- Charnstar Anderson
The Knight Before Christmas - 2019
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
I don’t believe there is a clearer case of “the title came before the concept” than The Knight Before Christmas. Whoever wrote that title took the rest of the day off...probably the rest of the year off. A pun like that is quality; it doesn’t need substance behind it, the pun speaks for itself… and boy, is there no substance.
As Jeff Goldblum once said, they were “so preoccupied as to whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should”. Knight. It’s like Night. 'Twas The Night before Christmas is a classic poem. It works! Granted, they don’t seem to think much further than that, because nothing about knights or Christmas really go together...but screw it, we have a title, let’s make a goddamn movie!
This is a Christmas movie. One day that joke will get old.
Boy, is this one on the nose. Guess what? Christmas is the time of giving! And we’re gonna stop for five seconds to show a sub-plot about how a poor man, whose wife died and who works two jobs to look after his four or five kids, is at a charity event for Christmas, to give for Christmas, because Christmas is about giving. Does that feel like an overly-stuffed and overly-complicated sentence? Because it sure is an overly-stuffed and overly-complicated sub-plot. His daughter says something along the lines of, “Daddy gets sad every time we ask for something new,” and it would been touching and sad if it weren’t so stupid.
There’s also a pretty concerning through line about Vanessa Hudgens not believing in love. She’s a teacher, and the film opens with her telling some dumb, ex-boyfriend obsessed, sixteen-year-old not to worry about him, because she’s sixteen and she’s dumb and love doesn’t matter. Frankly, something I can get behind. But after she finds true love with the knight, (who leaves to go back to his own time once he’s fulfilled his destiny - yeah, screw it, spoiler alert - the only way to get back to his own time is to fulfill his destiny...and his destiny is to love), she runs into this same sixteen year old who tells her that the ex came crawling back, and she said no, because she’s gonna focus on her goals. Awesome. Then V. Hudge predictably tells her that #loveisreal and she was wrong. So what? What's she saying here? Give up on your own goals and go back to your ex, you stupid sixteen-year-old who definitely found love in high school?
Speaking of problematic: it’s a “Born Sexy Yesterday” movie! A sub-genre of romantic comedies that’s been uncomfortable since the 90s!
I am surprised at how much they really just went all in on this guy being a knight. From the trailer, I was sure it’d turn out to be a twist that he was really just hallucinating, or knocked out, or hell, intellectually impaired. But from the get go, they guarantee you: real knight, real time travel, don’t ask questions, just live in the moment. It’s dumb. The explanations they give are so half-arsed, it’s hilarious. He has to prove he is a true knight, and a knight's first duty is to love? Bravo! Print that on a t-shirt. If only V. Hudge could say, “there’s no such thing as a knight in shining armour,” at least a few more times before literally meeting a knight in shining armour. Then we'd really know how serious they are.
I already talked about the sub-plot in regards to the saddest, most generous dad in the world, but it’s such a side thing...until suddenly it’s the main plot! The knight believes that this man is part of his duty and his destiny, so he decides to get old mate's kids all the presents that they ever asked for! ...Only for this to mean nothing! Because he needed to kiss V. Hudge all along. There’s even a random red-headed “flirt” who seems like an antagonist from the moment you see her, and when she finally makes a move on our knight, she gives up before even trying. She gives him the mistletoe he needed to kiss V. Hudge! It’s so stupid, I couldn’t help but love it.
I blame two things for this next part: Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. I’m sorry, but now it’s kind of part of the zeitgeist that knights are grungy and dirty and gross, and when your knight's armour is so shiny that a cup of hot chocolate doesn’t clean it off, then you’re doing it wrong.
And then there’s the Old Crone (Ella Kenion), whose make-up, wig and costume are so bad, I assumed she was Vanessa Hudgens in disguise. Her wig is so bad that I couldn’t even tell if she was the same actress in reverse shots. I don’t mean to attack Barbara Gregusova on her work; she’s done a lot over the last fourteen years, and I’m sure she’s very talented, but geez….
The cinematography did whatever it could for the back-lot that they apparently shot on. My favourite part is the obvious still-car drive, where fairy lights slowly turn on and off in the background without moving.
This is a cheap movie, and if you find it charming, awesome! I found some of it as charming as a SyFy original, and other parts just baffling.
I probably made it too obvious, but yeah… I had fun. This is a movie to make fun of with friends, no question. It’s hard when a “comedy” is so bad it’s good, because sometimes, some things are actually funny, and then other times you have a grown man in a knight costume painfully saying “Lit AF” in an overly American accent. Other times you have the same man calling cars “metal steeds” despite the fact that you see they have carriages in the past, so why wouldn’t he call them “horseless carriages”? And why can he not figure out how a radio works in one scene, and then binge-watch TV in the next?
The only consistency is the inconsistencies.
From the random sub-plots that happen to tie in to the mainplot, to the random sub-plots that go nowhere, this movie is a lot of fun. The movie knows what it is (they play a scene from another Christmas film, which I assumed was a parody but apparently wasn't), but still falls into the same clichés that make it adorably stupid. I haven't even mentioned that the knight's name is Sir Cole, which makes it sound like everyone calls him Circle, which my wife and I legitimately thought was his name for a third of the film.
I’m too lazy to think of a drinking game, but if you can think of one, then go buck wild.