Synopsis: Desperate to avoid his family’s judgment about his perpetual single status, Peter convinces his best friend Nick to join him for the holidays and pretend that they’re now in a relationship. But when Peter’s mother sets him up on a blind date with her handsome trainer James, the plan goes awry.
Stars: Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, Luke Macfarlane, Jennifer Coolidge, Kathy Najimy, Jennifer Robertson, Barry Bostwick
Director: Michael Mayer
Running Length: 99 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: During the throes of the coronavirus, I became somewhat of a Hallmark Christmas movie afficionado, so I know from sappy holiday entertainment. There’s a specific formula to these films and it never changes. This makes them predictable and safe, easy viewing to decorate your house and tree to but rarely the kind of project you truly stop what you’re doing and pay rapt attention. This is no dig to the actors (though some of them do have a particular Canadian, um, charm) but instead is a tribute to their consistent uniformity which gives us a happy ending when a least one woman in a red dress kisses one man…but only at the very end, and after someone has drank hot cocoa and sung “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
One thing that hasn’t been explored much until recently are stories from different viewpoints, representing the true world and multi-whatever families that exist. Hanukkah movies now show up, movies specifically for black audiences are available, and there are also offerings for gay and lesbian fans as well. Last year Hulu released the delightful comedy The Happiest Season and several networks had their own films featuring gay couples or storylines. This year, Netflix gets into the game with its high-profile comedy Single All the Way, a bit of light Christmas fun that may not be fresh as fallen snow but is as warm and inviting as your favorite grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve.
Working as a specialist in social media (they have those now? Oh yes, yes, they do) Peter (Michael Urie) is based in Los Angeles getting ready to head back to his New Hampshire hometown for the holidays. This year, he’s finally able to get the meddling family members constantly trying to change his single status off his back thanks to a good-looking doctor boyfriend…who turns out to be a dud. Sweettalking long term roommate Nick (Philemon Chambers) into saying they finally made it official as partners, they can’t even get the lie out before Peter’s mom (Kathy Najimy, Hocus Pocus) announces that she’s performed a Christmas miracle and set Peter up with the town’s newest eligible gay bachelor…the hot new trainer/ski instructor at the local gym.
With Peter testing the waters with hunky James (Luke Macfarlane), Nick realizes the feelings he has for his roommate are actually more like love and if he doesn’t move fast he may lose everything. When Peter contemplates moving back to New Hampshire, his two young cousins rally the rest of the family to meddle against him being with James and instead recognizing that he really needs to be with Nick. As the Christmas pageant organized by Peter’s outlandish Aunt Sandy (Jennifer Coolidge, Promising Young Woman, stealing every millisecond she’s on screen) draws near, can the two men realize that friends can be more and love is a risk worth taking?
Theatrical director Michael Mayer has helmed several low-key film projects over the years, most in the dramatic field but it’s no shocker that he works wonders with this spritely comedy that is a real gift for holiday watchers of all persuasions. Even if Urie has made a career out of playing the same character over and over again, he’s perfected it by now and it works well for Single All the Way because Peter is not brittle nor is he too soft. There’s a median line he walks and while he’s aggravating in his indecision at times, you do see it is coming from the right place of knowing he should be on a different path. Philemon James is a standout, a solid co-star for Urie and even if he’s the obvious choice from the get-go, his unassuming nature makes his blossoming into a confident suitor all the more believable.
I do question if it’s by the magic of Christmas we’re supposed to believe that Jennifer Robertson (another MVP actor, this time from Schitt’s Creek, relying on playing the same character again) is Najimy’s daughter but then again casting in these holiday movies is always a little fuzzy. Mayer at least gets the second suitor perfect in Macfarlane, the openly gay actor makes for a dreamy option for Urie’s character and at times you may find yourself shouting at the screen when Urie bows out of future dates with him. The rest of the cast is filled in nicely by an array of agreeable performances that let the stars shine – everyone just wisely stays out of the way of Coolidge because when she’s onscreen no one else is the focus. As it should be.
Is Single All the Way a film that’s going to be added to a yearly roster of Christmas titles? Probably not, but then again none of these Hallmark-y films ever are for me, personally. It’s still a wonderful, harmless option for those that tire of the same old gazebo ending and want to see more representation of the world as we all know it to be. Also…I didn’t spot any fake foam snow and that’s always a plus!