Netflix UK film review: The Knight Before Christmas
Matthew Turner | On 13, Dec 2019
Director: Monika Mitchell
Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Whitehouse, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Ella Kenion, Isabelle Franca, Harry Jarvis
Watch The Knight Before Christmas 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.
Netflix seem to be getting better at the whole Christmas original thing because The Last Knight is a cut above some of their other seasonal offerings. Part of that is down to the sheer star power of Vanessa Hudgens, who lights up this time-travel-themed fantasy romance with the sparkle of a billion fairy lights.
Josh Whitehouse (who looks a lot like a young Hugh Jackman) plays Sir Cole of Norwich, a 14th century knight who’s magically transported to present-day Ohio, where he meets high school science teacher Brooke (Hudgens), who is disillusioned with romance. As Sir Cole adjusts to his new surroundings, Brooke gradually comes to believe his story and they fall in love. But what happens when he has to return to his own time?
In conventional plot terms, this is surprisingly simplistic: Brooke and Sir Cole fall for each other almost immediately and there are none of the traditional obstacles standing in their way – even a philandering ex-boyfriend is barely given screen time and the film actively swerves away from a potential flirty neighbour subplot. Similarly, Sir Cole is supposed to be completing a quest before Christmas Eve, but the plot treats that very much as an afterthought, instead concentrating on fish-out-of-water comedy (Sir Cole dealing with Alexa, TV, car stereos, that sort of thing) and a heartwarming Christmas message about kindness.
Fortunately, what the film lacks in plot, it more than makes up for in chemistry. Hudgens and Waterhouse are utterly charming together and even just the way they look at each other will give you all of the feels. Waterhouse, in particular, has the charming Britishness of peak Hugh Grant (his chiselled abs don’t hurt either), while Hudgens can make you go “awwww” out loud without realising it.
There are a couple of missteps, such as Sir Cole’s brief foray into modern slang (a gag that is thankfully quickly dropped) and a couple of word choices that presumably cost the film a PG rating, even if they do get a couple of laughs, such as Sir Cole referring to Brooke’s ex as “The Douche”, like he’s saying “The Duke”.
Monika Mitchell’s direction is solid throughout – she’s especially good at having amusing things happening in the background of scenes, although that backfires with her treatment of Ella Kenion’s “Old Crone” (the character responsible for Sir Cole’s time travel in the first place), who’s often in the background in the present-day scenes, without the film ever really establishing what she’s doing there.
In the end, this is more Christmas movie than time-travel movie or traditional rom-com and, to that end, there’s no doubting the sincerity of its central moral. It’s just a shame the plot is so paper-thin. Still, if you’re looking for that warm Christmassy glow this holiday, you could do worse.
The Knight Before Christmas is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.