A Christmas movie with a fairly impressive cast of well-known names that attempts to do something different. Sounds good, right? But let's not beat around the bush here. It isn't.
Luke Grimes stars as a young man, named Eric Roth, who wanders into the town of El Camino, looking for his estranged father. A series of unfortunate coincidences lead to him being put in the cells for a night, then being freed by one officer before being aggressively pursued by another, and this leads to him ending up in a liquor store that is surrounded by police, who all believe him to be a dangerous criminal holding others hostage.
Here's the cast involved in El Camino Christmas - Grimes, Tim Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Dax Shepard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Michelle Mylett, and Kimberly Quinn. There are some other people onscreen, but that covers the core names I wanted to mention. Because that isn't a bad cast list at all, particularly when it comes to a non-theatrical Christmas movie. It's also worth saying at this point, lest I forget, that none of the cast actually do a bad job. Seriously. They're all good in the roles that they're given.
Which makes it obvious that the problems stem from the talent behind the camera. Director David E. Talbert also wrote and directed the poor Almost Christmas so I already know that he's not my go to guy for festive fare. But blaming him alone wouldn't be fair. In fact, blaming him for being unable to elevate the horribly hackneyed script isn't fair at all, despite my disappointment with his previous Christmas movie.
Writers Theodore Melfi and Christopher Wehner should share the blame. The latter has nothing else to his credit at the moment, but Melfi started this cinematic year so well with his work on Hidden Figures. Which means I have to make this unusual statement. If I was a teacher, viewing a final project that Melfi and Wehner had worked on together, I would be forced to give that project a low mark and then keep the pair separated for the rest of the year, allowing me to see how much better each one can do without the influence of the other. Someone obviously thought this was a cool idea, a Christmas movie that has all of the characters and a dash of the spirit of the season with the minimal of festive trimmings. They were wrong.
There's no rule saying that a Christmas movie has to have all of the familiar elements in place to succeed. It just takes more work to make that happen. More than just a script that seems to be winking at viewers and assuring them that something is coming along in time for the finale that will make everything preceding it worthwhile. Which would be okay IF something did come along to make it all worthwhile.
Technical competence and that solid cast explain my fairly generous rating. Not one to make a high priority, even throughout December.
Here is a large selection of Christmas movies to enjoy.
And American elves can pick the same set up here.