The holiday season is often a safe time to release conventional, feel-good movies because a sense of tradition is already in the air this time of year and audiences want to feel comfortable with what they’re getting. With all the hustle and bustle of shopping, relatives, traveling and eating, studios know people want to go to the cinema for relaxation and unwinding, a place where they don’t have to think too much.
And judging by the premise of Perfect Christmas, audiences won’t have to do a whole lot of thinking. In the generically titled film, a little girl asks a department store Santa to give her divorced Mom a husband for Christmas. Upon hearing this premise, the phrase “been there, done that” suddenly comes to mind.
Featuring a mostly black cast, including familiar faces like Terrence Howard, Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut, Charlie Murphy and Queen Latifah as the narrator, “Perfect Christmas” obviously hopes to appeal to urban audiences, which is a good strategy since Christmas-themed movies tend to ignore this demographic.
But if the casting for a movie of this nature is fresh, the timeworn story sure isn’t. Audiences have been dished several variations of this plot for years, from 1947’s Miracle on the 34th Stree” to The Brady Bunch Christmas episode, in which little Cindy Brady asks a department store Santa to give her mother her voice back so she can sing on Christmas morning.
Even if Perfect Christmas doesn’t have originality going for it, it could still make up for it with genuine sweetness. Few movies about Christmas are ever original anymore (and judging by the box office performances of the recent Surviving Christmas and Deck the Halls, they’re barely tolerated, either). But that doesn’t mean all Christmas movies aren’t worth audiences’ time, especially when they’re done right. As long as Perfect Christmas forgoes the schmaltzy patronizing and presents likable and believable characters, it could appeal to audiences’ soft side.
Given the pre-Christmas release date and timely story, Perfect Christmas could be the predictable, warmhearted family picture audiences crave during the holiday season. Don’t expect huge numbers like last year’s The Pursuit of Happyness, which was also conventional and feel-good in nature, but with a low production budget that urban movies tend to carry, Perfect Christmas could show a profit by the time its Christmas run is over. (Matthew Huntley/BOP)