Review by Sean Boelman
A New Christmas, directed by Daniel Tenenbaum, is a new holiday dramedy set in the city of New York. Yet even though the film has some very good intentions, it ultimately leans into the sentimentality of the story far too heavily for it to be particularly memorable against the flood of Christmas movies that are available.
The movie follows a man who is grieving the loss of his mother, causing a rift to form in his marriage, as he meets a charming stranger, sending him on a quest to re-learn the meaning of Christmas. The film follows a very common arc — that of a grumpy holiday hater getting a dose of Christmas spirit — and adheres to it, pretty much to the beat. As such, the movie doesn’t feel remotely original or inspired.
Still, despite the overwhelmingly generic nature of the film, it is difficult to get bored with it, as the pacing is so aggressive. Clocking in at just under an hour and twenty minutes, the entire movie feels extremely rushed. Just as soon as the story starts to become truly compelling, it is over, and one can’t help but feel like the filmmakers should have taken their time and let things simmer a bit more.
The film is also very underwhelming in terms of its character development. Even though the protagonist has a solid backstory, there simply isn’t enough time to make the audience truly feel connected to the character. And as for his foil, the perky stranger, she feels completely flat. Her desires and aspirations are completely irrelevant to the greater story (or at least the filmmakers seem to believe that), so they are not included at all.
Emotionally, the movie seems like it should be a slam dunk given the fact that the film is largely centered around coping with grief, but all of the emotions feel artificial and unearned. Again, this boils down to the fact that the audience doesn’t really have a true connection with the characters, meaning that these tear-jerking moments are just that.
It is in the acting that the movie really shows its low budget. The leads don’t have good chemistry at all, and that makes one wonder whether or not the filmmakers had the time and resources to screen test them together, or if they simply cast them and hoped for the best. Both of them have their own charming moments, but they don’t work together as a pair.
The film also feels relatively cheap on a technical level. It really is a shame that the movie isn’t more effective visually, because it has the advantage of being set in New York City, a very common setting for holiday-themed films. Still, despite the large amount of holiday cheer happening in the background, the movie is missing that spirit.
A New Christmas was obviously made with the best of intentions, but it is too by-the-book to be worth passing up on another holiday flick. If this had been released on television, it may have felt more in its place, but as a traditional release, it’s underwhelming.
A New Christmas is now available on VOD.