[News] Stream It or Skip It?

Netflix’s holiday content continues with Christmas With You, a star-crossed romance between a falling pop star (Aimee Garcia) and a high school music teacher (Freddie Prinze Jr.). Do these two make beautiful music together, or should you spend Christmas with another movie? 

The Gist: Aimee Garcia (Lucifer) plays Angelina Costa, a pop music superstar on the level of a Beyoncé — or at least she was. After a catastrophic TikTok mishap, Angelina suddenly looks out of touch and like she’s coasting on a back catalogue of hits. That’s when she’s gifted an ultimatum from her label: record a hit Christmas single or else. Angelina, desperate for any validation, decides to drop in on a superfan (Deja Cruz) that she saw on Instagram the night before. This turns out to be the right move because superfan Cristina’s dad Miguel (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is a music teacher — and he has an unfinished song that he’s been working on for fun in his spare time. And since Angelina and her manager Monique (Zenzi Williams) can’t drive back to NYC in a snowstorm, why not spend the night turning an after school project into a potential holiday hit…?

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Okay, this one is the Marry Me of the holiday season. Not only is it about a pop music mega-lebrity dating a teacher, but Garcia’s character toured with J. Lo when she was 15. Coincidence? I mean, probably, but the similarities are very much there.

Performance Worth Watching: Relative newcomer Deja Cruz lights up every scene she’s in with starstruck optimism — that is, when she’s not crying on command in scenes about her dead mother. She’s got the range, and playing Miguel’s daughter Cristina lets her show it off. Also, Falling for Christmas, A Gingerbread Christmas, Christmas with You — what’s with all the single dads and dead moms this year?

Christmas With You. (L to R) Freddie Prinze Jr as Miguel, Deja Cruz as Cristina in Christmas With You. Cr. Jessica Kourkounis/Netflix © 2022.
Jessica Kourkounis/Netflix

Memorable Dialogue: Angelina explains her latest diet to Monique: “It’s when you only eat lettuce, but you alternate by day the kind of lettuce you eat. It’s much more exciting than it sounds. Mo — the transition from arugula to spring mix makes your whole week.”

A Holiday Tradition: Every year, Costa performs at the Greatest Gift Foundation’s A Christmas to Remember Gala Fundraiser. Foundation, Christmas, gala, fundraiser — yep, checks all the boxes.

Two Turtle Doves: ‘Tis the season for holiday movies about pop stars and musicians. Hallmark’s In Merry Measure (out now) followed a pop star’s trip back home and her showing the high school choir a thing or two… alongside her old rival. There’s also Holiday Harmony on HBO Max (Nov. 24), which is about a songwriter’s hope of competing and winning in a song contest — but then she gets stuck in a small town. And then in CBS’s When Christmas was Young (Dec. 18), a Nashville music manager needs a hit song and, of course, falls hard for an up-and-coming songwriter.

Does the Title Make Any Sense?: Uh, no, because the song that Angelina and Miguel write is titled “Christmas Without You.” What gives??

Christmas With You. (L to R) Aimee Garcia as Angelina, Freddie Prinze Jr as Miguel in Christmas With You. Cr. Jessica Kourkounis/Netflix © 2022.
Jessica Kourkounis/Netflix

Our Take: Christmas With You is a hard movie to really give a “take” on, I’m finding — primarily because I believe that these kinds of movies should be judged based on what they set out to accomplish rather than comparing them to the entirety of cinema. What does a viewer want when they choose to put on Christmas With You? They want to be charmed by the performances, swoon over the romance, and be dazzled by the Christmas-iness of it all. If there are a few laughs and even just one legitimately surprising twist, that’s a bonus. So, does Christmas With You deliver?

Aimee Garcia definitely delivers, as she always does. She pretty much steals every scene she’s in in every project she tackles, and that includes Lucifer — a show starring a literal handsome devil. But Freddie Prinze Jr. isn’t able to match Garcia’s energy. There’s a similar vibe at work here as in Falling for Christmas with Lindsay Lohan. Unless you were one of the few who watched the Punky Brewster revival on Peacock, you probably haven’t seen Prinze in live-action in a decade or more (albeit for much more family-friendly reasons than the ones that have kept Lohan offscreen). But Lohan gives Falling for Christmas her all and delivers the kind of over-the-top, campy excellence that you want in a Netflix holiday movie. Prinze’s character, a widowed father and music teacher, doesn’t give him much to play with and he ultimately is just kinda there.

That makes the romance itself a tad under-developed. Garcia and Prinze are fine together (remember how Garcia can do pretty much no wrong onscreen?), but the film takes such a huge leap regarding their relationship for the final act’s obligatory “she was being selfish all along” moment that I had to rewatch a scene three times in order to figure out why Miguel and his daughter Cristina suddenly felt betrayed by Angelina.

As for the Christmas-y wonder… there are lots of decorations and lights — Miguel’s halls have been thoroughly decked — but there’s something off about the production that makes everything feel sub-Hallmark. The lighting is so bright and flat that it doesn’t make the decorations glow so much as just show us that they are there.

Christmas With You. (L to R) Aimee Garcia as Angelina, Freddie Prinze Jr as Miguel, Deja Cruz as Cristina, Zenzi Williams as Monique in Christmas With You. Cr. Jessica Kourkounis/Netflix © 2022.
Jessica Kourkounis/Netflix

All that is to say, Christmas With You is 2/3rds of a perfectly fun watch, primarily due to Garcia and Cruz — and the movie has such a pure heart that it feels super Grinch-y to hate on it. But even though these movies all follow the same melody, it works because that melody is catchy as hell. Unfortunately there are a few jarring moments towards the end of the movie that make you wonder if the CD is skipping.

Our Call: SKIP IT — but a light skip it. We want to support Aimee Garcia and are waiting for her to get the classic Christmas movie she so deserves.

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