Netflix UK TV review: The (Holiday) Movies That Made Us
James R | On 28, Dec 2020
A winning combination of nostalgia and pop culture trivia, with a sprinkling of historical context, made Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us a winning documentary series charting the history of some of the world’s most famous toys. The Moves That Made Us takes that same formula and applies it to cinema, something just as familiar, influential and woven into our childhoods.
Created once again by Brian Volk-Weiss, the spin-off series first arrived on our screens in 2019, with a quartet of episodes telling the stories behind such classics as Dirty Dancing and Ghostbusters. It’s a light and fast-paced offering, one that doesn’t consider the formative themes and ideas contained within these 80s icons, but instead races through the nuts and bolts of making them within 40 minutes. It does so through a mix of crew member talking heads and facts, all stitched together with clips from the finished product.
The former are the selling point of the series, because the show doesn’t have access to the biggest stars or even the directors, but rather the unsung heroes on the ground whose anecdotes don’t usually get heard – that means a tasty amount of on-set drama and conflict, even on the most seemingly trouble-free productions.
The latter is the show’s signature style but also occasionally its weakness. The behind-the-scenes commentary comes with playfully selected snippets of the movie that reply or remark about what we’ve just learnt – usually in conversation with the irreverent voiceover that often feels like it’s trying too hard to be funny.
But nonetheless there’s an appeal to delving through the production diaries of recognisable film favourites – and with two of the first season’s chosen targets being Christmas films (Home Alone and Die Hard), it’s only natural that Season 2 (dubbed The Holiday Movies That Made Us) should explicitly be dedicated to festive offerings.
It’s here that the show really does hit its stride, serving up often unknown information about each movie’s origins: Elf turns out to be an against-the-odds project that originated far from the mainstream studio system, while The Nightmare Before Christmas was a hot-bed of tensions (Tim Burton apparently kicked a hole in a wall at one point). From the stop-motion lovingly (and hurriedly) crafted for Jon Favreau’s Rankin/Bass-inspired North Pole to the deliberate absence of any right angles in Halloweentown, there’s an array of genuinely insightful details to be unwrapped.
With only a few episodes per season, though, The Movies That Made Us is mainly hamstrung by a lack of less familiar titles – its consciously nostalgia-driven strategy for selecting its subject matter will both attract an audience but also leave them starved of more surprising or comprehensive movie history. For that, we’d recommend The Holiday Season or Film Stories podcasts. As a starter to those main courses, though, this is an entertaining, interesting romp through film history.
The Movies That Made Us and The Holiday Movies That Made Us is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.