For better or worse, Netflix’s new movie, “The Knight Before Christmas” is exactly as advertised. Directed by Monika Mitchell with a screenplay by Cara Russell, this is an extremely low-stakes tale of a single woman in 2019 Ohio falling in love with a knight from 14th century England, the latter of whom has been sent forward in time by a crone (his words) to complete a quest and become a true knight. Naturally, this all happens in the week leading up to Christmas.
Vanessa Hudgens is our lead here (and a producer on the movie), Brooke, a single science teacher, one who still hasn’t gotten over the long-term boyfriend she never really loved anyway and who cheated on her, ending their relationship. Josh Whitehouse is the medieval knight, Sir Cole. As the audience is well aware even though Sir Cole is not, his quest involves finding true love and it’s only because he’s nice to the crone when he happens upon her that she sends him almost 700 years into the future.
It is repeated more than once in the film, as a sort of justification for all this, that just because we don’t understand how something works (like time travel), that doesn’t make it impossible for it to exist. Time travel. True love. The crone herself. Even if not explicitly stated in every instance, the sentiment is an ever-present undercurrent when something happens that “The Knight Before Christmas” doesn’t want to explain.
In another movie, this might feel as though it were a cheat, a way to get around delving into a serious issue. Here, it fits beautifully with the surfacing-skimming ethos of the affair. Nobody who sees this movie’s thumbnail on the Netflix home screen is going to be watching for deep philosophic ideas about right and wrong, good and bad, love and hate, the butterfly effect, nor anything else. No, the point is to watch Brooke fall in love with Sir Cole as he falls in love with her and learns about the 21st century.
That goal is indeed accomplished and it all happens swiftly enough, with the movie just clearing 90 minutes in length. In that amount of time, they are even able to offer a hint about a possible sequel if enough folks watching Netflix enjoy what they’ve gotten the first time out (or at least watch enough of it to hit whatever metric the service uses to greenlight a project).
Although Hudgens is the star, Whitehouse steals the show. “The Knight Before Christmas” is at its best when Sir Cole is learning about the world today, either through Alexa, Netflix and chill, the wonders of a supermarket, or the joy of hot chocolate. It in no way feels like a realistic depiction of a 14th century knight in 21st century America, but on the other hand I just wrote the words “realistic depiction” alongside a discussion of a knight time traveling 700 years into the future, so… yeah.
Perhaps the only cogent argument against the movie as it stands is the aforementioned exceptionally low stakes nature. Even the bit where the new couple is separated so that they can reunite in an emotional climax doesn’t cause any pangs of fear for those watching. Even Brooke’s worry that she’ll never see Sir Cole again feels a little silly; surely she knows she’s in a Netflix original, doesn’t she? Certainly everyone in the cast—which includes Emmanuelle Chriqui, Isabelle Franca, Ella Kenion, and Jean-Michel Le Gal—seem to know it. The sets, the costumes, the makeup, it all espouses the same made-for-tv Christmas romance feel, and I refuse to believe that these 21st century characters haven’t sat down for their fair share of Hallmark originals through the years.
As bland as the following summation may be, whether or not you should watch the movie comes down to this: do you want to? You know exactly what this movie is selling before you start watching and it delivers what it says it will. You know whether you’re going to enjoy yourself before you even click play. Make that call for yourself.
”The Knight Before Christmas” defies my ability to score it
photo credit: Netflix