Brief synopsis: A week before Christmas, a congressional aide is sent to a tropical military base to check on its operational cost and viability. Her boss wants a report that will give her a reason to close the base and she knows that a report in her boss’ favour could help her career. A captain at the base is charged with trying to persuade her that what they do on the island is worth fighting for.
Is it any good?: Operation Christmas Drop is a clunky Christmas film but its heart is in the right place. With Kat Graham taking on her second Christmas role in as many years – The Holiday Calendar in 2018 – the film bumps along with no surprises whatsoever.
The film is part Christmas cheer, part American propaganda, though there is an acknowledgement of the real-life humanitarian efforts carried out, being a joint military effort between America, Japan and Australia. With the all-American looking Alexander Ludwig as the handsome captain Andrew Jantz, it is ultimately a feel-good Christmas film.
Spoiler territory: congressional aide, Erica Miller (Graham), is doing Christmas shopping for her boss, congresswoman, Angie Bradford (Virginia Marsden). She is on FaceTime with her friend and assistant, Sally (Aliza Vellani). Sally has found some information about a military base in Guam that Erica asked for.
In Guam, Andrew (Ludwig) is on a video call with his family; his parents, sister and his niece. The connection is dodgy and makes the audio intermittently inaudible. As his father goes to reboot the modem, his niece asks him if it would be possible for him to come home for Christmas. Andrew tells it that, unfortunately, it is not possible.
Later, on the base, Andrew is talking about the Christmas drop and organising all the Christmas activities. Back in the US, Sally is telling Erica, who has returned to the office, that she is in line for a promotion as the chief-of-staff position has recently become available. Erica is not so sure she is the primary candidate for the position. She gets a message from her boss.
After extricating the congresswoman from an uncomfortable meeting, Angie asks Erica to go and check out the base in Guam. Erica says it would a good break in January. Angie tells her she wants her out there before Christmas. Erica contacts her father to tell him she won’t be seeing him at Christmas. He thinks that she is just trying to avoid his new wife, Erica not having visited them at Christmas since her mother died some years before.
In Guam, Andrew’s commanding officer, General Hatcher (Jeff Joseph) calls him into the office to tell him that their base may be closed down unless they can show that it is cost-effective and well run. He charges Andrew with looking after the incoming Erica.
The ambitious Erica gets to Guam two hours before she is expected and goes and finds Andrew on the beach. She is not taken by his easy charm and is determined to be all business, insisting on seeing for herself just how well and cost-effectively the base is run.
Andrew takes Erica on a tour of the base and, in an effort to charm her, takes her to a beach. She notices a lot of military personnel heading towards another beach. Andrew tells her that they are going on survival training. At the local market, Erica sees posters for a Christmas party happening the upcoming Saturday. Andrew says it is probably some local thing. He takes her to a beach. Erica, still underwhelmed by his charm offensive, steals the jeep.
Back at the base, Erica wants answers. She drove by the beach where Andrew told her military training was happening and found personnel getting ready for the party on Saturday. Andrew explains that the drop is something they do every year and it does not impact on US finances. Erica tells him that while what they are doing is laudable, she has to report what she sees.
Erica gets invited to dinner by the general. She meets his wife, Sandra (Janet Kidder), who is also in the army. The three have dinner. After dinner, as Erica leaves, Sandra points out to her that, regardless of what she thinks, she can affect the decision of whether the base closes or not.
Back in her room, Erica is contacted by Angie. Angie needs a report that will allow her to close the base down. Erica tries to explain to her that what the base is doing is beneficial to the local populace but Angie is not interested.
The next day, Andrew takes Erica on a helicopter trip so as she can meet some of the people that the base helps. In one of the villages, she hears about the difficulties of getting an internet connection, something that aids with the children’s education. Andrew sings a song to entertain the villagers.
They head over to the beach where the base personnel are preparing for the coming festivities. The party is a fundraiser for the island. Andrew explains that everybody who is working, volunteers their time and resources.
Erica asks why he is not going home for Christmas. Andrew explains that he wants to be there for the drop. He asks why she is not home for the holiday. She tells him she prefers to walk ever since her mother died.
Erica’s final day, she tells Andrew she has to get her report done. Andrew insists on taking her snorkelling, her having told him she had never done it. Later, Andrew takes her to a local hotel so as she can see how he makes a deal with Christmas trees as a bargaining chip.
At the Christmas party, Erica has a wonderful time with all of the base personnel and various islanders. Erica is won over by the island. The next day, she goes and persuades a wealthy businessman to work with a Bruce Best (Brother Bruce) to create and donate solar generators. She goes to tell Andrew the good news.
Their joy is short-lived as they find out that the island is about to be hit by a massive storm and the general will not allow them to fly in a storm. An inspired Erica still wants to get a drop done before the storm hits.
Angie comes to see Erica. She wants to know what is happening with the base. She is not impressed to see the obvious efforts towards a Christmas drop.
She orders Erica to return to Washington the next day. Erica goes to pack and has a call with Sally. During the call, she realises she wants to get at least one drop done before she returns home.
She goes and finds a morose Andrew and persuades him to help her. He tells her that the general has grounded all flights. She tells him that she checked the weather and the storm is clearing. The general has told her that it is up to Andrew whether they fly or not. They go to organise the drop as the weather clears.
Congresswoman Angie catches Erica helping the drop and reminds her that she is supposed to be on a plane to Washington. She also tells the general that the drop is not supposed to happen. Sandra invites Angie to ride along on the drop after Erica reminds her why she got into politics.
They go on the drop. Back at the base, a contrite Angie is touched after witnessing the effects of the drop. Erica makes a compelling case for not shutting down the base. Angie tells her she is promoted. The last night on the island and Erica and Andrew are going to the general’s house for Christmas dinner.
Erica surprises Andrew by having his family flown in for Christmas. She tells him she is going to visit her father for the new year. They kiss. The end.
Final thoughts: Operation Christmas Drop is an okay Christmas film that only works due to the presence of Graham. A modern-day Doris Day or Meg Ryan, Graham is one of those attractive people who also has enough girl-next-door about her to work opposite a variety of leading men believably.
Ludwig works well as her romantic interest, even if, truthfully, there is not much effort made in creating their romantic attachment. The script by Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer is perfunctory rather than good, with far too many of the actors required to do little more than say their lines clearly, just there to support the central characters.
Directed in painting-by-numbers fashion by Martin Wood, the film looks nice enough, the usual over-lighting mostly hiding the prevalence of green screening. The writers do not commit to the slightly darker elements of the story, so there is no sense of the base ever being closed down.
Not that one would expect that from a film called Operation Christmas Drop. It is, after all, a Christmas film but the lack of any real tension or conflict in the film, especially as it does not commit to the comedic rom-com aspects either, lets the film down.
At ninety-five minutes long, Operation Christmas Drop is not a long film and moves swiftly through its runtime. By no means the worse Christmas film on Netflix and scoring a middling six point six on IMDB, Operation Christmas Drop is a passable time-waster in these lockdown days.