Sunday, December 3, 2023

Straight to Streaming Christmas: Candy Cane Lane (2023), Genie (2023) and Noelle (2019)

Watched:  CCL 12/01/2023, G 11/27/2023, N 12/02/2023
Format:  Amazon Prime/ The 'Cock/ Disney+
Viewing:  First for all
Director:  Reginald Hudlin / Sam Boyd / Marc Lawrence

We have a lot going on, and so we've been seeking out comfort-food-movies.  As this is the Holiday Season, that means Christmas-related movies.  

Yes, we've watched a shit-ton of Hallmark movies, enough so that I've forgotten all that we've watched and I'm not sure I'll post on it.  Instead, I'm taking a look at three of the "well, it's free on the service" movies we watched this week.  

I don't understand what the story is/ was on Noelle (2019).  It was listed as a 2019 release, and maybe it was.  I mostly remember it as one of the first "originals" I saw listed on Disney+, but not something I'd gotten around to watching (this makes me want to rewatch Togo, which I remember really liking).  But no one ever mentioned the movie to me, and so it just kind of fell into the background.  But maybe it had a theatrical run? 

But, this being 2023, we finally got to it.  

Look, Noelle is not "art".  It's the 10,000th "there's an emergency at the North Pole and Christmas is threatened" movie to be released since the 1980's.  But once you gird your loins for that, it's really about execution on that premise.  And, by that standard, it's fine.  Anna Kendrick is funny, the application of technology to Christmas feels a little too real, and Shirley MacLaine is a delight.

On the flipside, Candy Cane Lane was, as I declared at the 2/3rds mark "literally one of the worst movies-with-a-budget I've ever seen".  And, despite starring Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, and several other people I genuinely like - and direction by Reginald Hudlin, I mean it.  The movie was so bad I just became angry at about the 1/3rd mark, and it got worse from there.

Jamie was more angry with Genie (2023), now streaming on The 'Cock, than myself.  I was just severely bored and realized I may be done for a minute with comedies that are just turning on the camera while a comedic actor mugs and our straight-man just stands there.   It's the latest Melissa McCarthy vehicle, and while I bear no ill-will to this McCarthy (versus her cousin), it would have been okay if this movie didn't exist or I hadn't put it on.

This post exists because I don't see how one marginally predictable but kind of funny movie got the same ratings as a movie that spent what was clearly an ungodly amount of money and then steadfastly refused to be funny at any point, waited 40 minutes to really settle into the plot, and was resolutely, angrily not good just continued to happen at me.  Genie was just...  forgettable holiday fluff taking the standard-issue subplot of "busy dad almost loses family, learns meaning of Christmas" and made it the main and only plot.

Noelle is listed at 55% on Rotten Tomatoes and 48 on Metacritic, which - okay.  But Candy Cane Lane (2023), an absolute trainwreck of a movie, came in at 46% on RT and 47 on Metacritic.  And Genie is at an abysmal 32% on RT and a 35 on Metacritic.

Frankly, I'll take being forgettable and having no reason to exist before I'll take "this is funny!  No?  How about this?  No.  Well, surely this!  Oh.  Sorry." that was my experience with Candy Cane Lane.  And that movie clearly could have been funny just based on who showed up for the movie.  It just aggressively was not.  With Genie - if you're surprised by what you're getting with a Melissa McCarthy movie, that's on you, mon ami.  I just didn't think Noelle was, in fact, bad.  It just wasn't great.  And it basically seemed to get that Christmas is not just there to punch you in the nuts and interrupt your flow.

But the last big Christmas breakout movie was almost 20 years ago now with Elf.  It's been a really, really long time since anything particularly landed with an audience.  

I dunno.  We're all looking for something not-traumatic to watch as we hit the holidays, and we've all seen all the classics so many times, we can chant along with them, from Holiday Inn to Die Hard.  And basic cable has the Christmas movies that really, REALLY love Christmas all sewn up.  

But, man, it's also clear we need to think about having something a bit fresher.  Maybe workaholic Dad is played out (I also watched Dashing Through the Snow this year).  Maybe "there's a problem at the North Pole and people need to get some Christmas spirit!" is over with.  And certainly the "let's make up the problem of people competing on yard ornaments, which is a thing that is not real, but for this movie it is" focus of so many of these movies needs to just die a quiet death.  

I don't know how to tell you to make a good Christmas movie, but it would be nice if it felt like the producers got that most of us just want to spend some time with loved ones  and enjoy some days off while we eat (and sometimes drink) together.  Kids are in these movies, but they seldom focus on the kids.  But Christmas is the biggest day of the year for a lot of kids.  Christmas Story may singularly be aware of that and show that experience.  If people actually hated Christmas as much as the movies suggest we do (and they do, often and loudly) then I imagine we'd have put it behind us.  

All I know is that if you're basically recycling a plot (and Noelle's biggest crime is that it's clearly trying to do some of the Elf schtick), then you need to work harder at the script stage.  But all of these movies clearly cost someone money.  

I guess this is what happens when your studio heads are interested not in movies, but in "content", because that's exactly what at least two of these feel like.  These are widgets made to resemble other, popular widgets.  And I can forgive Hallmark for being ridiculous, because they are.  You know that when you tune in for this $200K production.  But these movies cost real money that could have gone to something newer and betterer.

All that said, Noelle was fine.  It didn't need to get the bad reviews it got, and I wonder what it would get now, in 2023.

No comments: