Netflix continues its ongoing battle with Hallmark for the souls of middling Christmas movies everywhere.
In an effort to keep up with the Hallmark’s escalating Countdown to Christmas—which features a staggering 40 new films this year—Netflix has given us the gift of magic beans, off-brand Heath Ledgers, and “Bejabbers.” Bless.
In The Knight Before Christmas, Netflix’s reigning Christmas queen Vanessa Hudgens returns as kind but over-involved teacher Brooke, who forgets her heartbreak (healthy!) when she encounters Sir Cole Lyons (Josh Whitehouse), a 14th-Century knight who has been magically transported to present-day Ohio.
Sir Cole is just minding his own business on a falcon hunt (where apparently the bird does all the hunting?) when he encounters an “old crone” in the forest. The crone (Ella Kenion) gives him a shiny medallion and puts a spell on him, telling him he must complete his quest before midnight on Christmas Eve. If he fails, he won’t be able to return, and he’ll miss his brother Geoffrey’s (Harry Jarvis) knighting ceremony. Cole then disappears into a swirl of blue smoke, a trick every woman over 40 might like to use when called a crone. It happens.
Luckily for Cole, the town of Bracebridge, Ohio has something called a “Christmas Castle” so he feels right at home. After Brooke hits Sir Cole with her car, she decides that it is a totally normal thing to take this strange man and his large sword (not a euphemism) back to sleep in her guest house. In all fairness to Brooke, Cole is like a puppy in that he’s a big, adorable idiot.
From there, Knight takes all the predictable twists and turns, namely Cole charming Brooke’s circle of friends and family, performing acts of valor and teaching Brooke to knead bread (with King Arthur flour, natch). As Christmas Day draws near, Cole and Brooke grow closer, but will he complete his quest, making him a True Knight at last? Will Brooke stop giving relationship advice to teens? Will Cole make it home in time to see his brother knighted?
Netflix is growing increasingly comfortable in adding goofy magical elements to their Christmas fair, as with last year’s The Holiday Calendar, which centered on a magical advent calendar. The Knight Before Christmas is chock full of hand-wavy moments of “Oh, it must be Christmas magic!” which may or may not (but definitely doesn’t) add any value to a movie that already features a beautiful, time-traveling buffoon.
Cole then disappears into a swirl of blue smoke, a trick every woman over 40 might like to use when called a crone. It happens.
It spends so much time on the magical elements that it misses several beats that are fundamental to the institution of cheesy Holiday movies. Brooke’s thirsty next-door neighbor is barely touched on, as are Brooke’s feelings about her ex parading his new girlfriend all over town. Chekov’s Ex is the rule that if you introduce an ex-boyfriend in the first act, he’ll be killed sword-fighting the Renaissance answer to a male model in the third act. Or at the very least exchange words with him. There’s also a subplot about a local family in need and children in winter peril that amounts to so much snowy fluff. It reached, but never quite grasped.
In the end, The Knight Before Christmas is probably a touch more memorable than much of Netflix’s holiday fare, as bland and cheesy as a dish of potatoes au gratin; never quite attaining the bar of true zaniness, but comfort food nevertheless.
- Fair warning, several gags from the first Thor movie get recycled for this.
- We once again are “treated” to characters in a Netflix Christmas movie watching… Netflix Christmas movies. This time we’re subjected to the appalling Rob Lowe/Kristin Davis feature Holiday in the Wild, and a brief glimpse of The Holiday Calendar. There is also an Aldovian Acorn which we’ve seen in The Christmas Prince movies.
- She’s really just going to let him drive her car, huh?
- It’s good to acknowledge that Netflix is making attempts at diversity that we haven’t seen as much over at Hallmark, though they still have a ways to go.
The Knight Before Christmas is currently available on Netflix.