As welcome as animal rights activists on a Boxing Day hunt, this is the dysfunctional-family-meets-Christmas movie of the holiday season. This one is a pleasingly watchable bit of festive, celebratory Britcom from writer-director James Dearden following the familiar pattern of a clan gathering on Christmas Eve, this time in the English countryside. It’s tonally chaotic, blending eggnog with nostalgic light comedy – is dad good enough to give Gobbles the turkey the chop? Did the bloody freeze have Brussels? — with drama as flimsy as wrapping paper.
Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones) grapples with the clichéd role of mum Miranda, who recently inherited the family’s country stack. Her plan is to turn the ruined house into a bed and breakfast and organic vegetable business with her husband Dan (Julian Ovenden), who hates the countryside. First, they have to spend Christmas with his successful actress sister Lyla (Joely Richardson), who arrives from Los Angeles with her American husband, their children and a donkey-sized Fortnum and Mason basket.
Expect the usual character-wise trimmings: an elderly, frisky aunt (“I to say, are you my stocking gift? ), a single sister and a weed-smoking adult son from a previous relationship.
It definitely feels like a movie at the default setting, and the role of Miranda is a serious downhill run for Whelan. There’s just too much manic stuffing. It’s one of those movies in which the characters keep coming through the doors, and there are desperately unrealistic scenes in which Dan admits his son to rehab on Christmas Day.
But my pick for the nadir is the Miranda twins catching Great Aunt Peggy with a vibrator. Scratch that – dog sticking Viagra is worse.