Netflix has been the home of extravagant Christmas movies for some time now, and this year was no exception. We had the musical wonderment of the very good Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, the romcom cheesiness of The Princess Switch: Switched Again, and the warmheartedness of Christmas Chronicles 2.
Well, all good things must come to an end, and it's our sad job to report that the end came with Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square (after a brief hiccup with Operation Christmas Drop, of course). The titular queen (and she is a queen) can do everything, it seems, but make a really good Christmas movie. Or even a passable one.
It brings us no joy to be Scrooges about this movie — we wanted to love it, but it's not even so bad it's good. It's just bad.
This is no fault of its star Christine Baranski, who plays the wealthy Regina Fuller. Regina inherits Fullerville after her father dies, and all she wants to do is sell the town, and its residents (a very diverse crowd, we'll certainly give Netflix kudos for that, even if the execution of the diversity leaves something to be desired) are being forced out on Christmas eve to make way for a shopping mall.
It follows the exact trajectory you'd expect, and is a watered-down version of A Christmas Carol but instead of terrifying ghosts we have the angelic Dolly Parton, decked out in rhinestones, singing sweetly. But even her voice can't rescue this film from itself.
The first and most glaring thing is you can genuinely tell the whole thing was filmed on a set in a studio. There's an odd quality to the way all the shots in the titular 'square' are filmed, and you know there's no winter sun high in the sky, nor a twinkling star.
Then there's the musical numbers themselves, which, beyond showcasing the cast's formidable vocal talents, add nothing to the film expositionally or emotionally, try as they might. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the film is heavy on god-with-a-capital-G, and while yes we know Christmas is a religious holiday, it doesn't feel genuine to the characters, but as if each mention of the 'big guy' is fulfilling a quota.
Don't forget the wild detour into Regina's 'unhappy' memories of her late teen years in Fullerville. We won't spoil them for you, but suffice to say it's a tonal whiplash of a ride.
Let's spare a thought for Baranski, who acts circles around her co-stars and proves that she can do great things with even the silliest of lines. In fact, the moments of pure joy and laughter come at her perfect delivery of lines such as: "I hope if I have another hallucination it won't be wearing rhinestones."
If you want some background noise that's vaguely Christmassy, this could be your movie. But we'd suggest any of the aforementioned Netflix holiday fare before we recommended this one, sadly.
Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square is now available on Netflix
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