While attending a recent conference in New York, Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos reported that, in the week since it debuted, the streaming giant's new original film The Christmas Chronicles—which stars Kurt Russell as a roguish but tenderhearted Santa—has exceeded 20 million views. "If every one of those [20 million streams] was a movie ticket purchase, that's a $200 million opening week," Sarandos gloated. "Even movies that go on to $1 billion don't typically do that in the first week."
Sarandos' brag is a false equivalency, since the majority of those viewers probably didn't purchase a Netflix subscription just so they could watch The Christmas Chronicles, and there's absolutely no way that many people would've pried their bums off the couch to go see it IRL if it'd been released in theaters. But still—20 million views. In one week. Assuming most of those viewers weren't repeat offenders, like the 53 Christmas Prince diehards who Netflix data-mined and brutally called out last year, that's a ridiculous number of people. And I am among you, my festive brethren—I have seen all four of Netflix's new seasonal offerings: The Holiday Calendar, The Princess Switch, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, and the aforementioned Christmas Chronicles.
The magnetic allure of Netflix's shit Christmas movies is mysterious and beyond my ability to explain. But I can tell you that they all have formulaic plots, foam snow that looks disgusting and wet, acting so stilted and awkward it'll make you think you've wandered into the uncanny valley, multiple instances of characters either watching Netflix or recommending titles that are currently available to stream on Netflix, and a strange fixation on princes from countries that love the yuletide season and have names ending with "-via." (Following in the footsteps of The Princess Diaries' fictional nation of "Genovia," A Christmas Prince takes place in "Aldovia" and The Princess Switch is set in "Belgravia." Based on their alpine terrain, I'm going to guess that all of these countries are supposed to be wedged somewhere between Slovenia and Austria.) Below are my very objective analyses and scores of these four cinematic... experiences.
The Holiday Calendar: 5/10 reindeer turds
Something fishy is going on with The Holiday Calendar—last year saw the release of a VERY SIMILAR film called The Christmas Calendar, and the parallels are staggering: The Holiday Calendar is about a struggling photographer who inherits a magic advent calendar that predicts the future with each passing day, while The Christmas Calendar is about a baker who receives a (presumably not magic) advent calendar from a secret admirer. Despite all of this, these movies were written by two different human beings, not robots. The Holiday Calendar is a mildly enjoyable Christmas romcom with a supernatural edge that is best experienced with some drugs.
The Princess Switch: 3.7/10 reindeer turds
This one did not agree with me. It's basically exactly the same storyline as A Christmas Prince, but with The Parent Trap's surprise twin/doppelgänger plot twist and subsequent life swap. High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens stars as both Chicago baker Stacy and Lady Margaret Delacourt, Duchess of Montenaro, who is engaged to Crown Prince Edward of Belgravia. It's predictable, sure, but for me the deal-breaker is the way the characters interact and how they respond to social cues. It made my skin crawl. Also: This guy—who I can only describe as an omniscient Christmas goblin, though he's credited as "kindly old man"—pops up throughout the film and gently pushes characters in the direction he wants them to go. Absolutely terrifying. No.
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding: 5.3/10 reindeer turds
This sequel to last year's A Christmas Prince picks up in the weeks before American magazine journalist Amber and Edward, Crown Prince of Belgravia, are set to marry. But Amber's attempts to assert her own personal autonomy spell trouble in this wintry paradise. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding reimagines the age-old tale of tradition clashing with societal progress, with a money scandal and some questionable anti-union sentiments sprinkled in for good measure, along with a hot cousin who might be evil (but maybe not?!).
The Christmas Chronicles: 6.1/10 reindeer turds
In The Christmas Chronicles, Kurt Russell is Santa and his real-life wife Goldie Hawn is Mrs. Claus. It's delightful—a classic "saving Christmas" story, but the stakes are raised, since Santa warns the last time Christmas didn't happen brought on the Dark Ages. (Also: At some point we need to interrogate the "saving Christmas" narrative; why is this dumb holiday always imperiled?) To travel the globe on Christmas Eve, he rides a mystical aurora borealis freeway while guzzling Yoo-Hoo. Be warned: There are topical jokes about fake news and pilates, plus parent death and a weird Christian interlude that totally kills the freewheelin' vibe. Also, CGI elves that look like they're half-feline, half-Furby.