A California Christmas appears to misunderstand that a Christmas film should probably have Christmas in it
Starring Lauren Swickard, Josh Swickard, and Amanda Detmer
Joseph (Josh Swickard) is a spoiled and callous rich boy who, driven by a desire not to get fired, arrives at a Californian dairy farm, eager to acquire the land. When he arrives, however, he is mistaken by dairy farm owner Callie (Lauren Swickard) as their new ranch hand Manny, so he decides that he will get closer to her so that he can achieve his goal. Roping in his driver Leo (Ali Afshar) and the actual ranch hand Manny (David Del Rio), Joseph soon realises there’s more to be appreciated about life.
Notice how there’s nothing about Christmas mentioned in that synopsis? That’s because the title of this film is a trick, a barefaced lie, some might say. Simply a ploy to get viewers to watch it because it has Christmas in the title. It is a clever ploy because it worked, but I am not happy about it. It simply has no business being a Christmas film. An easily-watchable, fluffy, vaguely terrible film, yes. But a Christmas one? Absolutely not.
Written by Lauren Swickard herself, A California Christmas is actually pleasantly heartwarming, with a disarmingly racy al-fresco intimate scene and decent cinematography, taking full advantage of the Californian landscape. Ali Afshar and David Del Rio are nice light relief compared to the slightly heavier material at the dairy farm, and Swickard has crafted potentially the most tragic backstory in history for protagonist Callie.
It would be one thing if just her father had passed away in a car accident. That’s already sad. But no, her fiancé died in the same accident. Where was Callie when this happened? Well, of course, she was in the car too. She’s totally fine, of course. To top it all off, she has a mother who is dying of cancer and incredible money worries. Obviously, as is predictable for this sort of film, all of these worries have magically gone away by the end of the film and Callie is magically cured of any sort of emotional turmoil because she’s in love and love cures all upsets. Callie’s sister meanwhile is likely going to grow up to be a murderer in A California Halloween.
Easy to digest, with an entertaining enough plot and decent acting performances, A California Christmas is a diverting-enough way to spend an evening, but if you are hoping for festive joy, you’d be best placed searching elsewhere.
A California Christmas is (deceptively) streaming on Netflix now.