It’s going to be a tough Christmas all round this year thanks to Covid and the various restrictions in place. For the lucky ones, it will mean a pared down Christmas with fewer guest and more Zoom calls. For many families though, it will mean facing their first Christmas without beloved family members who died during the pandemic. It doesn’t exactly feel like a time for revelling but I guess we have to try to make the best of it. At least there’s a steady supply of fairly mindless Netflix original films to numb everyone for a few hours. Most of these films don’t tend to fill me with much hope or inspiration but there’s one that stood out this year. Dolly Parton has already done a great deal to help fight Coronavirus with her donation to help find a vaccine. Now, she’s here to entertain us all as we wait for it to be rolled out around the world. Even if this did turn out to be pretty standard fare, I was sure that Dolly’s mere presence would lift it. Surely there’s very little that woman can’t do?
You can tell that something’s up very early on in this film because Dolly Parton is playing a homeless person. The main problem is, Dolly Parton can’t possibly pass for a homeless person. Thankfully, it’s all just a ruse and the country singer is in fact playing an angel in disguise. If I had to sum up Christmas in the Square, then I’d have to say it’s a mix of What a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol with a hint of an old school MGM musical thrown in. It’s a nostalgic festive romp that aims to teach you about the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas on the Square is also a bad film. There can be no question of that. Of course, it knows it’s a bad film and owns it. The sets look like they’re fresh out of an am-dram performance and the story is hardly invigorating. Then there’s the fact that they called the priest Christian in a bit that takes on the nose to a whole new level. This is the kind of campy nonsense that you’d expect Dolly Parton to put her name on. It’s well meaning and mostly about having fun.
Nobody watching this film for the first time will be shocked to find out where this is heading. We find ourselves in a small town of charming and lovely people. Well, all expect one. Regina Fuller is the villain who’s selling the town off to be turned into a mall. So, she’s turning everyone out just before Christmas. The town’s pastor organises the town to stand against Regina. At the same time, the angelic Dolly is training a future angel. A future angel who just happens to be Regina’s assistant. In order to pass her training, the pair have to help Regina change her ways. But can they do it in time to save the town?
Let’s be honest, this isn’t a complex or original film. It’s not even a film worthy of Dolly Parton but it is unmistakably her film. The main driving force in this narrative is faith. Religion has been a massive part of Parton’s actions and this film radiates Christian values. Although, this is the kind of Christianity that accepts gay people in all of their high kicking glory and seess the pastor and his wife singing about their fertility problems. This is modern and embracive Christianity. Speaking of the songs, are they memorable? No. You won’t be humming them in the coming months or even remember them once the final notes have been played. They do their job though. Mainly because they’re so crammed full of exposition but let’s not quibble.
Christmas on the Square isn’t going to be a classic Christmas film that we remember fondly for years to come. What it will be, is something light and fluffy to get you through the awful 2020 festive season.