Imagine if you will: You’re watching ‘Last Christmas’ at your local theater. Near the end of the second act you feel your phone go off in your pocket (you can’t hear it since it’s muted it because you’re not an idiot). Your friend has been diarrhea poisoned and needs your help right away.
You dart out of the theater thinking, “man, that was a completely satisfactory hour – I don’t know how it ends, but at least this wasn’t a waste of my time.”
In that scenario, you are the winner. And everyone that sat through the final third – me included – are the losers. We lost and we lost big.
Kate (Emilia Clarke) is a former singing prodigy who, after a near-death medical scare, lets life get away from her. Her voice is gone, she can’t get gigs, she’s basically homeless, she drinks too much, she doesn’t get along with her family, and she works as an elf at a year-round Christmas store.
Things begin to look up, however, when she (repeatedly) bumps into Tom (Henry Golding) – a handsome, charming, charitable, and mysterious young man who takes an interest in her. Refusing to see only the negative qualities fully on display to everyone else, Tom shows Kate that there’s more to life than how she’s been living.
But, as is the case in every romantic comedy, Tom’s mysterious ways cause a rift between the two. Can they overcome his big secret, or will it drive a wedge between them forever?
Perfectly acceptable for a holiday-tinged rom-com, right?
Then the big twist comes. And it’s stupid. Man is it stupid. It’s so, so stupid that it ruins pretty much everything leading up to it. I mean, they try to turn it around my leaning heavily on some feel-good redemptive moments and George Michael tunes (which serve as the backbone of the film), but it doesn’t really get the job done.
Not only does the twist negate any good will built up in the first two-thirds of the movie, but it also wastes otherwise enjoyable performances from Clarke and Golding, as well as Michelle Yeoh who is a scene-stealer as Kate’s boss, Santa.
Given the cast and the fact that director Paul Feig’s most recent outing, ‘A Simple Favor,’ was one of my favorite films of 2018, I had high hopes. Sadly, he followed the hit-miss pattern that is the story of his career and delivered what’s little more than a Hallmark Christmas movie with a larger budget.
★½ of ★★★★★
Jared Huizenga is a freelance film critic and the owner of www.ManVersusMovie.com.