The Princess Switch: Switched Again – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: A princess, days away from her Christmas Day coronation is given a chance to rekindle her romance with a love she thought lost when a fellow princess, who is her doppelgänger, switches places with her to give her a chance to get the romance back on track. A greedy cousin to the soon-to-be-queen princess, who also bears the same uncanny resembles to the princesses, throws a spanner in the works when she kidnaps one of the princesses. 

Is it any good?: The Princess Switch: Switched Again, follow up to the 2018 film, The Princess Switch, is harmless nonsense with Vanessa Hudgens going full Eddie Murphy this time, taking on three roles instead of just the two. 

There are no surprises in the film and the story is not going to win any awards. It is just festive fluff with Hudgens utilising her Disney kudos to the full. 

Spoiler territory: it is two years since Stacy (Hudgens), a baker from Chicago, switched places with Lady Margaret (also Hudgens), a duchess from Belgravia and married a prince, Prince Edward (Sam Palladio), when she visited Belgravia for a baking contest and the two swapped places after the duchess noted their remarkable resemblance. 

The duchess fell in love with Stacy’s best friend, Kevin (Nick Sagar). Unfortunately, their relationship did not last and Kevin went back to Chicago. In Belgravia, Stacy is keeping busy with her royal duties and presenting an award at a cake competition. Edward comes to meet her at the event. 

Later, as Edward tries to broach the subject of them spending more time together, a distracted Stacy tells him that she is worried about Margaret. 

She is in line for the throne after the king died and Prince Howard, who was next in line, abdicated. She is next in line and the coronation is due to take place on Christmas Day. 

As Edward makes suggestions to try and get more amorous, Stacy speculates that she does not believe that Margaret is happy. She has not been happy ever since she split from Kevin. 

Edward tells her that people split all the time. She keeps on speaking along the same lines; Olivia (Mia Lloyd), Kevin’s daughter, has been on the phone to her telling her how miserable he is since he split with Margaret. 

Stacy goes to Chicago to see Kevin and Olivia and to persuade Kevin to come to the coronation in Montenaro. Kevin is looking dishevelled and slovenly. 

He tells Stacy that he has moved on. He believes Margaret has moved on also. Stacy tells him they need to support Margaret at the upcoming coronation. He agrees to attend. 

Stacy meets up with Edward and they go to Montenaro. Margaret is very happy to see them. She is also happy about the surprise visit of Olivia and Kevin. Inside the royal palace, everything is covered over. 

Margaret is not comfortable getting ready for Christmas festivities when the country is in mourning for the king. Edward points out that the country wants to celebrate a new era, with a new ruler; her. They decorate the house. 

Margaret and Kevin have obviously missed one another. Olivia suggests they have some hot chocolate, which they all think is a good idea. She then suggests Kevin and Margaret make it. 

The two go to the kitchen and as they look for ingredients to make the hot chocolate, become playful. Antonio (Lachlan Nieboer), the chief of staff, interrupts their frivolity. 

Taking her away, he remarks on how there is much to review before the coronation. There is a concert on Christmas Eve and a reception. Antonio makes a great effort to ingratiate himself with Margaret. Stacy interrupts his brown-nosing. 

Stacy comes to see Margaret the next morning. She wants to know what her relationship is with Antonio. She tells her that he has been very helpful with the royal protocols, as he had been the king’s consort. Margaret asks how Kevin feels about her. Stacy tells her to ask him. 

At the evening ball, Stacy encourages Kevin to ask Margaret to dance. As Antonio tries to win her over with florid words, Kevin comes and takes her onto the dance floor. 

Whilst on the floor, Kevin invites her out for a drive the next day. Margaret accepts. As the ball continues, Margaret’s cousin, Fiona (Hudgens again), makes an entrance. She is not dressed for a ball. 

She is flanked by two minions; Mindy (Florence Hall) and Reggie (Ricky Norwood), who quickly disappear into the throng of ball’s attendees. 

Stacy comes over with Edward. Fiona immediately comments on their likeness, remembering that they swapped roles a while back. 

Fiona leaves them. Margaret tells them that Fiona likes to party and has already burnt through her late uncle’s fortune. 

Antonio comes to get Margaret. The Prime Minister is there to see her. She tells Kevin she will see him tomorrow at two o’clock. She leaves. At the ball, Mindy and Reggie are pickpocketing guest and stealing items.

The next day at the Pembroke Estate, Fiona’s home, Mindy and Reggie reveal their stolen stash. Fiona is not impressed. Mindy makes an off-hand comment, saying their lives would be better if she was to become queen. Fiona dismisses both of them. She then looks at the invite for the coronation. 

At the royal palace, Margaret meets Kevin to go out for their intended drive. Before they can leave, Antonio comes and tells her that he needs to speak with her urgently. Getting her alone, Antonio gives Margaret a piece of jewellery and makes a play for her. He tells her they would make a fantastic couple. 

Margaret talks to Stacy about it. Stacy, who is team Kevin, tells her she is sure she and Kevin should be together. Meanwhile, Antonio tells Kevin that he is not being fair to Margaret and is possibly holding her back from becoming the monarch she could be. Olivia overhears the conversation. She tells Stacy. 

They go to Margaret and tell her she needs to find out where she and Kevin are, relationship-wise. Stacy suggests they swap again, to give her time to be with Kevin. Mrs Donatelli (Suanne Braun), Margaret’s lady-in-waiting, will help. Margaret has reservations but agrees. 

At Pembroke Estate, Fiona has come up with a plan. She plans to become queen long enough to transfer money to an off-shore account. She plans to kidnap Margaret before the coronation and take her place. Fiona goes to the palace to find out Margaret’s movements. She finds out that Margaret is going to a charity concert. 

The next day, as Olivia distracts Edward, Margaret and Stacy swap roles. Fiona also gets a makeover, her blonde hair made black like the princesses.

Margaret goes to see Kevin. Edward, unaware of the role swap, speaks to Stacy mistakenly thinking she is Margaret. He tells her that he thinks that Stacy might be becoming tired of him as she always seems to be too busy to make time for them. He tells her that Stacy is everything to him. She tells him everything will be fine. 

Olivia gets Edward to take her Christmas shopping. Stacy fulfils Margaret’s royal duties as Margaret goes to meet up with Kevin. Olivia continues to run interference with Edward. 

Stacy goes to the carol concert as Margaret. Fiona, Mindy and Reggie turn up at the concert. 

Kevin and Margret have a proper conversation about their relationship and their feelings for one another. Kevin tells her he does not want to hold her back. 

She tells him that he is the one she loves. Back at the concert, Reggie spills a drink on Stacy as Mindy distracts Mrs Donatelli. Mindy immediately tells Stacy, who she thinks is Margaret, that she can help her in the bathroom. They go to the bathroom.

In the bathroom, Fiona chloroforms Stacy and they swap clothing. Mindy and Reggie take Stacy to Pembroke Estate. Fiona returns to the concert and immediately calls for the car. 

She wants to return to the palace. She leaves Mrs Donatelli behind. Back at Pembroke Estate, Mindy and Reggie do not believe Stacy when she tells them they took the wrong person.

At the palace, Margaret comes to swap back with Stacy. Fiona as if Margaret is Stacy and kicks her out of the room. She calls her minions. They grabbed the wrong person. They have got Stacy. Mindy tells Fiona she can move up the coronation. 

Margaret goes to speak to Edward. She tells him that his wife has been kidnapped. Mrs Donatelli returns and tells them that she has been fired and that the coronation has been moved to that night. Margaret tells her she is not fired.

Kevin goes to see Margaret, not realising it is Fiona. She tells him that they cannot be together. She says they must end their relationship. Kevin tells her if he leaves he is not coming back. Kevin leaves. 

Back at Pembroke Estate, Stacy is looking for a way out. Kevin and Olivia leave the palace and head to the airport. Mrs Donatelli tells them what happened at the concert. 

Margaret works out that they must have switched there and that she is probably being held at the Pembroke estate. Antonio works out that Fiona is impersonating Margaret and makes a deal with her in the hope they can both become very rich. 

Reggie takes a sandwich for Stacy. She distracts him and escapes the basement room. Edward, Margaret, Mrs Donatelli and Frank (Mark Fleischmann), the driver, arrive at Pembroke Estate and rescue her.

Mrs Donatelli reminds them that they need to stop the coronation. At the church, Fiona and Antonio argue the veracity of having a coronation a day before its date with the priest. 

Kevin and Olivia are being driven in circles by the taxi driver. The coronation begins. Margaret enters the church and demands that proceedings be halted. 

She looks to Antonio to verify that she is the real Margaret. Antonio tells the guards to arrest her. Stacy steps forward and backs Margaret. Margaret tells Fiona that Reggie and Mindy have been arrested and have confessed. 

She says it was Antonio’s idea. Margaret has Antonio arrested. Fiona tries to wriggle out of it but she is taken into custody. The coronation moves back to Christmas Day. 

Fiona tells her that she sent Kevin away. Margaret heads to the airport to catch Kevin. She catches up with him and, along with Edward, Stacy and Mrs Donatelli stops him. Stacy tells Kevin that it was Fiona told him to leave. 

Margaret asks him to marry her. He says he wanted to marry her six months before. They both say yes. Margaret sees a priest and says they should get married right there and then. He marries them hurriedly. 

The next day, the Christmas coronation goes ahead and Margaret becomes queen of Montenaro. The end. 

Final thoughts: The Princess Switch: Switched Again is a pleasant film that is exactly as one would expect it to be. Hudgens is entertaining as all three characters and the rest of the supporting cast reprise their roles with ease. 

Hudgens, Hall and Norwood in the roles of Fiona, Mindy and Reggie respectively, bring a nice levity to proceedings, breaking away from the rom-com formula of the previous film slightly. Though the film still uses the swap as a crutch, it is utilised in a, as much as it ever could be, organic way and does not jar in the context of the film. 

As a festive film, The Princess Switch: Switched Again suffers the same weakness of many festive offerings in that it is not so much a Christmas film as a film set at Christmas. The story could’ve been set at any time of year. It is a minor gripe and does not impact the film. 

The Princess Switch: Switched Again, directed by Mike Rohl, who directed the first film, and is written by the same writers as the first film as well, Robin Bernheim and Megan Metzger.

At ninety-six minute long, it is just over the standard ninety-minute mark of a standard rom-com but is not noticeable for it. The Princess Switch: Switched Again is a nice enough film in the run-up to the festive season and worth a watch.

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.

Jingle Jangle – A Christmas Journey – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: a successful magical toy inventor, loses his belief in magic when his apprentice steals his toy inventions book. The apprentice goes on to become the most successful toy inventor in the world, whilst his former boss spirals into depression and debt after his wife dies and his daughter grows up and leaves. 

Thirty years later, the toymaker must come up with an invention to save his business, otherwise, the bank will foreclose on his debts. His granddaughter visits him to try and help him rediscovers his belief and the magic. 

Is it any good?: Jingle Jangle – A Christmas Journey is an okay Christmas film that borrows elements from a whole slew of other classic films and even television shows. Unfortunately, the film does not quite sparkle as much as it should or could have. 

The film is long at two hours and is a musical, though the musical numbers are not spaced out well enough to help with one of the other issues in the film; the pacing. 

The other issue is the weak execution on the central premises of belief and magic, both of which are only briefly alluded to. The chance to have a really good villain is also wasted. Jingle Jangle is mostly a visual treat and the songs are good but it fails on the magic and wonder front.

Spoiler territory: a brother and sister are looking into the fireplace on Christmas Eve. The girl sees magic dancing in the flames. Her brother ribs her about it, he cannot see anything. Their grandmother (Phylicia Rashad) comes into the room and tells them that she will read them a bedtime story.

The grandson wants to hear The Night Before Christmas but noticing how disappointed her granddaughter seems by her brother’s lack of belief in magic, she decides to tell them a different story. 

She pulls out a book that has an elaborate mechanism on the front and opens it. She tells the story of a man, Jeronicus Jangle (Justin Cornwell) a renowned toy inventor whose store, people came to from miles around to see and revel at his magical inventions. 

Jeronicus had an apprentice, Gustafson (Miles Barrow) who had talent but lacked patience. Gustafson builds a toy that flies and shows it to the wonderment of a few patrons in the store. The toy hovers momentarily but then splutters and falls apart. The gathered crowd quickly disperse. 

The postman brings a package for Jeronicus. Jeronicus is extremely excited, sharing his joy with his wife, Joanne (Sharon Rose) and daughter, Jessica (Diaana Babnicova) and giving out toys to all of the patrons in the store. 

He takes the package to his workshop, even as his apprentice, a frantic Gustafson tries to get him to look at his broken toy. Jeronicus tells him he will look at the toy tomorrow. 

In his workshop, Jeronicus opens the package. It contains a small dropper. He squeezes a drop of green/gold liquid into an elaborate contraption. It whirrs and splutters, creating a pure golden liquid. He puts a drop of the liquid into a small, matador toy. The toy comes to life and introduces itself as Don Juan Diego (Ricky Martin). 

The sentient toy thinks of itself as one of a kind but sees that Jeronicus plans to create multiple iterations of him. The family are celebrating Jeronicus’ triumphant. He gives his daughter a pair of inventor goggles, telling her she is now an inventor. Gustafson overhears the conversation. The family leave the workshop, going to have dinner. 

Before they leave the workshop, Jeronicus tells Gustafson to clean up and look after Don Juan Diego as he plans to create one for every child in the world. One million of them. Juan Diego is mortified at the thought. Jeronicus leaves the workshop. 

Don Juan Diego persuades him to borrow Jeronicus’ book of inventions indefinitely. Gustafson is initially reluctant but Juan Diego keeps talking. Jeronicus comes back to the workshop, having brought his apprentice a tray of dinner but Gustafson is gone. So is the book. Jeronicus tries to find him but cannot. 

Over the next few years, Jeronicus continued to try and invent toys but his faith was gone along with the magic. His former apprentice becoming the foremost toymaker in the world. Then his wife died. Eventually, Jessica could no longer console or help her father and left the home. 

Thirty years later, Jeronicus (Forest Whitaker) has turned the once-thriving toy store into a pawn shop. It is rundown and only Edison (Kieron L. Dyer), a young local lad, works around the sullen Jeronicus.

Ms Johnston (Lisa Davina Phillip), the postwoman, comes to visit him. She is attracted to Jeronicus, insisting on calling him Jerry, much to his annoyance. 

The widowed Ms Johnston brings him his post. She tries to tell him to cheer up, even as he tries to get her out of the store. The bank manager, Mr Delacroix (Hugh Bonneville) comes to see Jeronicus. He tells Jeronicus that he must come up with an extraordinary invention by Christmas or lose everything. Delacroix leaves.

Jeronicus looks into an old trunk and finds a piece of kit that he feels could change his fortune. The only problem was he needed to contact his estranged daughter, Jessica (Anika Noni Rose). Jessica, at the behest of her daughter, Journey (Madalen Mills), lets her go and meet her grandfather for the first time. 

Journey goes and meets Jeronicus. He does not want her to stay with him, shutting the door in her face as he goes back into his store. She barges into the store and shows him a picture of a young Jessica with the google he gave to her on. Jeronicus allows her to stay but not before she signs a contract saying she will not touch anything. 

After thirty years, Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key) finds that he is running out of inventions, having exhausted every invention in the book. He is forced to return to his failed flying toy from three decades before.

Unfortunately, it works no better than it did before and Gustafson’s reputation is on the line. Don Juan Diego continues to be the power behind the throne, his ego still raging, he tells Gustafson to borrow another idea from Jeronicus. 

Journey comes and interrupts Jeronicus while he is working and he realises that she has his lost gift for seeing magic. He retires to bed, despondent at what he has lost. Journey sees a book with a diagram of a robot and technical specifications. The book is her mother’s old workbook. 

Journey goes into her grandfather’s disused workshop. Edison had also snuck in there. He sees Journey and asks her if she wants to be his apprentice. She asks him the same question.

A noise makes the two kids jump. they go and check out the source of the sound. They find the robot that Jessica designed but Jeronicus was unable to make work. 

Journey takes the component, that Jeronicus had found in his trunk, and puts it in the robot. As Journey and Edison look at the plans her mother wrote, the robot springs to life. 

The children are startled as the little robot mimics their speech. At first, they are scared but Journey approaches the little robot. It tells his name is Buddy. Buddy starts to fly and causes the two children to fly as well. 

Across town, Gustafson, spying on the workshop through a telescope, sees the robot and the children flying. Jeronicus comes into the workshop and Buddy stops working. He is angry that they are playing in the workshop. He does not believe them when they tell him the robot worked. 

Journey meets Gustafson. He tries to get her to tell him what Jeronicus is working on. She tells him it is just a pawn shop. She leaves him. The next day, Jeronicus goes looking for Ms Johnston. As he had been expecting a package. Journey is with him. Jeronicus talks with Ms Johnston who is a little miffed that he is oblivious to her less than subtle advances. She leaves him without giving him his post. 

Jeronicus turns around and is hit by a snowball. It was thrown by Journey. They end up in a snowball fight with other children joining in on both sides. The fight ends when Jeronicus inadvertently hits a policeman. Back at the workshop, Edison is visited by Gustafson. Jeronicus and Journey return to the store. Journey finds Edison tied up and he tells her that Gustafson was in the workshop. Buddy is gone. 

Journey tells him that they have to get Buddy back. The two children sneak into the back of Ms Johnston’s post van and go to Gustafson’s factory. They sneak into his factory. Jeronicus comes into the workshop looking for them. Seeing they are not there he goes looking for them. At the factory, Gustafson is getting ready to unveil Buddy. Jeronicus gets Ms Johnston to take him to Gustafson’s factory. 

The unveiling goes badly for Gustafson and he tells one of his underlings to put the toy in the crusher. Journey and Edison overhear him and go to the crusher room to intercept the toy. Jeronicus arrives at the factory.

They get the box with Buddy in it. They go into a sewage tunnel and Jeronicus hears them. He tells them he will meet them at the gate. 

The children are unable to get to the gate because there is a fire in the room they came from. They will have to get through the huge fan that blocks the inlet. 

Jeronicus says it is impossible. Journey tells him that he can make the impossible possible if he believes. They head towards the fan. Fire rages behind them. Jeronicus calculates the formula for them to get out of the tunnel. 

They escape the tunnel with Buddy. Ms Johnston drives them all back to the Jangle shop. Buddy got wrecked in the escape. Jeronicus thanks Ms Johnston for her help and kisses her. She is very happy to receive his kiss. Back in the workshop, Journey looks to put Buddy back together. 

She persuades Jeronicus that he can repair Buddy because he is the greatest toy inventor in the world. Jessica leaves home to come and collect her daughter from her estranged father. 

Jeronicus fixes Buddy. Jessica arrives at her old home. Jeronicus apologises to his daughter and shows her all of the letters he was too afraid to send her over the years. 

Jessica helps her father to repair Buddy and agrees to stay for Christmas. The next morning, Journey comes into the workshop to see her mother, Jeronicus and a repaired Buddy. With Jeronicus a believer again, Buddy easily springs to life. 

Gustafson turns up at the workshop with the police. He accuses Jeronicus of stealing Buddy, producing the design document as proof of ownership. Journey puts the document under ultraviolet light and it shows up as being the property of Jangle. Gustafson gets arrested. 

Mr Delacroix turns up, apologising for having to foreclose on the store but then he sees Buddy. He is amazed. He tells Jeronicus that the bank will back him to the hilt. Jeronicus turns the pawnshop back into a toy store, the whole town coming, once again, to see it. 

The children who had been listening to the story, realise that their grandmother is Journey. Buddy comes out from behind a Christmas tree as the children look out across the town and see the Jeronicus factory lit up. They all float out of the window towards the factory. The end. 

Final thoughts: Jingle Jangle – A Christmas Journey is an underwhelming effort that tries to please everybody with music and love and comedy but fails on all fronts. It is not that any of the elements are done particularly badly, it is just that the story is so weak nothing else works. Keegan-Michael’s Gustafson is a good villain but he is barely used, overshadowed by Ricky Martin’s Matador and neither allowed to be a proper antagonist. Phillip’s Ms Johnston has the best song but not much else. 

The real issue in the film is one just does not care. Though the film begins strongly – even if the opening storytelling scene is cringy – the theft of the book and Whitaker’s Jeronicus descent into depression, along with Gustafson’s rise to greatness is handled quite briskly. Unfortunately, the film begins to flag horribly after that. There is never any real sense of impending loss or danger.

The two kids going to retrieve the robot is done without much of a hitch. Gustafson poses a credible threat in only one scene. One. Dyer’s Edison is a loose Urkel clone and the Buddy robot blends Wall-E and E.T. 

Written and directed by David E. Talbert, the film is certainly an ambitious effort. It is colourful and mixes live-action and stop animation, as well as shoehorning in multiple musical numbers, that are mostly good or at least, not bad. 

The issue is the film is overlong and not very engaging. All the sadness that befalls Jeronicus happens in the first twenty minutes and the resolution of the film only takes around ten minutes. The film is over two hours long. It is a Christmas film that barely mentions Christmas and aside from the obligatory snow, there is not much to denote Christmas about the film. 

Jingle Jangle – A Christmas Journey is too long and too ponderous for me to recommend as a holiday watch. A chance missed. 

Holidate – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: a woman approaching her thirties, is under constant pressure around the holidays to find a partner and settle down. An aunt tells her that the random men she brings to every holiday event are her ‘holidates’; partners just for the holiday period. 

When she meets a man who has been similarly traumatised over holiday single-dom, she tells him about holidates. The two end up agreeing to be one another’s holidates. 

Is it any good?: Holidate is an amusing rom-com with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Emma Roberts, as Sloane, is luckier this time in being cast opposite someone who complements her better in Luke Bracey as Jackson.

In her previous rom-com, she found herself playing opposite a miscast Hayden Christensen, a casting error as the acting was fine from both, just not the chemistry. 

The chemistry between Roberts and Bracey works much better and pulls a relatively predictable film through its slightly long runtime of one hundred and three minutes. Holidate is an enjoyable film even if it does not bring anything new to the genre. 

Spoiler territory: Sloane (Roberts) is on the porch of her mother’s house, finishing a cigarette surrounded by lively Christmas decorations. On entering the house, she is immediately greeted by her mother, Elaine (Frances Fisher), who remarks on her dowdy appearance. She also informs her that her aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth), has brought the mall Santa (Carl McDowell) as her holiday date. 

Sloane’s sister, Abby (Jessica Capshaw) comes and greets her. Both mother and sister pester Sloane about her lack of a love life. As they leave her alone, she is accosted by her brother, York (Jake Manley) and his girlfriend, Liz (Cynthy Wu). They tell her she looks sad. Abby’s husband, Peter (Alex Moffatt) comes into the room. 

Sloane talks to her aunt. Susan tells her she met her date at the mall, as they watch him scoffing hors d’oeuvres still wearing his Santa suit. Susan tells her that he is just a holidate, a day for the holidays. No commitment. 

Elsewhere, Australian, Jackson (Bracey), is being introduced to Carly’s (Aimee Carrero) parents on their third date. They greet the couple dressed in matching Christmas jumpers. 

Carly’s mother (Meeghan Holaway) goes through a photo album, giving Jackson a little too much information about Carly. She even tells him that her and Carly’s father (Carlos Lacamara), do not mind if he sleeps over. 

Back with Sloane’s family and she is sitting at the children’s table as she is the only adult who does not have a partner and the table cannot accommodate her. 

One of her nieces, Daisy (Savannah Reina), questions her about her single status. She even boasts about having a boyfriend. Sloane tells it will be different when she is older. 

Jackson’s evening takes another turn, as an excited Carly jumps on him after telling him how much her parents love him. She proceeds to have sex with even as he tries to slow the relationship down. 

Sloane is gifted loungewear pyjamas for Christmas from her sister, a pointed reference to her spinsterhood. A still overwhelmed Jackson meanwhile, finds himself unwrapping a present of khaki pants from Carly. She is mortified when he tells her he did not get her a gift, as they had agreed not to exchange gifts. 

Carly rages at him, especially as they had had sex. He offers her cash, a gesture that enrages her more. Jackson leaves the house. Back with Sloane’s family and York proposes to Liz, even though they have only been together for three months. She accepts. The whole family cheer and whoop excitedly. Sloane remarks on how she likes her gift of pyjamas.

In the mall, after Christmas, Jackson is trying to return the khaki pants. The sales assistant (Nastassia Johnson) tells him he cannot get a refund without the receipt but he can get store credit. He does not want store credit. 

A grumpy Sloane interrupts, telling him that some of the people waiting have jobs. Jackson takes offence at the insinuation that he is unemployed. Sloane does not care and steps up to the counter, wanting to return the pyjamas she received for Christmas. 

The two end up comparing their awful holiday experiences. A customer behind them, with hair like Princess Leia, (Marisa Davila) offers to buy Jackson’s khaki pants. He declines the offer. The sales assistant returns.

Sloane’s pyjamas are from two seasons ago and only worth five dollars. As Sloane bemoans her sister’s cheapskate-ness, the Princess Leia customer tells her that she could make nice cut-off short with them. 

Jackson takes the pyjamas and his khakis and offers the lot to Princess Leia for fifty dollars. With some input from Sloane, they settle on forty-five dollars and a coupon for pretzels. 

Jackson and Sloane chat as they walk through the mall. Susan’s holidate, dressed in his Santa suit, hollers at Sloane. An embarrassed Sloane tells Jackson that the Santa was her aunt’s holidate. She explains what a holidate to him is and Jackson thinks it is a brilliant idea. 

He tells her they can be holidates for New Year’s. Sloane is reluctant to be a fake date with someone she barely knows but Jackson gives her his card. 

Whilst working from home, Sloane’s mother FaceTime’s her to introduce her to Faarooq (Manish Dayal) a doctor who has moved in next door. An exasperated Sloane ends the call. She contacts Jackson. 

They go to a New Year’s party where they proceed to make fun of other party-goers and what their lives might be like. Jackson sees a young man and older woman and begins to describe what he thinks their lives might be back. Sloane looks up to see her aunt Susan with another holidate, Ronald (Johnathan Baron). 

Jackson and Sloane sit chatting in a booth. Sloane tells him about Luc (Julien Marlon), who destroyed her faith in rom-com films. Sloane goes to the bathroom. In the bathroom, a woman, Annie (Mikaela Hoover) is being consoled by her friends because of the dark red stain on her white dress. She is expecting to get a marriage proposal. Sloane exchanges dresses with her. 

The night continues and Jackson disappears to the bathroom just as the clock strikes midnight. Sloane stands around awkwardly as couples smooch around her. She sees Annie get proposed to. Jackson returns and apologises sheepishly. 

The two ride in a cab silently. As Sloane is getting out, Jackson suggests they should meet up for Valentine’s. Sloane dismisses the notion. Fast forward and Abby and Liz are grilling Sloane about her plan for Valentine’s. 

Sloane tells them she plans to buy and eat copious amounts of chocolate. As she walks around a shop buying chocolate, Sloane bumps into an immaculate looking Luc. He is dismayed to see how dishevelled she looks but before he can say anything, his new girlfriend, Felicity (Nicola Peltz) comes over and mistakes Sloane for a shop worker. Felicity is stunning. 

Jackson sees Sloane squirming and comes to her rescue, pretending to be her boyfriend. They leave the store. Having inadvertently stolen a load of chocolate whilst escaping the store, the two eat chocolate in Jackson’s car and discuss their holidate arrangement, agreeing to reignite it and keep it platonic. 

St Patrick’s day sees them together in a pub. They bump into York, Liz and Abby. York already knows Jackson because he is his golf coach. Liz did not know that York played golf. Abby asks Sloane about Jackson and Sloane tells her it is strictly platonic. 

Elaine hosts an Easter brunch for the family. She invites Faarooq hoping to match him with Sloane. Sloane has brought Jackson. Susan, who has brought another holidate, is instantly attracted to Faarooq. 

Sloane and Jackson meet up for Cinco de Mayo, spending all day drinking tequilas. They fall asleep drunkenly but neither can remember if anything sexual happened between them. They meet up again for Mother’s Day. Elaine wants to know why the two of them have not even tried to get together. 

Jackson hangs out again with the whole family for Independence Day. By a lake, the men and the women split up, the men playing with fireworks, the women talking about men. Everybody’s fun is interrupted by Jackson having an accident. He blows a finger off. Sloane takes him to the hospital. Faarooq is the doctor who reattaches his finger. 

Finger reattached, Sloane takes Jackson to his home. Jackson tells his friend, Neil (Andrew Bachelor), that Sloane and his hands touched and there are feelings between them. Sloane tells Abby that she thinks there is a vibe between herself and Jackson. Neil tells him to break it off. Jackson tells Neil that he is meant to be accompanying her to her brother’s wedding on Labour Day. Neil tells him that he has to break it off. 

Abby says to Sloane that if he comes with her to the wedding it means he likes her. Jackson calls Sloane and says that they should take separate dates to the wedding before Sloane can suggest they go together. 

At the wedding, Sloane is with Faarooq and Jackson comes with Susan. Jackson and Sloane meet at the bar and bicker. They see Liz and her father dancing to an inappropriate song for the wedding and intervene. Everybody starts dancing and they see Faarooq and Susan grinding on the dance floor. Susan has an accident and Faarooq takes her away. 

York and Liz throw a Halloween Party. Jackson and Sloane attend but Sloane wants to leave when she sees that Luc has been invited and brings, a heavily pregnant, Felicity with him. Sloane’s misery is compounded when she finds it difficult to get out of the costume Jackson picked for her, especially as her sister accidentally gives her a laxative. 

Jackson takes her home and gets her into her apartment just as the laxatives begin to work. They lie down on her bed and end up fall asleep opposite one another. 

They end up making love to one another the next morning but when Abby comes over and confesses to kissing Neil, their conversation about what happened gets lost in miscommunication and mixed signals. 

Jackson tells Neil that Sloane kicked him out. Thanksgiving rolls around and it is being hosted again by Elaine. Sloane asks aunt Susan why she is not with Faarooq, her turning up with Wally (Dan Lauria). Susan tells her that she does not keep holidates.

Elaine burns the dinner, so Sloane and Jackson go to the store to and end up arguing about him leaving after their sexual episode. Jackson opens up to Sloane but she rejects him. 

Sloane returns to the house without Jackson and Abby tells her off for never taking responsibility in her relationships. Sloane blurts out that she kissed Neil and Peter hears it. Abby and Peter argue. Wally has a heart attack and Susan and Sloane go to the hospital with him. 

At the hospital, Susan confesses that she always ran from commitment. Faarooq comes out looking for Wally’s relatives. Susan ends up confessing that she got scared of getting close to him. They get back together. 

Sloane misses Jackson and starts stalking him. Out Christmas shopping at the mall, with Abby, Liz and Daisy, she sees Jackson on the down escalator as they are going up. Daisy tells her to go after him. She chases after him, screaming his name but the mall is too loud. A Christmas choir end up singing his name to get his attention. 

She confesses her love for him over a public PA system and they kiss. The end. 

Final thoughts: Holidate is an enjoyable rom-com written by Tiffany Paulsen and directed by John Whitesell. The central pairing of Roberts and Bracey works really well and, despite the inherent predictability of rom-coms, one still wants them to get together. 

The humour, for the most part, hits its mark with all the actors on show performing well and believably. Though the title and media lean towards this being a festive film, it is more of an anytime rom-com that just happens to be set between two Christmases. Every holiday is given a showing in the film. 

The film looks nice enough and is competently directed, maintaining a good pace throughout. Personally, I did feel it was a little on the long side with some scenes extraneous, mostly the scenes with Bachelor’s Neil, whose brevity in the film made the scenes irrelevant. 

The New Year’s sequence was a little overlong, lessening the emotional impact of Sloane giving her dress to Annie to get proposed to in. The entire Cinco de Mayo sequence could have been left out without it affecting the narrative at all.

There are so many characters in the film that it is difficult to justify all of them but the film just about manages it. These are minor gripes and, as I said earlier, the strength of the central pairing pulls one through the film. Holidate is worth a watch on a lazy, lockdown, afternoon.

Midnight at the Magnolia – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: a couple of local radio host, who also happen to be long time best friends, get notoriety for their relationship advice on their morning show. A flippant conversation, on-air, about their trepidation when introducing prospective partners to their families has their boss suggesting they should introduce their partners to their families live on air.

A larger corporation is prepared to syndicate them countrywide if they do so. They agree to the task but a spanner is thrown in the works when both are dumped before New Year’s Eve. They decide to fake a relationship between the two of them to fulfil their dream of getting syndicated across the country. 

Is it any good?: Midnight at the Magnolia is a sweet rom-com that works even though it is quite predictable. The two leads, Natalie Hall and Evan Williams are great. Their chemistry is excellent and the script is above average for a Netflix festive film. An enjoyable eighty-seven minutes.

Spoiler territory: Maggie Quinn (Natalie Hall) is smartly dressed, ready for work early in the morning. Jack Russo (Evan Williams) is shocked out of his slumber by his alarm clock. Maggie eats her breakfast and leaves for work, arriving comfortably early for the morning show she hosts with Jack, Windy City Wake-Up. 

Their boss, Deb (Alison Brooks) asks her where Jack is. Maggie tells her he will be there. She is not worried. The show is about to go live. Deb counts Maggie in for the morning introduction, as Maggie speaks to Chicago, Jack rushes in and joins the show. 

It is Boxing Day and Maggie and Jack’s radio banter denotes that the two are longtime friends. They get on to the subject of their prospective partners. Maggie asks Jack if he is bringing his latest girlfriend to meet his parents. Jack says he is not. He asks her if she is bringing Seb (Sean Williams). Maggie replies in the negative. 

After the show, Deb tells them that not only was their talk of introducing their partners to their families a hit, it got them noticed by a bigger network who are thinking of taking them countrywide. Seb comes to meet Maggie for lunch. He tells her that he felt like they were making fun of him and Jack’s girlfriend, their closeness making him feel excluded. 

Jack and Maggie’s fathers’ jointly own the Magnolia restaurant and jazz club. The two go to a family dinner and are warmly greeted by Jack’s father, Martin (Martin Gordin Shore) and Maggie’s dad, Steve (Steve Cumyn). Jack’s mum, Bev (Susan Hamann) comes and joins the party. Maggie’s sister Amanda (Victoria Maria) her husband, Matt (Matthew Stefiuk) and their son Cody (Dane O’Connor). 

Jack and Maggie tell the family the news about their impending syndication, everybody is happy. At the dinner, Martin is reluctant to speak about the bar’s business much to Jack’s surprise. He asks him about it after dinner. He tells him that the bar is not as popular as it once was. 

The next morning, after their show, Deb comes and tells them that the broadcaster wants to take them nationally with a show on New Year’s Eve. They also want them to introduce their prospective partners live on air. Both are initially reluctant but the thought of going national persuades them. Jack thinks that they should do it at the Magnolia to help boost sales for the venue. 

They go and tell their fathers. Having told their fathers, they decide that they need to tell their partners. Maggie tries to get through to Seb, leaving him messages. He calls her back and breaks up with her. There is a knock at her door. It is Jack. His girlfriend broke up with him as well. Worried about the upcoming syndication opportunity, Jack suggests that they pretend to be together. 

After some convincing, Maggie reluctantly agrees. To try and convince Deb, the two decide that they should be caught kissing. As they are kissing, Jack’s parents walk in and see them. After a bit of confusion, Jack’s parents surprise them both, ecstatic that they have got together. They find that all of the family is happy that the two of them are together, having believed that they should have always gotten together. 

Alone in Jack’s apartment, the two recall when he sang a song and how captivated she had been by his performance. The next day, Deb tells them that they have been invited to a cocktail party by the Judd Crawford (Peter Michael Dillon), the boss of the syndication. She also tells them that their new union is going to be live-streamed. 

Jack and Maggie go to the local coffee shop. Maggie sees Seb with another woman and is hurt at the thought that he has replaced her so quickly. Jack takes Maggie sleigh riding to cheer her up. Maggie sees her sister in the bar. Amanda tells her that she can see that Maggie is smitten, having always loved Jack. The New Year’s Eve party sells out in an hour. 

Jack and Maggie go to the cocktail party. Whilst talking to Judd, they are surprised to find out that he is expecting a midnight kiss live on air. After the cocktail party, they go to the bar and reminisce. They arrange a dinner at Maggie’s apartment to commemorate the anniversary of her mother’s death. They talk about broken hearts, with Jack admitting that Bianca Bell (Hannah Gordon) broke his heart in high school. 

Maggie says she had her heart broken once but does not tell him who it was. As they walk home, Maggie tells Jack that she has never had a midnight kiss. Jack says they should practice but the blaring of a car horn dissuades them. 

The next day at the bar, an anxious Steve is waiting for Jack. When he arrives he takes him outside and gives him Maggie’s mother’s ring. Jack is thrown by the gesture and leaves, telling Maggie he is not feeling well. On his way home, Jack runs into Bianca. They go for a drink and a catch-up. 

Bianca tells Jack that Maggie was heartbroken when he did not take her to the prom. She also tells him that she broke up with him because he loved Maggie. Jack denies loving Maggie. He realises that he has forgotten his dinner with Maggie and rushes over to try and make it up to her. Maggie is not happy and admits that she feels he always puts her second. 

Maggie goes to see her dad. She asks him how he knew that her mother was the one. He tells her that she had a fear of spiders but when she heard him falling in the attic, she ran through cobwebs to get to him. Maggie is not sure that Jack would run through cobwebs for her. 

It is New year’s Eve and they are doing their morning show. Maggie is still angry at Jack. Maggie goes out for coffee and bumps into Seb. Jack sees them together in the coffee shop and realises he does not want to lose her. He goes to see his dad for advice. 

At the party, Jack sees Judd and is told that he is thinking of giving them separate shows. Jack, taken aback, asks if Maggie knows about the idea. Judd tells him that she does and seemed open to it. As midnight approaches, Jack tells the live stream and the listeners that they are not getting together with their prospective partners or, as their families and bosses believe, one another. 

Maggie admits that their relationship is a sham and they only got together for the sake of their career. She leaves the stage. Jack tells the live stream that he loves Maggie and does not want his own show. He sings a song that he wrote for her and they get together for real and kiss at midnight. 

A year later, Jack proposes to her with the ring Steve gave him. Maggie accepts. The end. 

Final thoughts: Midnight at the Magnolia is a delightful rom-com written by Carley Smale and directed by Max McGuire. Hall and Williams are perfectly cast as life long best friends who dance around their love for one another. Williams is particularly good as the clueless Jack, oblivious to that fact that his best friend is in love with him. 

All the cast play their parts perfectly well, something that really helps the central pairing seem more believable. The pacing of the film is good and it whizzes through its eighty-seven-minute runtime. 

Being a post-Christmas film, with the plot running up to a New Year’s Eve party, the film is slightly festive, being set in winter, without any mention of Christmas. The script is more amusing through its character interaction rather than any pithy witticisms in the writing but it all flows very naturally. 

Midnight at the Magnolia is a nice film to while away eighty-seven minutes. Sweet.