Let’s continue my self-flagellation with bad Christmas movies by talking a bit about the latest stinker Christmas Inheritance, because apparently I have nothing else to do with my life. I mean, it’s not like I just finished up the first draft of Smyle last night and could be talking about that instead, but no one actually reads me talking about books, so hey, Christmas movies!
Starring the actually quite good Eliza Taylor (Clarke from The 100, a mildly underrated show that could do without its initial teenager trappings, but is smart enough to ditch those quickly), this one follows Ellen Langford, an heiress to a gift shop empire who behaves a bit like Diet Kim Kardashian. She’s a terrible person who eschews a charity for kids in favor of doing cartwheels into a Christmas tree. Setting her character up to be unlikable from the start would be interesting if the director didn’t pull a bizarre 180 in the middle of the movie and start assuming the viewer has had enough reason to hop on the Langford bus.
That’s kind of very much a solid representation of the film’s problems as a whole. There are tent poles here for something better. Taylor really does do her absolute best with the role she’s given, not quite aiming for ditzy levels of intelligence but playing a bit with her character’s wealthy ignorance of the way the world really works. Of course, it’s all exaggerated for the sake of comedy, but at least Taylor seems to be trying to have fun with it.
Unfortunately, every other character never breaks the mold of their particular archetype. The romantic male lead has way too many nice-guy hats, as well as apparently holding down every job in town without ever tiring or losing his cheerfulness. The multiple job thing is frankly bizarre. He drives a cab at first, but this is hardly mentioned throughout the entire film, as it’s largely meant as a way for the leads to meet. Then, when Eliza Taylor’s character enters the hotel, the same male lead pops in too to take care of her and every other patron without breaking stride.
It’s like a scriptwriter heard about this thing called “needing two jobs to make it,” but didn’t exactly understand how that works in real life. He’s also apparently the only one on call 24/7 at the hotel, as we only see other characters taking on roles in the place as needed for plot purposes not involving Mr. Perfect.
And that’s just the first problematic character. The movie is littered with the corpses of shitty archetypes. Eliza Taylor’s character is inexplicably engaged to a Snidely Whiplash of a fiance with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, which should make the viewer wonder what sort of trashy human being would want to actually marry such a scumbag. A homeless man is nothing but sweet and kind and just needs a little help, instead of exploring any of the attributes that might occur either leading to him being homeless or developed as a result of said homelessness. A little girl who shares a room with the lead female protagonist is nothing short of a darling little angel save for the spitfire comment now and then to make her more endearing. Eliza Taylor’s fictional father in this one is practically a carbon copy of the dad from Whatever the Hell Christmas Movie it was I watched as the first entry of this film – and it’s the same archetype you’ll see in just about every iteration of this tired subgenre of movie. Single kind, wise dad, no mom.
If you were playing the Count the Christmas Movie Cliche drinking game, by the end of Christmas Inheritance, you’d be passed out. But we haven’t even gotten to the worst character in the film – Andie MacDowell’s Debbie.
Somehow, Christmas Inheritance manages to both hinge its movie on the character as well as waste MacDowell’s charm and talent on a role she rips through reluctantly, often with a half-gritted smile that screams of her thinking about the paycheck and not the next line she’s going to deliver.
She plays a diner owner whose restaurant is constantly packed to the gills, despite this apparently being a small town. Much like her nephew, she’s apparently magic, because she maintains several ongoing conversations while somehow managing to be the only visible employee of a restaurant where no one’s calling for drinks, more food, their check, or anything that people in real diners would do. There’s suspending disbelief and then there’s having your main characters have a three or four minute conversation without some jackass bellowing that he can’t get service for shit. That’s fitting for the town this is supposedly set in, though, because – again – despite it apparently being set in a small town, more people walk the streets than a New York suburb, most of whom are always happy and in full winter regalia, despite their breath never misting or snow actually sticking around when it should. There’s a storm scene that renders a dozen characters unable to leave the hotel, yet the two main characters decide to go for a walk in the midst of it and – surprise! – no snowstorm, no red cheeks, no shivers, no “we should really get inside too if this thing forced all these people off the road and into our hotel.”
Getting back to the shitshow that is MacDowell’s character, the whole redemptive arc to Eliza Taylor’s character is supposed to happen during a day when she works as a baker for – except we’re shown no scenes whatsoever of her learning why she should be a decent person. It’s just Andie MacDowell saying, “Oh, let’s teach you to bake,” and then bam, our main character is now Super Nice Girl despite having just essentially pissing on a homeless man begging for change something like ten minutes beforehand.
If I wind up watching a worse Christmas movie that squanders its talent so much as Christmas Inheritance, it’ll be an unpleasant shock because this movie is straight-up garbage. Eliza Taylor has a brilliant future ahead of her if she can keep turning terrible roles like this into an exercise of trying to do her best, but apart from that, there’s nothing about this that I liked.