Operation Christmas Drop might take Christmas films to tropical levels, but lacks the necessary cold to make the warmth work.
Ah, November. ‘Tis the season for cheesy Hallmark-esque films full of festive cheers delivered readily by the biggest provider of romantic comedies. The Christmas season on Netflix kicks off with Martin Wood’s Operation Christmas Drop, a film surprisingly lacking in many of the cliché elements that make Christmas films true Christmas films. For starters, Netflix’s newest Christmas addition does not take place in a snowed-under sleepy US town, but on the sun-blessed islands of Micronesia, Guam to be exact. Kat Graham returns after last year’s The Knight Before Christmas to cheesy Christmas flicks as what may very well be the new Vanessa Hudgens. Starring as main character Erica, Graham manages to lift Operation Christmas Drop from a plain Gouda-like flick to a more palatable Brie-like film.
Despite some inevitable inconsistencies, the film mainly follows the traditional recipe for making a Christmas cracker. Erica, a politician’s aide, is sent from an unknown big city to a remote military base in Micronesia to write up a report on whether or not the base should be closed down or not. Her boss, Congresswoman Bradford (played by Virginia Madsen, Class, Dune), has her mind already made up: the military base has to be shut down, so that a base in her district to survive. Subverting your expectations of what you’d usually find in a Christmas film, Operation Christmas Drop does seem to have a solid political side to the narrative. How could they not, when they actively involve the military, and the film is a romanticization of the real humanitarian Christmas drop they organise each Christmas.
Having travelled for over 36 hours, Erica is met by her shirtless (how could he not be) island-guide and military man Andrew (Alexander Ludwig, Vikings, The Hunger Games) in what is probably one of the cringiest meet-cutes of the year. Over the course of 95 minutes, they try their hardest to hate each other while Erica tries to figure out what to write in her report and Andrew (obviously) tries his best to distract her with pretty beaches and some Christmas day snorkelling. When it comes to the basic storyline, Operation Christmas Drop is really no different to the many other Christmas romcoms from the hands of writers Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer. If you think you have heard and seen it all before, that is probably because you did.
However, that does not mean that this film cannot be an enjoyable way to pass the time. It is certainly a nice way to get to know the true story of the Micronesian Christmas drops organised by the US Military base going back to 1952. One of the volunteers who acted as a liaison for the islands and Guam for the past 40 years, Brother Bruce Best, even has a small cameo in multiple scenes. Where one usually gets that heart-warming Christmassy feeling from the abundance of snow, fireplaces and hot chocolate omni-present in the traditional Hallmark Christmas film, the knowledge that Operation Christmas Drop is based on a true story boosts its feel-good factor and seems to embody the true spirit of Christmas. If you are interested in a similar programme by the US Postal service, stay tuned for our review of upcoming documentary Dear Santa on 30th November!
All in all, Operation Christmas Drop does have all the elements we can expect from a good-bad Christmas film: beautiful scenery, awkward dialogues, character stereotypes based firmly in the fifties, and overused clichés. If you try to look past the embarrassing geckos-with-no-function and CGI aircrafts, or the painfully non-existing romance between Graham and Ludwig, there is still the beauty of Micronesia as possible post-Corona vacation to admire. Though the film feels more like a pro-military spot than an actual Christmas film, I’m sure that it is an easy compromise between the absolute Christmas lovers (like me) and the ones who just want to have an hour and a half break from Corona-times while coming to the realisation that Christmas is just around the corner. As with all Christmas gifts, it is the thought that counts, right?
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