By Leah Martindale, Film & TV Editor
Netflix’s newest foray into Christmas idiocy is The Knight Before Christmas (2019). From laughably poor acting to a shocking lack of set variation, and a cringe-worthy script to an uncountable array of historical impossibilities: this is the hate-watch we all need this festive season.
Vanessa Hudgens’ career seems to be booming exponentially in the Michael Buble, Mariah Carey direction that consists of a year-long hibernation and Christmas emergence. The Princess Switch (2018) and its currently pre-production The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020) saw her embodying Chicagoan baker Stacy De Nova and ‘Belgravian’ look-alike soon-to-be-princess Lady Margaret.
The Knight Before Christmas sees her as Brooke, a high school science teacher who falls in love with a time-travelling medieval knight in the week preceding Christmas. Rarely has a film ever made me as angry as this while simultaneously entertaining me as easily. When, at forty minutes in, in classic Leah fashion, I had to take my shirt off to combat the rage-sweats, I knew this was a film that would go down in history - for better, or worse.
Josh Whitehouse of Poldark (2015-2019) fame plays Sir ‘Cole’, the dudebro transported by a magical amulet from 1334 Norwich to a present-day American town that has apparently pooled every available resource into Christmas decorations: perhaps even taking taxpayers’ money from the police force that can apparently only afford two officers.
While Whitehouse is hardly difficult to look at, the logic of his casting ends there. The role of only moderately bewildered time-traveller functions on two ends of the actor spectrum: you either need a dough-faced comedian like Jim Carrey to cartoonishly gawk and spin at the mysteries of the future, or a man with the relative attractiveness of your first crush and the acting range of a Subway gherkin, like Chris Pine.
The Green Green Grass’ (2005-2009) Mrs. Cakeworthy, Ella Kenion, plays the unironically named ‘Old Crone’, and a host of disappointing child-actors assaulted my ears with slow cue-card reading at every spare availability. Even with acting faults aside, the film is riddled with inaccuracies that make it near impossible to watch without a running commentary of your incredulous flatmates.
Why is Cole’s name ‘Cole’? Why can he read contemporary English if he is from the 1300s? Why did it only take one night’s Netflix binge - obviously featuring a plug of the infinitely better The Holiday Calendar (2018) - for him to go from ‘prithee m’lady’ to ‘lit AF’? Why does he understand the phrases ‘boyfriend’ and ‘cheated on’?
Rarely has a film ever made me as angry as this while simultaneously entertaining me as easily
There are as many unanswered questions as there are ridiculous suspensions of disbelief in The Knight Before Christmas. From Hudgens’ character blatantly breaking safeguarding laws by vastly oversharing about her personal life to a student in the supermarket, to the confusion surrounding Christmas magic - does it exist? Where did that puppy come from? - the film is a milieu of mishegas.
I want to watch a Vanessa Hudgens Netflix movie every week https://t.co/qKVRhHXB0J— Ira Madison III (@ira) November 8, 2019
I can only assume that masses of this film remains on the cutting room floor. What to Expect When You’re Expecting’s (2012) Mimi Gianopulos plays Brooke’s antagonistic neighbour Alyson; present in approximately eight minutes of screentime, she still manages to clearly embody every element of the rom-com wannabe-other-woman.
At only 92 minutes runtime it is fair to assume her character was intended to be far more relevant and was severely cut, otherwise screenwriter Cara J. Russell has much to answer for.
The film is a milieu of mishegas
The real meat of the film remained: a Hallmarky romance, adventures in Amazon’s Alexa, and a dalliance with death in the form of a generous poorly-acted child and her openly impoverished friend. A Christmas feast, charitable event, and a grown man nearly eating a skunk pepper the script, alongside a wardrobe and makeup department with far too little regulation.
The film has a clearer sequel set-up than I have ever seen before. Cole’s brother Sir Geoffrey was handed an amulet - glowing red to contrast Cole’s blue - by the aforementioned Crone as the credits rolled, establishing Netflix’s intentions to extend this hellish ride for at least one other film.
In the face of all this criticism, it would be fair to assume I had not liked this film. If you were to assume this, you would be even more foolish than the film itself. This is the Christmas film I never knew I needed: its ridiculous content and subpar filmmaking is exactly the pick-me-up I needed this festive season, and I am readier than ever for the incoming influx of far superior Christmas cinema.
Featured: IMDb | Netflix / Brooke Palmer
Does a Christmas film have to be good to be entertaining?