So up front: I love Christmas. As soon as Santa shows up in the Macy’s Parade, I go all out. In all ways but one: I don’t do Christmas Movies.
Well, okay. I do It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas. I even do the contentious “set at Christmas so they’re Christmas movies” movies. I don’t do Christmas Movies: holiday-centric romance between extremely attractive people where a lonely woman learns the magic of Christmas from a handsome but somehow weird dude. The kind that come out hand-over-fist at the end of every year.
This year, I said “screw it.” I went there. And since I love terrible puns, there was only one I could watch: The Knight Before Christmas.
I don’t know what I was expecting, and honestly, I’m still not sure what I got.
The flick stars Disney Channel sweetheart Vanessa Hudgens as Brooke, a teacher who’s recently gone through a bad breakup with her cheating ex. Now she’s doling out cynical dating advice to her students. Meanwhile, back in 1334, actual knight Sir Cole runs into an “old crone” (actually a pleasant-looking lady with a weird sense of humor) who sends him on a journey to fulfill a knightly quest before Christmas day. What that entails, he’ll have to figure out for himself. He’s transported to the future where he meets Brooke and the two hit it off, despite literally everyone assuming he’s a cosplayer with head trauma.
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You’ve probably already taken a crack at guessing the plot, and… you’re right. Medieval boy has hard time in future, acclimates, falls in love with teacher. Also, you’ve guessed the ending. I promise. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s what happens.
But let’s get to the meat of this: this is three different movies I’ve already seen, disguised as a Netflix Christmas romance. All told, this comes out as a bizarre mash-up of Thor, George of the Jungle, and the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie. Or rather, it’s a distillation of what makes all of those movies weirdly similar: eccentric handsome long-haired man shows up, spends some time shirtless, and melts a career woman’s heart. The problem is, that shtick relies on the guy actually being charismatic, as opposed to just weird. And it takes a while for our romantic lead to warm up to that.
In the early scenes, Josh Whitehouse’s Cole doesn’t seem like a knight so much as a guy whose buddies said they’d give him a sixer of Bud Light if he acted like a knight for an hour. A night sampling the streaming entertainment in Brooke’s guest house sets that mostly right, and by the end of the movie he’s basically modern day boyfriend material. It’s still predictable and hits every expected beat of a sappy romance, but hell, he improves.
The part that bothered me most? I was actually kind of tearing up by the end. And there’s no call for that. Why do I care about these two? This whole movie is ridiculous. It’s so predictable that I can name at least a dozen fanfics I’ve read with this same plot in some form. And yet, there it is. It got me. And I’m cross about it.
Can I recommend The Knight Before Christmas? Like… no. Not really. There are some cute scenes but it’ll take you an awkward hour to get to them. There’s a cool bit where Cole builds a bonfire and tries to fight a skunk, but again, a lot of work for little payoff. Just go watch George of the Jungle and hang a Santa hat on the corner of the TV, and you’ll get pretty much the same effect.
In the meantime, I think I’ve satiated my Christmas movie curiosity… is what I’d like to say, but I sense myself diving into another one with a punny title out of morbid curiosity.