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Genie (2023) Film Review: Christmas Magic

Melissa McCarthy and Paapa Essidu star in the magical Genie, the latest film from Richard Curtis, which captures the enchantment of family at Christmas.

Rom-com pundit Richard Curtis is sitting in-front of me, gleefully excited to be presenting his latest film Genie, a syrupy Christmas movie, and his first to be set in New York. The Empire State Building has finally made its appearance into a Curtis film, something he’s been waiting his entire career to feature. We all fell head over heels in love with Love Actually back in 2003, and it’s a pleasure to report that Genie is just as charming, and definitely has the magic Curtis touch we adore. Yes, it’s silly and has a few little plot holes, but after all, we’re following a genie who’s been trapped inside of a box for over 2,000 years.

This said genie is Flora, played by the quick-witted Melissa McCarthy. Flora has been released out of her antique jewellery box by Bernard Bottle (Paapa Essiedu), a man who’s too devoted to his job and pushover boss, and often stays late in the office despite having important family plans to attend. Bernard misses his daughter Eve’s (Jordyn Mcintosh) eighth birthday, which puts a strain on his marriage. Julie (Denée Benton), Bernard’s wife, decides this is the last time he’ll miss family plans and takes their daughter out of town to her grandmothers.

Flora isn’t your typical genie. The usual story of only being allowed three wishes is just a myth. As long as you don’t wish for time travel or to alter someone’s feelings, you’re free to ask for anything you want. If you want a camel in your front room, it’s a done deal! Flora and Bernard have the time of their lives running around festive department stores in New York with unlimited money, filling up the back of Bernard’s new chic sports car with every gift his daughter could ever dream of. He just wants his family to be back to normal again in time for Christmas. Money can’t buy happiness, but when you miss your kid’s birthday, they’ll be extra happy if you get them a doll house half the size of their bedroom.

McCarthy can sometimes be over the top but in Genie she really channels the charm of Christmas. She’s unbelievably likeable and I’d take her to grant me my wishes any day of the week. Essiedu is enchanting and needs more roles in comedy movies. We know he can play serious characters so smoothly so it’s a treat he can play ludicrous roles just as well. Essiedu and McCarthy bounce off of each other effortlessly in every scene that they’re together. It’s a delightfully written script by Curtis.

Melissa McCarthy as Flora & Paapa Essiedu as Bernard Bottle & Jordyn McIntosh as Eve (© Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.)

The narrative is clichéd and you sort of know what’s going to happen from the get-go. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, though. If you’re baking Christmas cookies or need something to put on whilst you wrap your presents, Genie is the finest choice. Director Sam Boyd has clearly sat and watched a bunch of lousy Christmas movies and decided to bless us with something that’s not only watchable, but actually a lot of fun. There are so many jokes that will hit it off with any audience. From your younger cousins to your grandparents, there’s something for everyone.

As much as I’m a sucker for a Hallmark movie, I’m still picky. There aren’t many Christmas movies that I can fall in love with instantly and want to recommend to everyone in my family. In recent years, there’s been Open by Christmas, Haul out the Holly, Boxing Day and Something From Tiffany’s, all which I’ve become infatuated with. Genie is this year’s pleasant surprise that everyone should watch, as it brings so much joy!

Genie will be available on Sky Cinema and Now in the UK from December 1, 2023. In the US, the film is out now on Peacock.

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