12 Days of Netflix: Christmas Inheritance
Ivan Radford | On 21, Dec 2017
Director: Ernie Barbarash
Cast: Eliza Taylor, Jake Lacy, Andie MacDowell, Neil Crone
Watch Christmas Inheritance online in the UK: Netflix UK
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
“Let’s talk about work tomorrow morning,” says Jim Langford (Neil Crone) to his daughter, Ellen (Eliza Taylor). “It’s Christmas Eve!” It’s a strange attempt to get into the Christmas mood: Mr. Langford, who is the CEO of a gifts company, is apparently all too happy to brush work aside for the sake of the season, but still expects to chat business over Christmas Day breakfast with his heiress. That forced festive spirit is all over Christmas Inheritance, for better and for worse.
The movie marks Netflix’s third Christmas original production, and the streaming giant’s strategy is becoming clear: after the royally (wonderfully) dumb A Christmas Prince and the alternative pseudo-action thriller El Camino Christmas, Christmas Inheritance ticks off another couple of sub-genres, namely a romantic comedy and a rich-person-learning-to-value-the-little-things drama. Is it good? No, that goes without saying. But it’s also not as good at being not-good as it needs to be. Even when Andie MacDowell has a cameo as a baker.
A Christmas Prince was a perfect demonstration of how to make a cheesy Christmas flick, diving right into the cliches and shamelessly, even proudly, copying each one. Christmas Inheritance, though, puts a little too much effort into establishing its contrived plot – but when we already know what’s going to happen anyway, it really shouldn’t bother. When it comes to a Christmas film, we’re happy with beans on toast: we don’t need cheese and Worcestershire sauce on sourdough bread to go with it.
Ellen, we quickly discover, is a self-centred woman who has no idea how the real world works. She doesn’t know how to live without a cell phone, use a vacuum cleaner or catch a bus. And, of course, she’s exceptionally clumsy, because romantic comedy rules dictate that all women are clumsy, despite Ellen being introduced to us as an experienced gymnast – and so we see her break a vacuum clearer, lose her clothes in the snow, and even get confused by some eggs. It’s that kind of overdone approach that stops Christmas Inheritance from being just silly enough to enjoy.
Why does Ellen find herself in a nightmarish land of cleaning implements, cold weather and eggs? That would be because her father wants to teach her the importance of goodwill and hard work – and so he dispatches her to the town of Snow Falls (yes, really) with the task of delivering some handwritten letters to Zeke, the co-founder of Jim’s company. It’s an annual tradition, she’s told, one that requires her to travel with no credit cards and only $100 in cash. Oh, and lie about her identity in case anyone should discover who she is – because reasons.
Naturally, her journey takes her away from her horrible fiance, Gray, and plumps her in the lap of Jake (Lacey), a well-meaning local with bad hair but a good heart. He, it turns out, is the town’s local cab driver and motel manager, because one meet-cute isn’t enough to make it clear that they’ll be checking in with each other before the movie’s over.
All of this is performed with real charm by The Office’s Jake Lacey and The 100’s Eliza Taylor, who have cute chemistry and bring a genuine likability to their roles – no mean feat for Taylor, whose character only develops a conscience after 45 minutes. But Dinah Eng’s script refuses to sit back and coast on their charisma, wrapping things up in a way that only leaves you wondering what exactly a gifts company is – and why a film about someone learning that there’s more to life than work and wealth would then decide to spend Christmas working anyway. It’s almost so bad its good, if only Christmas Inheritance would stop trying so hard to be just that.
Christmas Inheritance is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.