A very predictable (still healthy)
HOLIDAY ROM-COM FLUFF
Seasonal movies can shine during the Christmas break. Dazzling viewers with Christmas spirit and overly sentimental stories about love, family and Christmas party. A subgenre of these types of films comes in the form of romantic comedies (i.e. rom-coms), which take the time-tested romantic comedy formula and mix it with the syrupy goodness of vacation-themed news. This spans a variety of publications over the years including but not limited to Love actually, Last holidays, Last Christmas, A Christmas prince, While You slept and The Princess Switch, The holidays, and many others. Now, Netflix and director Martin Wood are releasing Operation Christmas Drop, the latest rom-com film Holiday. Does the film prove itself in its Christmas romance or is it a boring undertaking with very little holiday joy?
Erica Miller (Kat Graham) furiously works as the assistant to Congressman Bradford (Virginia Madsen) in Washington DC. Facing some problems with the loss of her mother and the remarriage of her father, Erica deals with her duties. Bradford hires her hardworking assistant to investigate a US air force base in Guam with a reason to recommend closing it before the holiday season ends. There she meets Captain Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig), an Air Force captain who acts as base liaison for Bradford’s assistants. Show her the base and its operations to convince her she should stay open. During her visit, Erica witnesses the grassroots annual tradition of bringing goods to the citizens of Guam for Christmas. Andrew leads the operation with locals, showing Erica that the tradition is worth it and the base shouldn’t be closed. However, Erica comes under pressure from her boss to urge that the base be closed, which complicates matters as Erica quickly warms up romantically for Andrew during her stay.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Yes, I am a fan of Christmas movies. Always have and always be. Christmas time has been a big holiday for me since I was a child, so the combination of old Christmas cheers and cinematic stories in holiday-themed films has always been to my taste. The same goes for combining romantic comedies with holiday-spirt traits that portray such healthy goodness … in a somewhat cheesy / melodramatic feel that seems perfectly appropriate for this particular time of year (i.e., in the context and values of Christmas) . . As mentioned above, there have been many holiday / Christmas-themed rom-coms, some released from Hollywood studios, as well as some smaller ones released on various streaming services (e.g. Netflix) and TV efforts (z Lifetime / Hallmark channels). I don’t really have a particular fan favorite of mine, as I usually put on one of these films every now and then … as background noise. Nevertheless, rom-coms on the topic of holidays are generated year after year during this Christmas season. Promoting happy and good news for everyone … with a side of stereotypical but fun romances.
That makes me talk Operation Christmas Drop, a 2020 film and the newest addition to the Holiday Rom-Com subgenre. To be completely honest, I really haven’t heard much about this movie. I think I heard a thing or two about it every now and then when following actor Alexander Ludwig on Instagram. I remember he posted a few things about making a movie in Guam. But not much beyond that. Therefore, my first introduction to this film was in October when the movie’s movie trailer officially launched online. From the trailer alone, the film looked as if it would belong to the “feel-good vacation rom-coms” that are always released at this time of the year. Complete with a vacation story, two “pretty” young lovers and a plot in which the two characters get to know each other. In short, it looked like a “tried and true” rom-com venture, and I have to admit that I was looking forward to seeing it when the film was due out on Netflix in early November 2020. A waited a couple of weeks after its release when i was busy with work but i finally got a chance to sit down and watch it … and what did i think of that? Well it was okay, but I liked it. The wheel is not reinvented or something different is done than before. Operation Christmas Drop does the job in his syrupy melodrama out of love and Christmas joy in front of a tropical backdrop. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good distraction to watch for immersing yourself in the sometimes cheesy romance of rom-coms and Christmas spirt.
Operation Christmas Drop Directed by Martin Wood, whose earlier directorial work includes several episodes from television series such as Stargate SG-1, Cedar Grove, and When the heart calls. With his collective bodywork mostly delegated in the episodic television field, as well as some television film projects, Wood hasn’t really done much in terms of full-length productions. Perhaps making Operation Christmas Drop one of his more ambitious theatrical projects (at least in my opinion). In this regard, Wood is certainly successful; Capture the essence of a romantic comedy aspect / nuances on vacation from the get-go and show the right amount of truthfulness in what the Pacific Air Force in Guam is doing for this special event (more on this below). First and foremost, however, Wood seems to know what the film wants to be and never deviates from the romantic comedy corner of the vacation, which is a kind of “double-edged sword” (more on this below), but the frame of everything is bristling with syrupy Rome- Com influences. Basically, if you’ve seen a rom com movie before, you know what to wait for while you are watching Operation Christmas Drop. Personally, I fell into that category. It’s not really dark or violent or provocative or anything like that … Just light in tones and big in its romance and holiday mood. Even the script for the film, written by Gregg Rosen and Brian Sawyer, seems to fit the frame of the romantic comedy narrative, with a story torn straight out of Holiday Rom-Coms 101. I suspected this for the movie, it didn’t bother me that much. Thus, the script handling and directing for the film is fine and still leaves a happy (but sometimes cheesy) light-hearted vacation-themed romantic comedy that goes on Operation Christmas Drop entertaining like a piece of fluff. Also, as a side note, the film is pretty short (an average run length for an animated film) and a pretty airy piece that I really enjoyed.
Looking beyond the predictable nature of the film, Operation Christmas Drop manage to bring to light the idea of what the main plot of the story is about (i.e. the actual Operation Christmas Drop). While it sounds a bit hokey (something that came up for a movie plotter), Operation Christmas Drop is a real thing that dates back to 1952, which the Pacific Air Force (PACAF) is part of along with a partnership between them 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan; the 36th Wing, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; 734th Air Mobility Squadron, Andersen AFB of the 515th Air Mobility Task Force, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; the University of Guam; and the private organization Operation Christmas Drop, which directs fundraising and fundraising for the operation. It is also interesting that all donations and fundraising campaigns (as seen in the film) are made with the greatest appreciation and with the honesty of the good intentions to give something back to the islanders in the South Pacific. There is actually a website for the actual Operation Christmas Drop event. So be sure to check out these. Whether you are not particularly interested in the romantic comedy corner of the film or the romance between its main characters, you simply need to appreciate the valiant and caring efforts made to make this particular humanitarian operation an ongoing success over the years.
In terms of presentation, the film does a pretty good job of capturing a tropical vacation theme. While the film could be shot in any tropical setting (i.e. Hawaii or similar location), the film was shot entirely in the U.S. Guam Territory, with plenty of picturesque surroundings and topography of beaches, palm trees, and other tropical nuances. While it’s neither new nor out of the ordinary when it comes to backdrop set pieces, what is presented definitely works and gives this vacation-themed feature that tropical flair. So, I guess instead of the traditional snow-white Christmas backdrop that so many rom-coms use, Operation Christmas Drop is different in this regard. Also, I thought it was cool that this movie was one of the first features shot in Guam to gain wide coverage. Everything else from costume designs to production layouts to set decorations and cinematography seems pretty normal. Reaching the industry standard for vacation rom-coms out there. So, nothing dared, nothing gained in these special categories “behind the scenes”. The music in the film is also pretty much “on one level” with Hamish Thomson’s composer delivering a cute but fluffy, predictable musical composition piece that is accompanied by various Christmas carols.
The main problem with Operation Christmas Drop is his overall satire, which he wants to pull through in the context of his story. What does that mean? Well, it’s basically … the problem is the simple fact that the movie is presented as a rom-com and follows the same old predictable path that those particular subgenre traits follow to a “T”. From start to finish, nothing about the movie seems to really stand out from the crowd, neither from romantic comedies nor from romantic vacation-themed comedies that have emerged recently. No real surprises, no real “big twists”, and not even anything shocking, to be completely honest. Virtually everything about this film is what many would expect from a rom-com, in a manner that provides some kind of “comfort food,” and while this can be good (as mentioned above), it does also familiarity in a kind of generic way.
To be fair, I was expecting the movie to look like this, so it’s not a “downer” for me or a serious “big deal”, but it’s pretty hard to ignore. What exacerbates this idea is the simple fact that neither Woods’ director nor Rossen / Sawyer’s script manage to generate anything new for this romantic comedy record of storytelling. satisfied with keeping everything “status quo” and not really coloring “outside the lines” of the default parameters set for a rom-com. That means everything in Operation Christmas Drop is literal and feels formulaic. Yes, it’s harmless, with vacation themes and a no-nonsense romance between two young people, but I kind of wanted to see something more. Damn something like that Crazy Rich Asian, a rom-com through and through, turned out to be wonderfully entertaining and retained its romantic comedy influences. In addition, the script of the film is filled with the cheesy / kitschy one-liners that are atypical for a rom-com. for a few crowning moments in the film. Again, I expected that as it doesn’t bother me that much, but it might bother a few out there.
The occupation Operation Christmas Drop is decent enough and holds it together for the Christmassy romantic comedy trying to tackle this project. Of course, as mentioned above, most of these characters are very modeled on the movie subgenre and never fully develop beyond their initial on-screen setup. Still, most manage to make it work in the context of the feature, which balances everything. The leadership of the image (and the weight of the film) rests on the shoulders of the two main actors, with actress Kat Graham and actor Alexander Ludwig playing the roles of Erica Miller and Captain Andrew Jantz. Graham, best known for her roles in Cut Throat City, How it ends, and the Vampire Diaries, is fine in the role of Erica, who has her own personal baggage to deal with in the film but puts up a frontal hull to be a hard worker. Graham is definitely easy on the eyes and defines the film’s strengths as being the hardworking worker who pleases her main male colleague. Although the character is not really original. The same goes for Ludwig’s Andrew. Known for his roles in The hunger Games, Vikings, and Bad boys for lifeLudwig is good in the role of the Luftwaffe captain with a heart of gold, which at first scares off Erica’s cold demeanor, but warms up to her. Like Erica, Andrew’s character may be too overbearing as there really is nothing new or original. What definitely overcomes these two weaknesses in their respective characters is the general sympathy that both Graham and Ludwig exude in the film. Some might say that one or the other is a miscast in the film. To me, however, I liked both, with Graham and Ludwig (both looking very pretty young people) looking at the piece and wearing the pull of the feature on their shoulders. You can see that they had fun making the movie and enjoying each other’s company which is so real their chemistry, even though it’s not the best I see.
As a side note, actress Virginia Madsen (Sideways and dune), who plays Congressman Bradford in the film, plays the character in a very clichéd way as the die-hard antagonistic villain of the feature film. There’s not much for her other than a few lines of dialogue here and there, and the film goes a little too much out of the way to make her the “bad guy” obstacle, and while that might work in other films, there is not much to her in this movie. Make Madsen’s Bradford pretty one-dimensional.
The rest of the cast, including actor Jeff Joseph (keep on dreaming and Supernatural) as General Hatcher, actress Janet Kidder (continuum and Chucky and his bride) as Lieutenant Colonel Blaine, actress Aliza Vellani (Sweet tooth and Upload) as Sally, actor Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica and Ineffable) as Sampson, actor Trezzo Mahoro (To all boys: P.S. I still love you and Van Helsing) as Joker, actress Bethany Brown (The Lightning and Fascinated) as Sunshine and actor Rohan Campbell (The Hardy Boys and Virgin River) as Travis are more or less a window dressing for the feature and merely assist the players throughout the film. While none of them perform poorly, the film keeps many of them constrained with their limited screen time and underdeveloped character development; Behave more like equity-like players. As an aside, the real person Bruce Best (aka Brother Bruce) who leads the actual Operation Christmas Drop makes a cameo-like appearance of himself in the film, which is pretty cool.
Erica was commissioned to evaluate an air force base in Guam for its efficiency. He warms up to Captain Andrew Jantz as the couple participates in the annual airbase tradition in the film Operation Christmas Drop. The latest film from director Martin Wood takes the romantic comedy corner of the vacation and frames it in a tropical paradise setting in which two lovers fall in love in order to achieve their own goals. While the formula of the movie narration (start to finish) is pretty predictable, taking into account both the cheesy moments and some clunky / generic characters, the movie still retains some good, healthy, feel-good entertainment thanks to the vacation theme, with story, meaningful humanitarian efforts ( both in the movie and in the real world) and personable cast. Personally, I kind of like this movie. Yes, it’s pretty predictable and can be a bit cheesy in some parts, but it’s a piece of fluff that ultimately does what it intends to do, namely love, family, and the good-natured Christmas hype. So my recommendation for this film is a solid “Rent it” as it doesn’t have a huge repetition value, but vacation rom-com fans or viewers are sure to be excited just looking for something to put on in the background while setting up Christmas decorations . Finally, Operation Christmas Drop is not the epitome of a romantic Christmas comedy for a new era, but rather offers a frank (yet predictable) healthy Christmas yarn that is easy to digest and full of a love of Christmas fluff to enjoy watching.
3.5 out of 5 (Rent It)
Published on: 5th November 2020
Reviewed on: 3rd December 2020
Operation Christmas Drop is 95 minutes and is rated TV-G or PG