THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: MONIKA MITCHELL / SCREENPLAY: CARA J RUSSELL / STARRING: VANESSA HUDGENS, JOSH WHITEHOUSE, EMMANUELLE CHRIQUI, HARRY JARVIS, ELLA KENION / OUT NOW (NETFLIX)
Ho! Ho! Ho! Tis (nearly) the festive season! Mistletoe and wine! Good will to all men (and women)! Time for Netflix to add to our seasonal cheer with one of their lovely, heart-warming family Christmas movies where 80% of the budget is spent on Christmas decorations and about 30 cents on the script and actors. Although we might be perhaps over-estimating the latter in relation to The Knight Before Christmas. Here it is, then, our first Christmas turkey of the year, a film that stinks like the remains of the festive bird still rotting away in the bin on New Year’s Day.
Vanessa Hudgens sleepwalks her way through the role of Brooke, a disillusioned young teacher in Ohio who has given up on ‘true love’ - her boyfriend has been cheating on her. In one early scene she’s wondering why the work of one of her teeny school charges has gone downhill; the tot explains that she has split up from her boyfriend and she’s upset because he thought he was her prince. “But he turned out to be a frog!” exclaims Brooke. This is the level of sophistication of dialogue we’re dealing with here. Meanwhile, in Norfolk in the 14th century a young knight named Sir Cole (Whitehouse) is bewitched by an old crone and sent forward in Time to the 21st century to fulfil some random quest which has something to do with his heart. He almost immediately bumps into the depressed Brooke who almost runs him over in her car (the script is full of stuff about flying chariots, roaring metal dragons… you get the idea) so she obviously takes him home to help him shake off his delusion that he’s a 14th century knight. You’ll never guess what happens in the next agonisingly-tortuous ninety-odd minutes. Go on, guess, damn you!
The Knight Before Christmas resolutely isn’t aimed at grizzled, cyncial old STARBURST writers; it might well appeal to starstruck young girls and doe-eyed teens even if it does reinforce the tired stereotypes of young women who want nothing more than to meet the handsome, dashing prince who will sweep them off their feet. But this is a cheap, gaudy film that has nothing to say and does nothing new with its ‘man out of time’ idea (done better in films such as 2001’s Hugh Jackman vehicle Kate and Leopold). The script really isn’t much interested in exploring Sir Cole’s temporal displacement (he’s driving a car by the halfway mark) - he adapts to life in the 21st century with remarkable ease; it’s just a sappy love story with no drama or tension, no stakes, and absolutely no surprises. We know where this is heading from the very first frame and it takes us there by the most direct and obvious route with not one single hint of a twist or and evidence of any wit or imagination in a script that gives a whole new meaning to the word ’witless’. Of interest only to the most easily-pleased and undemanding, The Knight Before Christmas is more of a Knight-mare, a Christmas gift best left unopened or returned for a refund. Ghastly stuff guaranteed to make you heave.