A Hollywood Xmas, the newest Warner Bros. original movie streaming on HBO Max, could easily fit at home on Hallmark and Lifetime.
You might find yourself thinking, haven’t I seen this movie before? Well, the answer is yes and no. Where indie comedy Cup of Cheer spoofs all the tropes, this film takes it to a different level. Jessica (Jessika Van) is directing her newest Xmas movie for the network–starring Ashley (Riley Dandy) and Michael (Zak Steiner) as Chloe and Jeb. Almost as soon as filming starts, she finds herself needing a new extra because one guy took the job despite a dog allergy. That’s when she sees Christopher (Josh Swickard) standing at the craft services table. What Jessica does not know is that Christopher is a new network executive. And so, their own romantic comedy begins. Jessica does not believe it at first but her own assistant, Reena (Anissa Borrego), points out the irony: she’s in a Xmas movie of her own.
This film has all of the holiday movie tropes:
- Actors falling in love, only to find one of them has a girlfriend, break up, and get back together
- A dog who keeps getting lost
- Jessica’s growing feelings for Christopher
- A magical Santa Clause
- A montage sequence with no spoken words prior to the happy ending
- The corporate executive–Theresa Frost (Missi Pyle)–who undoes the damage after remembering what the holiday is all about.
Jessica knows one thing and that’s making Xmas movies. Before the network gets involved and threatens to shut production down, A Cupcake Xmas was coming in on budget and schedule. All of the arcs play out in the film-within-a-film even as Jessica is filming it. I chuckled a few times during the film but not that much. But still, the film has a way of tugging at your emotions because this genre has a way of doing that, for better or worse.
This film is different from similar movies to an extent. I cannot say that I’ve seen one about a Hollywood director yet. The all-too-familiar tropes bring an added twist. You’ve seen one movie, you’ve seen them all. The trick to the approach is how do you change up the genre. If you’ve seen the many Hallmark and Lifetime movies, they’re so white and cis-het. While this film is very cis-het, it’s not as white when it comes to the leads. Jessika Van is of Asian descent. However, the film that she’s shooting does feature a blonde white woman. As such, one of the films are playing to the holiday movie formula. We need to talk, Hallmark and Lifetime. These two networks dominate the Xmas holiday movies. Even when they attempt a Chanukah movie, Hallmark will still disguise it as an Xmas movie. This is not the way!
It’s not lost on me that Warner Bros. is the studio behind the movie. The film gets particularly meta with divisions being shutdown at the network–this film gets the happy ending but other films and series the real-life studio did not. If you’ve been living in a cave this year, Warner Bros. is the same studio who shut down a few films because of wanting a tax write-off. Maybe David Zaslav needed to be cast in a Hollywood movie and that would have made all the difference for Batgirl and SCOOB? This is a subject that still hits a sour note a few months later. But I digress.
For me, the fun personally came in recognizing the many sites on the Warner Bros. backlot. If you’ve been on the tour or watched series like Gilmore Girls, Hart of Dixie, Pretty Little Liars, and more, the buildings and gazebo will be familiar. To my knowledge, the Friends fountain does not make an apperance.
DIRECTOR: Alex Ranarivelo
SCREENWRITER: Josh Ducey
CAST: Jessika Van, Josh Swickard, Anissa Borrego, Riley Dandy, Zak Steiner, Tom Williamson, and Missi Pyle
Warner Bros./HBO Max released A Hollywood Xmas on December 1, 2022. Grade: 3/5
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