Movie #339 2020: Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (2020)

Oy vey. I had high hopes for this, especially considering that Dolly Parton just saved all of humanity. Darn, what a disappointment.

Christine Baranski stars as the cold-as-ice Regina; a businesswoman who has served all of the residents of the titular square with an eviction notice. On Christmas Eve, no less. Yes, this is one of those A Christmas Carol tales in which Regina is forced to learn the meaning of Christmas, with Dolly Parton herself serving as ‘Angel’, a.k.a. The Ghost of Christmas Past. Each inhabitant of the square tries their part at getting Regina to change her mind, but nothing seems to work. Until…

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. I’m completely sure that Dolly wrote this just for the gays. I mean, it’s Debbie Allen directed, over-zealously choreographed, campy, and a full musical theatre extravaganza. Try and convince me otherwise. This is for the gays and the musical theatre kids alone. Sadly, any musical theatre lover will realise that this is simply not a good example of it.

Thankfully, Queen Christine Baranski and Jenifer Lewis are on board to save the rest of you from the cheese and the otherwise cringe-worthy acting. The pair of them really raise the bar a notch, and Lewis’ voice resounds stronger than ever, especially during her very own solo at the hair-dressing station (which is technically a duet with Baranski, but she does all of the heavy lifting).

Is it stupid to have assumed there wouldn’t be this much singing? The movie prides itself on contains 14 original songs written by Dolly, but this is way over the top. I personally really thought it’d be more of a mix of dialogue and musical numbers, but they went full on RENT/Les Miserables with this. Irritatingly, that was the wrong way to go.

Now, let’s look at the technicalities. Simply put, the CGI/green screen in this film is fucking atrocious. Sorry, Dolly. Is it Ms. Debbie Allen‘s fault? Sure, she’s the director, but it feels almost as if she left those sequences to the effects department, who completely dropped the ball. At least there are one or two pretty good songs here to make up for visual failure, specifically the lamp lighting song that Dolly performs herself.

A pretty obvious premise for a Christmas movie, with clear aforementioned Scrooge/It’s A Wonderful Life vibes, but sometimes a bit of a cheese with a sweet message is just what you want at Christmas. Alas, there are better Christmas films that will fulfil that need.

At times it is unbearably corny, but I had fun for at least 50% of the film. Plus, I’ll watch any movie with Baranski in it. Nevertheless, it should have been a stage show, not a movie. Disappointing.

Dolly Parton’s A Christmas on the Square is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

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