Based on a true story, Netflix’s family friendly comedy is as warm & smooth as a cup of hot cocoa.
It’s November, so push those spooky movies aside, because it’s Christmas movie season! Coming in hot like a tropical oasis is Netflix’s Operation Christmas Drop, so trade in your hot chocolate for piña coladas, and get ready for this holiday rom-com that’s loosely based on true events!
The film opens with congressional aide Erica Miller (Kat Graham) getting recruited by her boss, Congresswoman Bradford (a Scrooge-y Virginia Madsen), to hop on a flight to Guam to investigate “Operation Christmas Drop,” an annual Christmas present drop made by the base to surrounding island residents. Bradford thinks it’s government waste and enlists Erica to report on the base and its operations, hoping she can close it down and save the taxpayers some money. With a potential promotion on the line, Erica hops on the first flight out of D.C.
On the base, cheery Captain Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig) preps for the drop. He gets the news that he’s going to have to be on his A-game for Erica’s arrival. He’s tasked with acting as her chaperone, proving to her the base should remain open, and more importantly that Operation Christmas Drop must continue. On his A-game he is, for he emerges from the ocean after a swim, only to encounter Erica waiting for him on the beach. Obligatory hot guy shirtless shot check! After some barbs back and forth on the beach, the “will they or won’t they” dance can begin.
Ludwig and Graham have fun pulling off their “opposites attract” characters of Andrew and Erica. Andrew loves Christmas. A Santa ornament decorates his rear-view mirror! He has fresh Douglass fir trees shipped in from the States! His nickname on the base is “Claus” but it’s spelled “Claws” as in “can’t leave anyone without Santa.” And Erica loves … her job? But she also loves Christmas because she risks her promotion to help the mission. I enjoyed Graham in Netflix’s 2018 The Holiday Calendar, so I was excited to see her pop up on the screen. However, I felt like she was stuck with the “workaholic woman” rom-com trope in Operation Christmas Drop. I wish she had more to work with instead of being the busy career woman who has no time for Christmas. That being said, when she does let loose at the Coconut Christmas bash, her dance moves can rival those of Elaine Benes from Seinfeld.
As far as Christmas movies go, Operation Christmas Drop not as ridiculous as the popular Christmas Prince or The Princess Switch. It’s actually – dare I say it – grounded in reality at times. Andrew tries to have virtual celebrations with his family, and his computer freezes, a scenario we’re probably all-too-familiar with during Covid-19. Plus they based the movie on the real-life “Operation Christmas Drop,” an ongoing military humanitarian mission that began in 1952. While I’m sure the real-life drops do provide needed aid to remote communities in the Pacific, the film’s portrayal feels a bit one-sided, focusing more on the military crew than it does with the local residents. Upon visiting a local village and hearing they need satellite internet for a school, Erica gives the school children the contents of her tote bag (3 highlighters, a sweatshirt, and a used hairbrush). Not sure how that’s supposed to help them learn, but those kids seem excited about those highlighters.
As far as Christmas movies go, Operation Christmas Drop not as ridiculous as the popular Christmas Prince or The Princess Switch. It’s actually – dare I say it – grounded in reality at times.
Giving it an extra layer of authenticity, director Martin Wood and company shot on and around Andersen Air Force base in Guam. With all the shots of air force pilots in crewcuts, hanging out in tropical paradise, I thought for sure there’d be some Top Gun references. Spoiler alert: there were none! Although the crew did half-ass sing part of “Jingle Bells” in an airplane hangar. But really who needs 80s movie references when you have lush island establishing shots? The views of sunsets over palm trees, waves lapping on the shores, and a Christmas snorkeling excursion were pure escapism and a welcome sight to all of us who have been sheltering in place for months.
Holiday movies like Operation Christmas Drop will always have their predictable moments and recycled tropes. No budget shortfall, typhoon, or angry Congresswoman will stop our duo from executing the humanitarian mission. Erica gets her promotion, and Andrew gets his Christmas with his family. And don’t worry, they kiss at the end, although if she’s in DC and he’s in Guam, I’m not sure about the future of their relationship. Perhaps the lesson is to live in the moment, and this moment just happens to be Christmas in Guam! Operation Christmas Drop feels less like a movie you’ll text your friends about and more like a movie that would be comfortable to watch with your parents. Aside from a single kiss, it’s pretty chaste. And if you’re worried about it getting too political, Congresswoman Bradford’s political party affiliation is never mentioned, so that’s one less potential trigger point in this highly political time.
If you’re a Holiday movie fan, Operation Christmas Drop is a fun way to kick off the movie season. The story is predictable, but at this point in 2020, we could use a bit of predictability. Who wouldn’t want a saccharine rom-com romp set in a lush tropical location? Add in a real-life feel-good story and I’d say “Mission Accomplished” on Operation Christmas Drop.
Operation Christmas Drop is now available on Netflix