BY BECCA JOHNSON NOVEMBER 18, 2023
Every festive season without fail, the Hallmark-esque Christmas flicks come out in full force. Decked in love stories, fairy lights and fluffy jumpers, the movies of this type aren't exactly fan favourites, but provide cheesy joy to the world and an unmatched cosy feeling that is hard to find elsewhere. This year, Christmas has come early over at Amazon Freevee, with Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and Robbie Amell (The Babysitter) starring in a festive rom-com that hits all the notes you'd expect a movie of this genre to hit. EXmas has a snappy run-time and the perfect seasonal atmosphere, but disappoints with it's lacklustre laughs and lack of chemistry.
Graham surprises his family at Christmas only to discover his ex-fiancee is already celebrating the holiday with his family when he arrives.
Right off the bat, the movie is incredibly difficult to get on board with due to the nonsensical plot. It seems entirely crazy that Ali would be invited to Graham's family Christmas – after their break-up – and Graham is neither informed nor originally joining them. What's even more nonsensical is that upon Graham's surprise arrival, the family debate about whether Ali or Graham should leave, and the pair battle it out to sabotage the other, supposedly ignoring that it takes place in Graham's family home with his parents and siblings. It's not the first Christmas rom-com to have a dumb premise, but this one seriously exceeds expectations with it's silliness. It asks it's audience to suspend a lot of disbelief, and many may go into this one with a sour taste in their mouth about how dumb it feels.
The first act is pretty abysmal, mostly due to the humour. Unfortunately, none of it lands, and similarly to it's entire premise, this is because it takes the silly approach. The gags, whilst standing out against others in the genre for being a little more daring, are repetitive and too stupid to illicit any audible laughs. There's one including a goat that is eye-rollingly bad. The storyline is also, as expected, far too generic. It's obvious how the plot will play out within the first five minutes which clearly hinders enjoyment, and the supporting characters besides perhaps Graham's sister are incredibly one-note and underdeveloped. We know nothing about any of these characters, even our leads to a certain extent. The digs between Graham and Ali are more annoying than endearing, and despite the talent Meester and Amell have, the pair lack chemistry for a large majority of the runtime.
Once EXmas gets going, and you've sunk into the cheesiness and Christmas cheer, it does become a little more enjoyable. The jokes in the latter half are a little better, and the longer the plot plays out, the more you can root for the central romance. The two leads are far more believable when they're being lovey-dovey as opposed to bickering and arguing, and the pair have natural charisma despite giving weaker performances than we're used to seeing from them. The characters are easier to stomach when they're being nice to each other, and it definitely provides more cheer once their relationship inevitably begins to get back on track. The best thing about the movie is Graham's sister Mindy, played perfectly by Veronika Slowikowska. Her comedic delivery and timing is the best of the bunch, and her banter with her brother is really fun to watch. The side performances from the rest of the central family are nothing to write home about, but they get the job done; it's always fun to see Michael Hitchcock (Bridesmaids).
All in all, EXmas isn't terrible, but it's not great either. With it's generic and incredibly cliché plot, lack of chemistry between the leads and slew of bad jokes that don't land, it won't do enough to stand out among the crowd. However, it hits the nail on the head with the Hallmark Christmassy tone, and often feels like a big warm hug which is exactly what most will be hitting play for. From it's lead, who is a baker (of course), to it's Christmas morning Church visit and onslaught of xmas jumpers, it has all the puzzle pieces you expect and secretly love. Others will be watching for Leighton Meester and Robbie Amell, who disappoint with their chemistry but impress alone. If you're looking for fresh Christmas cheer, EXmas is not the best option available, but it may be worth a go.