I remember it so well: Christmas 1988. After another manic morning of early risings, sweaty excitement and rushing down the corridor to the living room to embark on our yearly raged unwrapping that was over in a flash. I’d asked Santa for Masters of the Universe and The Real Ghostbusters on video and my lovely grandfolk had delivered a sparkly new VHS with Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella towering over the title. Get in! Then, another video-shaped present landed in my lap: opening it with giddly glee, I was met with the cover of Ghost Busters. You know, the “other” cartoon that came before “The Real” one. I couldn’t hide my disappointment and I’ve always told myself off for it since.
The point is this – when we saw that first trailer for Last Christmas, Paul Feig’s latest that takes us through London town during the crazy December season, it looked for all the world that it was exactly what we wanted: a new, vibrant festive rom-com that touched on social and economic problems in the UK as well as having two of the brightest stars in the world right now. What we get is something that on the surface is right but isn’t quite what we hoped for. (Long, pointless analogy over!)
All the ingredients are here, though, which makes this something of a real anomaly and, quite frankly, more of a disappointment. Much has been written and rumoured about how the titular “Last Christmas” will feed into the film itself – is Emilia Clarke’s Kate/Katerina dead after a heart attack? Is Henry Golding an angel? Is this all taking place inside someone’s head? Is Santa real? – but we won’t unwrap it here, except to say it doesn’t really work. Indeed, that’s pretty much what you can say of the film as a whole: there’s some great intentions and messages here while Clarke and Golding make for a handsome, sweet couple but it falls flat for the majority and it’s hard to single out any moments that warms the heart or tickles the funny bone.
Feig’s usual zippy comedic instincts are decidedly muted here and after the much darker (but still very silly) A Simple Favour saw him take a different step, the chance to see him flex those muscles again was a huge selling point but he struggles through the disjointed, sporadically funny screenplay. That in itself is even bigger an anomaly given its written by Emma Thompson. A match made in heaven for sure, but this isn’t it. Go figure.
But who are we kidding – no matter the reaction now, Last Christmas is about to enter an elite club (by default, but still) of movies that are ALWAYS watched during December each and every year, so perhaps time will be kinda to it than it is right now because as it stands, this is more “Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go“.
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Romance, Drama | USA, 2019 | 12A | 15th November 2019 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir.Paul Feig | Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh,