Christmas Made To Order – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: A workaholic architect hires a specialist Christmas decorator to prepare his home for the holidays as his family are due to visit. As the decorator spends time with him and his family, she helps him to see that his life is more than just work.

Is it any good?: No. Christmas Made To Order is not the worse film you are likely to see over the festive period but it is the most generic. It as if they put one hundred festive films into a computer and got the machine to spit out a script. Christmas Made To Order is that film.

The acting is listless and wooden, nobody looking like an actual person one might meet in the real world. The only thing the computer got both right and wrong is the length of the film, making it shorter than the usual ninety-minutes at only eighty-minutes long. 

Spoiler territory: Gretchen (Alexa PenaVega) has just finished decorating the lobby of the office building she works at part-time. It looks like Santa’s Grotto but Tim – an actor so wooden he does not even get a credit. I mean, there’s a credit for Sarah Beth Ballard, and she has no lines and is credited with ‘photo double/background’! – the security guard, comes out of the lift and give her a thumbs up. Gretchen appreciates his thumb. 

In the same building, in some other generic offices that are also overly decorated in festive cheer, Tom (Andrew Roach), generic not-quite-handsome-enough-to-be-main-guy, comes into the office he shares with Steven (Johnathan Bennett), handsome but work-is-the-only-thing-that-matters-since-my-heart-was-broken guy, is working.

There is a museum project beginning that day, so Steven is busy. Okay. Tim, who is wearing a Christmas tie in the run-up to Christmas, crazy guy, tells him that Rachel (JoMarie Payton), their boss, wants to see him. Tinseltown Tim asks Steven if he doesn’t like Christmas. Sure he does but it is only one day, points out the not at all a grinch Steven. 

Rachel, all hair and teeth, comes and tells Steven that she wants him to take lead on a project to sell to potential investors. Do a good job and he could be made partner. Woop Woop. She throws Tom a bone, telling him he is in line for the next promotion. Gee, thanks. 

Steven is so pumped by the thought of the new project and promotion possibility that he has to go and get himself a celebratory coffee. That’s it! Really let your hair down! He is coming out of the lift, eyes down on his phone and he bumps into Gretchen – excuse me. Who thought to name the main character Gretchen?! My apologies to any Gretchens reading… – who spills fake snow all over him. 

She apologises profusely. He apologises profusely. He asks what all the white stuff he is covered in is. She tells him it is fake snow. Maybe he hoped it was cocaine? 

Steven looks around, noticing the over-decorated lobby. He remarks on how it is a bit much. He is right but this is a Christmas film so Gretchen takes umbrage. 

He points out that Christmas is one day a year. Not quite bah humbug but close. Gretchen informs him that Christmas is a period, a season. She tells him that she is a Holiday decorator. He asks if it is a thing. In the twenty-first century? Of course, it’s a thing! People are lazy! 

After her fateful meeting with the future love of her life, – hardly a spoiler, it’s a Christmas film – Gretchen meets her friend, Marie (Chelsea Gilson), who must be an elf in disguise so overjoyed is she to see her friend and tells her she has another decorating job. 

Luckily, Nolan (Nathan Nonhof), allows her to work part-time allowing her to build towards her dream of decorating in the holidays. 

Nolan comes up to the two friends and gives Gretchen another decorating assignment. I’m not even sure what her job is, just another generic office creative type thing that is invented for Christmas films. 

The ever-smiling Gretchen, heads to the Silverpine Inn, a place her aunt, Lindsay (Tamari Dunbar) owns and runs. Her aunt, who lives in an Inn, tells her she should quit her part-time job and focus on her decorating business. Easy for her to say. 

Steven, who is still in the office, gets a video call from his niece, Paige (Bailee Johnson). She is calling because her mother, Steven’s sister, Kirsten (April Matson) needs to talk to him. 

Kirsten comes to tell him that he will have to host Christmas for the family. Steven is very reluctant to host Christmas but Paige wants to see Salt Lake at Christmas. He relents. 

Elf Marie is having coffee with Gretchen. Gretchen is on the phone. She has lost another client, her fledgeling holiday decorating business is not going well. 

Elf Marie tries to cheer her up by inviting her on a double date. She has been single for months! Gretchen declines the invitation. She just needs to get more clients. 

At the office, not-so-handsome Tom asks Steven if he is nervous about the pitch. Steven tells him he is more worried about his family coming for Christmas. 

He is worried that he won’t be able to match up to his sister’s elaborate Christmas hostings. Tom tells him his family knows he is busy and will not have high expectations. 

Steven tells him that he comes from a family of overachievers and they will expect a perfect Christmas. A perfect Christmas! Steven is panicking. Not-quite-the-guy Tom suggests he hire someone. Genius! Wonder who he will hire…?

Steven remembers running into Gretchen. He gets her business card from Tim the wooden security guard. He calls her and offers the job of decorating his home for his family’s Christmas visit. 

Gretchen goes to see Steven at his homes and gets straight to work. Whilst measuring up, randomly, Gretchen tells Steven about her dream of decorating holidays for a living. 

The next day, Gretchen is full steam ahead with the decorating. Steven, who is working from home, asks her if she needs any help. She tells him about her aunt’s inn and how amazing it is at Christmas. 

It was one of the reasons she started a holiday company, inspired by the inn. She finishes the decoration. Steven’s family arrive. They love the decorations but there is no tree. He tells them he has not got one yet. He has not got any food in either. 

He introduces the family to Gretchen; his parents, mother Ellen (Anne Sward), father, Ben (Rick Macy), Paige, Kirsten and brother-in-law, Jeff (Jacob Young). 

Gretchen says she is going to go home. Steven pulls her to one side and makes a proposition. How would she like to work as his Christmas consultant for the week, to help with entertaining his family? Gretchen agrees to the job. 

He tells his family that he has hired Gretchen as a Christmas coordinator. They all seem underwhelmed by the idea. Gretchen, not one to be discouraged when it comes to anything to do with Christmas, says they will go and get a tree the next day. 

Steven says he has not got time to pick a tree but after his father makes him feel guilty, Steven tells them he will work late to make time. Thanks dad! 

The next day, Gretchen and Steven’s entire family go looking for a tree. Gretchen tells them what to look for. Kirsten asks Gretchen how long has she been seeing her brother? Gretchen tells her that they are not together. 

Smug Jeff says he knew they were not together, a crestfallen Kirsten blabs to Gretchen about Steven having his heart broken some years before and plunging himself into work. Sap. 

Steven hears his niece singing. She has an extraordinary voice and he tells her so. Paige is not happy. She wants to be a singer but her dad wants her to be a doctor. 

Steven gives her a pep talk and offers to buy her some hot chocolate. Hot chocolate solves everything apparently. 

They get the tree back to Steven’s home. The women and Jeff decorate the tree. Steven has to work, much to Paige’s disappointment. Gretchen gets to know the family better. They all like her. Of course they do, this is not a soap opera. 

Gretchen is leaving and Steven walks her out. Her car will not start. Luckily, Kirsten is a brilliant mechanic. She can fix the car by tomorrow. Steven drops Gretchen home. 

He helps her take her tools and decorations into her home. Steven is surprised to see she does not have any decorations up. She tells him that she does not have the time between jobs. I have no idea how long it takes to put decorations up. Seems to me she should be able to chuck a few things up. A bit of tinsel? No? I digress. 

The next day, Gretchen takes them all over to her aunt’s inn. The women – no Jeff this time – make cider. Steven has gone into the office. His pitch is imminent. Quasimodo Tom comes and advises Steven to take a step back and go to dinner. 

Random advice that Steven, for some reason, thinks is good. Back with the ladies, Steven surprises Paige by turning up to the cider making class. She is ecstatic. Hmm. Gretchen is happy to.

Whilst at the inn, Steven takes the time to snoop around, checking out photos of Gretchen and her aunt and a photo of Gretchen as a child, noisy git. Gretchen catches him. 

He picks up a photo of her with her parents. She tells him they passed away when she was a child. She also tells him that her ex-boyfriend did not support her dream. 

Steven tells her about having his marriage proposal rejected a few years before and burying himself in work. 

Kirsten invites Gretchen to dinner at Steven’s home. At the dinner, the family regale her with stories of Steven’s childhood, gently embarrassing him. 

Gretchen, ever the entertainer, has brought cookies to decorate. She never bloody stops! Steven gets a call from work. He rejects the call much to the surprise of his family. 

Elf Marie is back and is giddy with excitement at the thought of Gretchen and Steven. Gretchen insists he is just a client. Of course, he is. Yep, right. Steven’s pitch does not go well. 

Davis (Scott Christopher), head of the project Steven is selling to, does not like the plans but he likes Steven’s work. Thanks? He tells the firm that he wants something different. Rachel says she will arrange another meeting. 

The family are out in Silverpine, the carol singers are out. Paige joins in with them and the rest of the family hear her singing for the first time. Her parents are blown away by her talent. Jeff thinks it will help her college application. How they did not know their daughter could sing is anybody’s guess.

Later, Gretchen advises Paige with the normal nonsense – follow your dream, passion, blah, blah, blah….Steven overhears the conversation. Gretchen said she to was afraid to pursue her dream properly. 

Steven tells her he is afraid of not being successful. There is a lot of confessional going on. Bonding over the outpouring, they almost kiss but Jeff, the pointless husband, interrupts them. 

Gretchen returns home and is going to start decorating her home but gets a call from Nolan. She needs to redo the proposal. At casa Steven, he is working and hears movement in the kitchen. 

Luckily, it’s his mother so he does not bash her head in. She is making…hot chocolate. She tells him that he is a workaholic and asks him about Gretchen. 

He tells his mother that he hopes to get Gretchen a job working for his firm so as he gets to see her more. She, being older and knowing he is a bit dense, tells him that he should, perhaps, ask her out on a date. 

The next day, Gretchen takes the family to a charity toy set-up. Steven talks some bollocks about kids being excited to open presents. They get offered some hot chocolate. I’m sure hot chocolate is free in Silverpine. 

Steven suggests going for a walk. Pointless Jeff thinks it is a great idea, Kirsten, wanting to give Gretchen and Steven a chance to get together, says she thinks they will go and get some cookies. Gretchen and Steven go for a walk. They bond more whilst out walking. 

The family make stockings. Jeff comes into the room excited, telling everyone that he got Paige onto a volleyball summer program. Paige finds the courage to tell her parents she wants to pursue music. 

Grandma Ellen tells her she is proud of her. Her parents decide they are okay with it as well. Don’t know what she was panicking about. They hang the stockings. Gretchen is touched when she finds that they made her a stocking as well. 

Paige wants to thank Gretchen for giving her the confidence to face her family about her choices. She goes to see her uncle to see how they can thank her. Steven says he has an idea. They decide to decorate her home while she is at work. They get keys from her aunt. 

Elf Marie tells Gretchen that Nolan is going to offer her a full-time job. Gretchen is not sure she wants to work full-time. She returns home to find it decorated and Steven and Paige waiting for her. She is overcome with the gesture. Later on, they all go to see a Christmas movie and out to eat pie. People need pie. 

Steven has a new pitch for Davis. He loves it and the pitch goes well. Rachel tells Stevens that she is going to call the board. Steven asks her if she would consider employing Gretchen. She says she will see her. He goes and gives Gretchen the news. 

The next day, Gretchen goes to see Rachel. Rachel likes her work and wants to employ her but she does not want to employ her as a freelancer. She wants her to work for the company. Gretchen turns down the job. 

Rachel tells Steven that Gretchen did not take the job. He goes to speak with Gretchen. She explains that she wants to be her own boss. He tells her that starting her own business is very difficult. Gretchen is offended by his lack of faith in her. 

Steven back peddles, hastily offering to double her pay. A perplexed Gretchen asks him if he just sees her as an employee. Steven, the dolt that he is, says that is what they agreed. Gretchen leaves. 

She goes to see her aunt. Her aunt gives her a pep talk, again telling her to risk it all and focus on her business. I’m not too sure how good her aunt’s advise is but it’s a Christmas film so…

Steven tells the ladies in his family what he did with Gretchen, how he offered her more money. They explain to him that he is a bit of a moron and he agrees. Gretchen gives notice at her job. Her elf, Marie, grins inanely behind her. Steven also decides to quit. This is all getting very reckless. 

Aunt Lindsay sets multiple places for Christmas dinner. Gretchen, who I frankly thought was sharper, asks why there are so many places. Her aunt tells her that she is expecting guests. Steven’s family arrive. They all tell Gretchen how much they love having her around and how she improved their lives and Christmas. 

Steven turns up belatedly. He gives her his new business card. He is starting his own firm, designing family homes. She was his inspiration. They both tell one another that they quit.

Considering neither have a wage now, they are remarkably happy. They reveal their feelings to one another and kiss. They join the rest of the family for dinner, which invites applause for some reason. The end. 

Final thoughts: Christmas Made To Order is so generic that one could fall asleep through the first hour and still know what is going to happen in the end. Usually, the casting is quite important in a rom-com, festive film but they could have put any two attractive actors in the central roles and it would have been just as watchable. Or not. 

The film is not terrible it is just boring. Nobody is particularly funny or engaging, the central pairing are vanilla and the kind of couple whose biggest excitement would be acrylic/wool blend jumpers. 

The best thing in the film is Bailee Johnson’s singing. Watching a film for a minute of singing, no matter how good, does seem a bit like a waste of life. 

Christmas Made To Order is eighty-minutes of your life that you will not get back. Like I say, it is not an awful film but if you have anything else better to do, do it.

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