Review by Cole Groth
As the holiday season gears up, it’s time for Hallmark to bombard us with dozens of cheap, schlocky Christmas rom-coms. The market is so oversaturated by them that when a genuinely good one comes out, it’s a shock. This year, Amazon’s Freevee looks to enter the market with their rom-com, EXMas, starring Robbie Amell and Leighton Meester. This is a good watch with some genuinely great laughs and a satisfying story.
EXMas tells the story of Graham (Amell), an overworked gaming developer, whose ex-fiancee, Ali (Meester), is celebrating Christmas with his family. Her oddball parents, Dennis (Michael Hitchcock) and Jeannie (Kathryn Greenwood), alongside siblings Mindy (Veronika Slowikowska) and Elliot (Steven Huy), have taken in Ali as one of their family members, much to Graham’s dismay. In an effort to get Ali out of his life, Graham tries to get her to be hated by his family. Will the two make up and find solace in each other? Probably. That’s for you to find out.
The script, while unabashedly generic, is hilarious. The dynamic between Graham and his sister, Mindy, stands out as the funniest pairing of the group. Most other family members are underwritten, standing in as very generic family members. So many of these Christmas rom-coms stray away from inappropriate humor. While this is still a family-friendly time, some sharp gags put this above the crowd. Graham and Ali have a great dynamic, although it’s sometimes hard to picture them as a romantic couple. The chemistry just isn’t there for most of the movie.
As a holiday rom-com, there’s not much to talk about from a technical perspective. All of these movies struggle because they feel mostly the same, with the stars and script being the stars of the show. The cinematography, editing, music, etc., are all decent. Nothing stands out from a cinematic perspective, but it’s all done well enough to be at least not distracting. Simply put, you should know that you won’t get anything more than simple laughs and basic romance out of this.
Robbie Amell stands out as the star of the show here. He’s effortlessly funny and has plenty of charm. Leighton Meester is pretty good, too, but she doesn’t fit the role of the love interest nearly as well as Amell. Veronika Slowikowska is another star, too. Known mostly for her Instagram page (@veronika_iscool), Slowikowska does a great job of being Graham’s funny and kind sister. The rest of the family and some additional players performed pretty well.
If you’re looking for something nice, breezy, and cheerful to kick off a holiday binge, EXMas would be a good option. It won’t stand out among the true holiday classics, but it’ll definitely be better than most of the Hallmark slop shoveled out every year. It’s a simple watch buoyed by fun performances and a funny screenplay.
EXMas releases on Freevee on November 17.