‘Father Christmas Is Back’ Review: The Prodigal Dad Returns

'Father Christmas Is Back' Review

As the Christmas holiday swiftly approaches, channels and streaming platforms are scrambling to supply the increasing demand for content by debuting new holiday-themed titles. ‘Father Christmas Is Back’ is the latest flick to come out of the Netflix vault and is available for streaming from November 7.

This British comedy is helmed by a combined effort between Philippe Martinez and Mick Davis from a script penned by Martinez in collaboration with David Connoly and Hannah Davis.

‘Father Christmas Is Back’ has a blend of seasoned actors as well as newcomers, including Ania Marson, April Bowlby, Caroline Quentin, Elizabeth Hurley, John Cleese, Kelsey Grammer, Kris Marshall, Nathalie Cox, Ray Fearon, and Talulah Riley.

Caroline Christmas-Hope, a role played by Nathalie Cox, is quite an uptight individual, a control freak if you may, and is looking forward to having the perfect Christmas holiday with her large family, which unfortunately is highly dysfunctional.

Calling her family a lot to handle is an understatement as the clan is as diverse as can be. For starters, there is Caroline’s dopey husband Peter, a role by Kris Marshall, her sisters, high-end fashion editor Joanna, bag girl Vicky and Paulina, a graduate obsessed with the Beatles played by Elizabeth Burly, Talulah Riley, and Naomi Frederick, respectively. 

'Father Christmas Is Back' Review

Thankfully her mom Elizabeth embodied by Caroline Quentin, is a bit laid back and is now hooking up with Uncle John, a role by John Cleese because dad James played by Kelsey Grammer, abandoned the family on this memorable holiday 27 years ago and never came back.

Caroline is determined to reclaim this iconic holiday, and then out of nowhere, father Christmas comes back and thrusts everything off course if there was anything on the track, to begin with. He arrives trailing his American girlfriend Jackie, a role by April Bowlby with him, and sets off a thread of mishaps, inconveniences, and misconstrued misunderstandings that uncover the long-buried secret that tore their family apart so many years ago.

Every character in this Christmas feature ranges from unlikeable as seen in Joanna, who hates children, including her sister’s kids, to outright startling looking at Paulina’s character from the way she dresses, to her speaking mannerisms every single aspect of her is overflowing with Beatles’ references which is a little bit of an overkill, to be honest. 

‘Father Christmas Is Back’ lacks character arcs, apologies, and the heart-to-heart instances that form a majority of the ingredients for this genre. In some instances, the characters almost make their wrong deeds seem like good fun.

The script pulled down the promising star-studded ensemble as it used every single Christmas movie cliché without offering audiences any actual story. The character development was extremely poor, the humor was dry, and the climax was as predictable as it was cloying. Though ‘Father Christmas Is Back’ tried so hard to be sentimental, its efforts fell flat on its face as there was no reason at all offered for its heavy-handed sentimentality.

At times, the score seems to be wrongly placed, making it feel weird and out of place. For instance, Hurley, whose Joanna enters the film dressed in a look that serves high couture Elvis realness, seems to be having the time of her life with this role; however, the absurd score sucks the life out of this scene, rendering it toothless with no meaningful impact at all.

The ensemble in this Christmas flick is quite solid; however, they are let down a bit by a weak script as well as the poor lighting tampering with the quality and robbing this picture of its visual appeal.

Quentin, as the matriarch of the family, is reliably warm and funny, while the runaway dad Grammer surprisingly exudes more warmth than comedy as the misunderstood patriarch.

One notable scene exhibiting this warmth is one particularly touching scene with his granddaughter, adding the much-needed fuzzy feelings. 

Hurley does quite well-poking fun at herself as she plays a version of her media personality. Cleese brings to the fore years of experience as the angsty country gent while Cox is an embodiment of a cartoon character in the central role bringing out a few hit and miss instances within the tone of the movie as a whole.

Stereotypes are an obvious feat within this humongous family. The Christmas setting lacks originality and portrays the feeling that audiences have already experienced many times before the arrival of this feature. 

Interestingly, as soon as deadbeat dad Grammer arrives with his future trophy wife Jackie, the audiences’ sympathy shifts to the pair regardless of the fact that these two are clearly intended to be the film’s antagonists.

Considering there is no reason whatsoever why Grammer’s character isn’t portrayed as an outright baddie from the word go, the script doesn’t even attempt at a misdirect. A bigger chunk of this feature plays out, like this nice American couple is being manhandled by the worst family in England.

‘Father Christmas Is Back’ is rated PG 13; hence it is not suitable for those under the stipulated age due to its innuendo, implied sexual content, frequent imbibing of alcohol, and the use of some strong language. So definitely is not the perfect pick for a family movie night unless one wants to constantly cover the ears and eyes of the little ones every now and then, which can be extremely tedious.

‘Father Christmas Is Back’ captures the turmoil that one endures spending the holidays with a bunch of family members who won’t stop expressing their unasked-for opinions resulting in damning things being said, which unfortunately can’t be taken back. 

Though it has a few instances which are not good for young viewers, this feature isn’t offensive, and it definitely isn’t one of the best Christmas movies ever released but just watch this one if you have plenty of time at your disposal or nothing else at all to keep you busy. One can simply describe it as a total waste of immense talent, which could have otherwise become mind-blowing.

SCORE: 4.5/10

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