The Princess Switch (2018)TWITTER/TEAMSTATEMENT

The Christmas film is perhaps one of the most beloved and most over-saturated genres. Whether your family sit down in December to watch Macaulay Culkin defending his home from burglars, Jim Carrey stealing presents from children, or Bruce Willis taking on a gang of German terrorists, we all love a film at Christmas.

While plenty of timeless classics may spring to mind when you think of the season ahead, new films enter the market every year, many aiming for the same high status — but some clearly not.

The formula for the perfect, cheesy Christmas movie was discovered and perfected by Hallmark years ago, and they’ve been churning out their feel-good but ultimately forgettable Christmas flicks for years now; however, this phenomenon, previously largely confined to US, went global when this formula was taken up by Netflix, who’ve since begun producing and sharing their own line of loveably corny Christmas films with the world.

“As has probably already become clear, the creative scope for these films is, at best, limited”.

And they’ve had great success. One of their biggest and most iconic hits has been A Christmas Prince, which sees a journalist fall in love with the prince she has been sent undercover to investigate — at Christmas, of course. Netflix revealed in a tweet in 2017, shortly after the film’s release, that 53 people had watched the film for 18 consecutive days, asking, “Who hurt you?”

The Christmas Prince (2017) TWITTER/MTV

Vanessa Hudgens has apparently determined to become the face of Netflix’s Christmas range, starring in both 2018’s The Princess Switch, a festive retelling of The Princess and the Pauper, and 2019’s The Knight Before Christmas, which is exactly what it sounds like. This year will see her return as not two but three characters in the sequel to The Princess Switch, The Princess Switch: Switched Again, and with a third film already confirmed for next year, she could well go on to play a fourth.

As has probably already become clear, the creative scope for these films is, at best, limited. In the case of Hallmark and Netflix Christmas films, the focus tends to be on romance, and all the basic stories have already been told. Once someone raised their voice to suggest a girl fall in love with a medieval knight at Christmas, perhaps Netflix should have realised it was time to pack it in.

“The stories themselves, though they occasionally push the boundaries of plausibility, are charmingly simple”.

But despite their lack of originality, their tendency towards cringe, and wealth of plotholes, these films continue to pull in audiences, becoming beloved in their own right. So how are they doing it?

I would argue that these cringy Christmas films have something the classics don’t. The budget may be low and the acting may be stilted, but these films know what they are and they don’t try to be anything else. As I said before, the directors of these films are clearly under no illusion that they’re making classics. These are throwaway films, made to be enjoyed once and spoken of again only with heavy irony and mocking. These films aren’t meant to entertain you for years to come — their sole intention is to entertain you for the hour or two you commit to them. And if you can overcome your initial reservations, they will do.

Holidate (2020) starring Emma Roberts and Luke BraceyTWITTER/T4SOFYSTORE

The stories themselves, though they occasionally push the boundaries of plausibility, are charmingly simple. You need not prepare yourself for any breath-taking plot twists or stunning reversals of fate in these films. You will most likely be able to guess the entire plot of the film within its first ten to fifteen minutes. Instead, these films are almost refreshing in their formulaic nature. The heroine will marry the prince. The kingdom will be saved. Everyone will remember the true meaning of Christmas. There’s a heart-warming sincerity to these modern fairy tales — and isn’t that what Christmas is all about?


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The highlights of the Christmas season on Netflix this year are likely to be Holidate, starring Emma Roberts, and the TV series adaptation of David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s 2010 novel Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, titled simply Dash & Lily.

Kat Graham in The Holiday Calendar (2018)TWITTER/MRSMARIIIIE

Alongside these bigger projects, however, the streaming service has also already released a feast of quality Christmas cheese for you to sink your teeth into. Vanessa Hudgens will be returning as aforementioned with the sequel to The Princess Switch. Kat Graham, who entered the world of cringy Christmas cinema last year with The Holiday Calendar, takes on her second such film in Operation Christmas Drop. Many older Hallmark Christmas films are also hitting the platform, including Christmas Made to Order, starring Jonathan Bennett of Mean Girls.

So, when you sit down this Christmas, mince pie or mulled wine in hand, and find yourself flicking through Netflix, don’t overlook a film that might seem less than highbrow. It might just surprise you.

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