Saturday, December 9, 2017

But I Digress... Jingle Bells and Shotgun Shells: A Netflix Christmas

By Cat

Movie Name/Year: El Camino Christmas (2017)
Tagline: Bullets, Beer, Holiday Cheer.
Genre: Comedy
Length: 82 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production Companies: Goldenlight Films, Brother, Netflix
Producers: Rich Carter, Theodore Melfi, Mike Milaccio, Jack L. Murray, Kimberly Quinn, Uri Singer, David E. Talbert, Lyn Talbert
Director:  David E. Talbert
Writers:  Theodore Melfi, Christopher Wehner
Actors: Vincent D'Onofrio, Jessica Alba, Dax Shepard, Tim Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Luke Grimes, Michelle Mylett, Emilio Rivera
Stunts: Brian Avery, Joe Bucaro III, Richard Burden, Jeremy Fry,Roberto Garcia, Efka Kvaraciejus, Paul Lacovara

Blurb from Netflix: Stuck in a liquor store during an alleged robbery, a group of strangers shares hidden truths and forms an unexpected bond on Christmas Eve.

Netflix lied to me.

IMDb lied to me.

It’s a conspiracy! OK, maybe not that. To be fair, it was more of an error-of-omission situation than any sort of falsehood. What am I talking about?  I’ll get to that in a moment.

Today’s digression was inspired by a Netflix Christmas surprise. I say that because somehow this movie escaped our radar, and therefore missed the potential to be named among our Top 20 Movies to Look Out for in December 2017.

“It’s the Christmas no one wanted,” the trailer explains. I wanted it, though, the minute that trailer began to auto-play when I loaded Netflix to search for a compilation of holiday movies. Why give you all another list when a Christmas comedy was on the table, right?

Shame, shame Netflix. Shame. I was not prepared. 

Don’t get me wrong, though. I really liked this film. That wasn’t the issue. There aren’t a lot of review-based ratings available to offer viewers informed decisions to potential audiences either. It was just released to stream on December 8th, after all. My issue was that this is absolutely not a straight up comedy. There are some heavy feels involved here, too. To play devil’s advocate, I see why they went with the single genre but ugh. The movie is somewhere in the nebulous space between drama that is dark comedy with a sense of irony, a doofus comedy romp, and a tragedy.

On to the movie!

Talk about a cluster situation of wrong-place and wrong time – or perhaps, it was kismet. Events either spiraled completely out of control or they were artistically dropped into place by the hands of fate. Either way you look at the circumstances within this film; it’s hilarious, face-palm inducing, heart-warming, and occasionally heart-wrenching at the same time.  

I almost don’t know where to start, because I don’t want to give too much away.

This wasn’t a fly-by-night production. I have to tip my hat to director David Talbert (First Sunday, Baggage Claim, Almost Christmas) for finding a way to bring laughter to the darkest corners of this film. The characters were well nuanced and relatable. So much was evident between the actual lines, and it made it easier to invest in the people and their situations.

Luke Grimes (Taken 2, True Blood, American Sniper) did a good job with his lead role, but it was really Vincent D'Onofrio (Daredevil, The Magnificent Seven, Rings) and Tim Allen (Wild Hogs, Crazy on the Outside, Last Man Standing) that stole the show. I don’t say that lightly about Allen, either. I’ve mentioned before that he isn’t my favorite actor, but I find myself regarding him with increasing respect for his projects that step out of the stereotypes he created for himself with his past work. 

Kurtwood Smith (Hitchcock, Agent Carter, Amityville: The Awakening) and Dax Shepard (Without a Paddle, When in Rome, Parenthood) can be counted on for a lot of the laughs in this movie. Their dynamic is what you expect from the movie after watching the trailer. They’re the setup that allows the surprise left-hook to the feels.

Michelle Mylett (Antisocial, Lost Girl, Buckout Road) really impressed me with her portrayal of strong single mom, Kate Daniels. Her family dynamic is integral to the plot, even though the primary story revolves around Grimes’ character. 

If you’re looking for an interesting holiday-themed movie that’s amusing but not a one-dimensional laugh-track fest, this just might be the movie for you. I’d certainly recommend it. It’s got Christmas carols, friendship, family, and fire-fights. What’s not to love? Just maybe have some tissues nearby. Unlike Netflix, you can't say I didn't warn you.

P.S. I’m almost positive that Vincent D’Onofrio sings the holiday song that plays during the final credits.

Speech Available: English, English –Audio Description, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Subtitles Available: English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 62%
Metascore - None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6/10

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

Movie Trailer:

But I Digress... is a weekly column for that can't be pinned down to just one thing. It's our celebration of tangents, random references, and general fan geekdom that both intertwines with, revolves around, and diverges from our movie-review core. In homage to the beloved Brit comedians, we want to bring you something completely different!

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