Synopsis: Feeling career burnout, pop star Angelina escapes to grant a young fan’s wish in small-town New York, where she not only finds the inspiration to revitalize her career but also a shot at true love.
Stars: Freddie Prinze Jr., Aimee Garcia, Deja Monique Cruz, Zenzi Williams, Lawrence J. Hughes
Director: Gabriela Tagliavini
Running Length: 89 minutes
TMMM Score: (4/10)
Review: Watching Christmas with You is a bit like opening your refrigerator after having the family over for a big dinner the night before and perusing the leftovers of the homemade meal sealed tight in Tupperware. The food has retained its flavor and warms up fine, but it doesn’t taste as good as it did in the first round. Ultimately you start to pick at it before soldiering through to clean your plate and not create waste. You wouldn’t go back for a second helping, but the meal served its purpose, and the indigestion isn’t too terrible.
A week after Netflix released the Lindsay Lohan-led Falling for Christmas, the streaming service delivers Christmas with You, starring another celeb two decades removed from being the headliner of feature films. Freddie Prinze Jr. was never what you would call a ‘bankable’ star but was a unique kind of heartthrob that boasted bad boy looks but a cheerily non-threatening disposition. Married for over twenty years to fellow former teen star Sarah Michelle Gellar (who recently popped up in Do Revenge), Prinze has always excelled at playing a nice guy, and moving into ‘dad’ mode was an inevitable transition he would be a natural at.
In Christmas with You, Prinze is a widowed high school music teacher with a daughter (Deja Monique Cruz) preparing for her quinceañera during the busy holiday season. He’s also occasionally been plunking away at a Christmas song, an old habit from playing piano with a band. An active social media user, his daughter Cristina is a massive fan of pop star Angelina (Aimee Garcia, RoboCop) and posts a message to Instagram singing one of her idol’s songs and adding a personal note about wanting to meet her.
Luckily, Angelina, feeling the creep of time and newer talent nipping at her heels, is scrolling through at the right moment and is touched by this message. Especially hitting home is both Cristina and Angelina lost their mothers at a young age. When Angelina is asked to record a Christmas song for an upcoming gala instead of singing her old hits, she panics and hightails it out of town with her assistant Monique (Zenzi Williams, Black Panther) in tow. Remembering Cristina’s video and that she lives a few hours away, she impulsively directs Monique to drive them to the tiny town where she’ll make Cristina’s wish come true, find her song, and discover love when she least expected it.
If you’ve seen Marry Me, the Jennifer Lopez/Owen Wilson romance from earlier in 2022 (and, honestly, what are you waiting for?), you already know the central romantic entanglement that follows and even some of its resolution. While that film was a not-so-subtle riff on 1999’s Notting Hill, Christmas with You has some striking similarities with the Lopez vehicle, down to supporting players that get in the way of our leads making their love connection. Not that there is an extreme electric current between Garcia and Prinze; in all honesty, when they start making goo-goo eyes at one another, it feels like they are simply going with the script and not from emotion. If anything, both actors work better, displaying their emotions in scenes with Cruz.
Anytime you have a plot centered around a “mega-talent,” you want that actor/actress to shine, and Garcia struggles with convincing us that she’s been an international star since she was a pre-teen. Acting-wise, she’s charismatic, but anytime music or dancing is involved, you can see the nervous energy sideline her. In several scenes, Prinze (I Know What You Did Last Summer) also looks a little uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because he towers over Garcia and has to turn his head almost at a 90-degree angle to talk to her when they sit next to one another. There’s also a strange scene where director Gabriela Tagliavini has her two leads adjourn from the warmth of indoors to have a serious conversation sitting outside…while it’s snowing.
As flimsy as it is, I find it tough to want to dismantle Christmas with You too much. The representation showcasing Latino talent in front of and behind the camera is essential and should be encouraged more than anything. You’ve seen worse Christmas movies on other networks, but one does wish this had slightly more going for it. It will do to have on as you decorate your tree or bake your first batch of cookies.