Christmas With You review: Freddie Prinze Jr. can’t save Christmas
Starring Aimee Garcia, the music-focused Christmas is a beat-for-beat mashup of fluffy references and cheesy acting in one mindlessly numbing Christmas film.
It’s been 18 years since Freddie Prinze Jr. made his last Scooby-Doo appearance, but the beloved ’90s teen star is still unsolving the puzzle of becoming a compelling actor. Not wanting to sound like a total Scrooge, but Netflix’s “Christmas with You” is such a pathetic approach to holiday rom-com numbers that it forgets the most important ingredient: It even lacks the spirit of Christmas itself.
Gabriela Tagliavini’s film stars Prinze Miguel, a single music teacher whose talented singer daughter Cristina (Deja Monique Cruz) uploads a rendition of pop star Angelina’s (Aimee Garcia) hit to Instagram. Angelina’s own ailing music career hinges on a Christmas hit, all the better to emulate Mariah Carey’s career (this is an actual reference in the film), but Angelina just can’t get into the Christmas spirit as she’s always reminded that she’s no longer relevant.
Well, that will never be resolved. Instead, Angelina tracks down Cristina and eventually hires Miguel to help write her ballad.
The only thing that happens in this boring, mindless film are several lengthy dance sequences, including an opening number that would make Ally’s spasmodic “SNL” performance look like the VMAs. “Christmas With You” would be forgivable if it appeared the cast were having fun behind the scenes or even trying it out on screen. It’s only Cruz’s upbeat attitude that makes “Christmas with You” somewhat bearable, and even then, the young actress is grossly underrated.
Pop star Angelina’s plight is that she is a “perfectionist” and therefore a hardcore career woman who has given up her chance for true, non-public love. While pretending to still be in a relationship with her ex, famed telenovela actor Ricardo (Gabriel Sloyer), Angelina faces a “Girls5Eva” problem: her music is being sampled by someone younger, and label manager “Billion Dollar” Barry (Lawrence J. Hughes) threatens to demote her from his list. All she needs is a Christmas miracle to fix her “outdated” TikToks and bad Bumble profile so she can publicly leave Ricardo for good.
Too bad this movie doesn’t have any magic to help her in this quest.
“Christmas With You” isn’t some escapist holiday fantasy like the best, most adorable Christmas treat that’s as easy to consume as sugar cookies. Even “Christmas with You” doesn’t offer Prinze a career comeback like Lindsay Lohan’s surprisingly perfect, smart holiday romcom “Falling for Christmas”. Instead, “Christmas with You” is clunky and cranky, doing half-hearted digs at “salad diets” and pretending to be cute by having Angelina munch on celery kept in a decorative vase (girl, those stalks belong in the fridge).
The plot is part Marry Me and part Hallmark vacation movie, although the cable network movies seem to average higher stakes. And even “Marry Me” star Jennifer Lopez herself is credited in this meta-moment of trying to be cute, with Angelina mentioning that she missed her own quinceañera when she was a backup dancer for Jenny from the Block has worked . Like J.Lo would keep kids busy on tour?! Miguel is even a school teacher, just like Owen Wilson’s “Marry Me” character. We’ve all done this before, but no one can touch Lopez’s onscreen charisma, vocals, and dance chops, so it’s not even a comparison, even with Garcia’s theater background.
Angelina is determined to get “Beyoncé numbers” on social media, and she’s been told by several people that her “outfit is on fire.” Written by Paco Farias, Jennifer C. Stetson, and Michael Varrati, the screenplay feels like a Mad Libs take on “modern” jargon, making “Christmas with You” instantly overtake itself. Moments that seek out real emotion include Angelina’s bond with Miguel’s daughter Cristina because they both have dead mothers (the key to any good Christmas movie, as the NCU aka Netflix Christmas Universe tells us). There is no sparkle between Miguel and Angelina, even with a sensual tamale preparation without any spices.
In fact, this film features the least pretend attempt at real love between Miguel and Cristina, culminating in their quinceañera. When the highlight of your holiday rom-com has nothing to do with romance or Christmas, there is a problem. “Christmas with You” is almost unapologetically boring and only makes one want to fast-forward through the hilarious jokes about selfies and Milan Fashion Week to remind us it’s Angelina famous and ask, we don’t have fun still?!
Not even Santa can save “Christmas with You,” and he wasn’t invited to perform in this cheerless reminder that sometimes having Silent Night is better than a crappy movie.
Christmas with You begins streaming on Netflix on Thursday, November 17th.
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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/11/christmas-with-you-review-freddie-prinze-jr-netflix-rom-com-1234781623/ Christmas With You review: Freddie Prinze Jr. can’t save Christmas