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A Clüsterfünke Christmas
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Anna Dokoza
prd John MacCarthy
scr Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer
with Vella Lovell, Cheyenne Jackson, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Ryan McPartlin, Nils Hognestad, Aaron Douglas, Kwasi Thomas, Sharon Crandall, Michael Benyaer, Daylin Willis, Maya Rudolph
release US 4.Dec.21
21/US MTV 1h27
Is it streaming?
How do you poke fun at already ridiculous Christmas TV movies? Actor-writers Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer opt for a warm approach, crafting a dead-on impersonation of one of these films. While it has some big laughs, it's perhaps too subtle for its own good, relying on a jaunty tone and forced smiles. Thankfully, innuendo keeps us chuckling, and the film's sweet nature might even spark some festive spirit.
In the run-up to the holidays, property developer Holly (Lovell) heads to Maine to buy up a family-run hotel so she can turn it into a massive resort. She arrives just in time for the annual Santa Bonfire Festival, and is welcomed at the Clusterfunke Inn by old-timey proprietors Marga and Hildy (Dratch and Gasteyer). Their wildly hunky nephew Frank (Jackson) is the handyman, and of course he and Holly flirt as much as they butt heads about whether the hotel is for sale. Then her wealthy, beefy ex Chance (McPartlin) turns up unannounced.
Gags range from absurdly broad to so clever you might miss them. Unable to afford the rights to a certain mega-hit, Holly's digital assistant instead plays the hilarious All I'll Have for Christmas Is Fruit by a dreamy Mariah clone (Rudolph). Scenes are peppered with witty product placement, and every set is an explosion of lurid Christmas decorations, usually with a chunk of warm strudel on offer. Squiggly flashbacks offer jokey histories, there are several goofy montages, and townsfolk poke fun at pretty much every cliche of the genre, right to the sing-song finale.
Lovell plays it relatively straight as the chirpy, snowglobe-loving career woman who doesn't want to be distracted by all of this holiday cheer, because it only reminds her of her tough childhood. Her awkward romance plays out along the expected trajectory, although Jackson adds some nicely twisted energy as the likeable Frank, whose rivalry with McPartlin's swaggering Chance is even more ridiculous than expected. Meanwhile, Dratch and Gasteyer are essentially playing sketch-comedy characters, and thankfully they're very good at it.
While the film provides plenty of seasonal silliness, there isn't enough going on under the surface to make this a comedy classic. Pointed subtext might have made the whole project both funnier and less forgettable. But jokes about ethnicity and sexuality, while topical and clever, are nutty observations rather than meaningful jabs. Even the whole property development plot is a throwaway bit. And at least now we have a dopey Christmas romcom that's worthy of being a guilty pleasure.
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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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