result is a mix of mildly amusing (she tells her friend that she actually wants a present this year) and commendably forthright (she gets her line manager fired and stands up to another guy’s sexist attitude). But mostly, it’s downright rude. Soon enough, she’s telling her boss what clothes to wear, as they go on a business trip to pitch her campaign to a rich client, and even butting her nose into everyone’s affair. Yes, she even interferes in her boss’ decades-old family arguments, interrupting his dad watching the game to lecture him on the importance of love and forgiveness.
It’s hard to reconcile that unfiltered brashness with the movie’s message of Christmas spirit – if everyone spoke their mind over Boxing Day dinner, fights might erupt all over the country. It’s even harder to reconcile it with the effect it has on Paul Greene’s company chief, who inevitably becomes smitten with his outspoken employee. Green gives good handsome, but there’s little reason for them to get together other than the fact that the script says so – the rom part of this rom-com is as convincing (and as original) as the next generic outing: this is basically Two Weeks Notice and Maid in Manhattan but with baubles.
The result is not terrible, but it’s undeniably bland – A Wish for Christmas would be entirely forgettable were it not for Lacey Chabert. At the rate she’s going, she’s the Jason Statham of Christmas; you begin to wonder whether she’s actually playing the same character with every film, in some kind of strange amnesiac’s serial string of identities. Hallmark might as well launch their own Hallmark Cinematic Universe to take on Marvel in which Lacey Chabert teams up with Lacey Chabert and Lacey Chabert to save Christmas. This is harmless wallpaper telly to wrap your presents to, but until that make that movie, well, what’s the point?
A Wish for Christmas is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription.