12 Days of Christmas: 48 Christmas Wishes
Nathanael Smith | On 16, Dec 2018Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Marco Deufemia, Justin G. Dyck
Cast: Khiyla Aynne, Elizabeth Ellsworth, Maya Franzoi
Watch 48 Christmas Wishes online in the UK: Netflix UK / Amazon Instant Video
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
Anyone watching a low-budget Christmas movie on Netflix, with a bad title and some less-than-inspiring posters on their browser, does so with a certain level of expectation; part of the appeal is the hackneyed plotting, the cheap emotional resolutions, the cheaper sets. But occasionally, you stumble across a film that defies even these expectations with something so lifeless and shoestring that even a Hallmark aficionado would blanche at its profanely terrible execution.
48 Christmas Wishes tells the story of the elves in Santa’s mail room – three of them, all kids – who accidentally burn up a small town’s Christmas wishes. 48 of them, to be precise. Among them are the wishes of a family still dealing with the loss of their father, leaving a peppy young lad and a grumpy teenage girl to represent the essential binaries of any Christmas movie: those who believe in the spirit of Christmas and those who do not. The plucky child slaves from the North Pole leave their magical land behind to mingle with the real world and try get all 48 of the wishes in person, rather than by letter.
It’s obviously awful, but it’s not the fault of the young cast, who have the acting ability of an enthusiastic ensemble in a drama school nativity play. You’d come away from the play thinking “well, they gave it gusto” while quietly making a note not to invite any of them round to hang out with your kids. So, they’re fine. The problem is the editing (and probably the direction), which leaves giant pauses between the frankly awful gags. Cut out the pauses and, while you’d only have a 45-minute long film, it’d be a lot less stilted and perhaps some of the jokes might even have landed.
In these gaping silences between the line deliveries, you’re left to contemplate the other facets of the filmmaking. Nothing holds up to much scrutiny, from the fact that only three kids seem to work (fairly slowly) in the mail room for Santa’s entire operation, to the idea that the elves are out of touch and don’t seem to recognise a Christmas tree.
Think of festive films that go behind the scenes of Santa’s operations: Arthur Christmas; The Christmas Chronicles; Rise of the Guardians. They all put thought into the world building, creating background gags and inventive ways to explain how Santa does his job. While budgetary constraints deny 48 Christmas Wishes free reign, even a modicum of invention, a shred of production design, could have lent this film a bit of humour and sparkle. As it is, we’re treated to the most generic rendition of Father Christmas’ operation. The closest this gets to world building is that the elves have exclamations such as “mighty mistletoe!” and “rollin’ snowballs”, like a dime-store Robin in a Christmas episode of Adam West’s Batman.
There are a litany of further crimes that should confine 48 Christmas Wishes to cinema jail, from the utterly superfluous scene where two Time Elves floss while looking thoroughly miserable to the creepy adult elf, who makes sure that the kids keep working away. Oh, and it ends not with something festive, but with the two kids reminiscing about their dad. This is wretched filmmaking and lacks the shimmer of even Hallmark’s festive output, let alone Netflix’s glossier fare. Even your kids won’t like it.
48 Christmas Wishes is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.