Best. Christmas. Ever! 2023 Movie Review
It is a tradition that we (thank God) do not have in the Netherlands and that is in danger of being lost in America: sending a ‘holiday news letter’ at Christmas. In such a letter that everyone has to read, you write in detail what the past year has been like. With a good dose of boasting and photos of very happy family members, of course. In the twenty-first century it’s called Facebook or Instagram, but Jackie Jennings didn’t get that memo. She still just sticks stamps.
The worrying Charlotte Sanders also receives a paper news update every year from Jackie, who was once a good friend of hers and her husband Rob’s ex. Contact has faded and Charlotte is no longer interested in Jackie’s success stories. When her family plans to spend the holidays at her sister’s house, the journey ends up in front of the Jennings family’s villa. A snow shower naturally means that the Sanders family has to stay there until Christmas.
There are numerous Christmas films that have the forced gathering of different parties as their theme. Often with the unexpected snow shower as a handy cause. In terms of originality you don’t expect Best. Christmas. Ever. nothing to expect. Each next step can be drawn out after the first five minutes. It is also not so bad that a Christmas film is not original. As long as there is something to laugh about and the viewer is left with a warm feeling.
The latter is one of the few positive points of Best. Christmas. Ever. . You start to feel like Christmas again when the credits roll. Mainly because of the sweet voice of Brandy Norwood who sings Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town during the climax. That almost makes you forget the sleep-inducing plot, the predictable humor and the cringeworthy child actors of the seventy-five minutes before. That is, if you’ve made it this far. That’s the second positive point: the short length.
Norwood and Graham do their best to make something of the dynamic between rich and jealous, but that mainly ends in a contest of crazy, surprised and indignant faces about what the other has done again. Not that there’s much real struggle in the film. The tensions mainly concern flirtations with husbands and Charlotte’s search for the truth behind Jackie’s spiritual and material wealth. This of course leads to the obligatory tear-jerking moment and the subsequent catharsis. The viewer sees it coming from a mile away, but hey, it still contains a sensitive message. It’s before Christmas.
However, the feeling that will predominate is irritation. From bizarre product placement (a Santa Claus demonstratively drinking a can of Red Bull) to the soundtrack that mainly consists of whining and pinging to underline the ‘comic’ moments. But the biggest sinners are the child actors. Madison Skye Validum in particular as Jackie’s hyper-intelligent daughter is unbearable. Well, that is partly inherent in the role, because she wants to prove in a smart way that Santa Claus does not exist, but Validum tries way too hard to act like an adult pro. There is nothing childish or charming about that anymore.
At one point, one of the characters blesses us with the tile wisdom: “Everyone makes mistakes, that’s why there are erasers at the ends of pencils.” For Best. Christmas. Ever. director Mary Lambert needs a very large eraser.