Netflix’s 2020 Christmas rom-coms Holidate and Operation Christmas Drop couldn’t be more different – but which one is ultimately the better film?
Holidate and Operation Christmas Drop are Netflix’s first original Christmas movies of 2020, and both movies fail and succeed in very different ways. Netflix started releasing original Christmas films in 2017 when A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance both premiered. Although the Christmas rom-com model was first perfected by Hallmark, Netflix has become a major competitor by ramping up their own original Christmas movie content, culminating in the premiere of eight original movies in 2020. Although Holidate and Operation Christmas Drop are both fairly standard rom-coms, the two films could not be more different.
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Holidate follows Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) as the two holiday cynics decide to be each other’s plus-ones to every holiday event for a year. Although Holidate is technically billed as a Christmas movie, it takes place throughout an entire calendar year – but begins and ends with Christmas. Operation Christmas Drop follows congressional aide Erica Miller (Kat Graham) after she travels to Guam to audit the Air Force’s annual Operation Christmas Drop, which is led by Captain Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig.) Erica has to find her Christmas spirit and prevent her boss from shutting down the operation, while slowly falling for Andrew.
Holidate and Operation Christmas Drop are the first of eight original Christmas movies that Netflix is planning to release this year, and so far both have premiered to mixed reviews. Although Netflix’s original Christmas movies typically stay close to their tried-and-true formula, films like Holidate suggest that the streaming service is starting to experiment with the genre. The two romantic-comedies are very different from each other, with Operation Christmas Drop following the standard formula while Holidate tries to be more edgy and self-aware, and only one of them is a legitimately fun, entertaining film.
Holidate’s Story VS Operation Christmas Drop
Although both films are romantic-comedies, their stories are very different. Operation Christmas Drop is about a cynical, work-obsessed congressional aide that’s sent to Guam to try and find reasons to shut down the base, including the charitable but unnecessary Operation Christmas Drop. Over the course of a week, she falls in love with the handsome captain leading the mission, finds her Christmas spirit, and convinces her boss that the mission isn’t an extravagance – it’s a necessity. Operation Christmas Drop, which is based on a real-life tradition, tries to break the formula by setting the film on a tropical island; despite its locale, it’s just an extremely predictable, bland Christmas movie that makes no attempt to tell an interesting story or give either lead a real personality.
Holidate follows two holiday-haters, Sloane and Jackson, as they meet and decide to become each other’s plus-ones to all holiday events for a year, while slowly falling in love with each other. Holidate gives its protagonists a full year for their feelings for each other to slowly develop, and has a wildly entertaining supporting cast, with memorable performances from Kristen Chenoweth as Sloane’s Aunt Susan or Jake Manley as her brother York. Although the bulk of the movie focuses on the love story between Sloane and Jackson, Holidate still spends time developing a romantic subplot between Susan and Faarooq, or outlining the slow dissolution of Abby’s marriage and her unhappiness with her life.
Operation Christmas Drop, however, spends just as much time developing the supporting cast as it does developing its leads – which is to say, none at all; the handful of other characters barely get names, let alone personalities. Although the reviews for Holidate are not great, its story is more inventive and edgy than most of the other Christmas rom-coms from Netflix and is definitely more entertaining than the predictably boring Operation Christmas Drop. Even if Holidate’s efforts to create a full and compelling world were ultimately unsuccessful and the vast majority of the characters were unlikeable, it’s better than Operation Christmas Drop – which didn’t try anything creative at all.
Holidate Broke The Netflix Formula
One of the big criticisms of Holidate is that it was a major departure from Netflix’s typical Christmas rom-coms, which typically follow a standard formula and are overwhelmingly family-friendly. Unlike most of Netflix’s holiday movies, Holidate is rated TV-MA and both main characters frequently curse, and the Holidate soundtrack isn’t just Christmas carols – it’s also club music. Holidate is extremely self-aware of typically rom-com conventions, with both Sloane and Jackson actively resisting falling those tropes. Written by Tiffany Paulsen, the film is snarky, crass, and self-ware – and even when Holidate fails, it’s at least entertaining to watch.
The biggest crime of Operation Christmas Drop isn’t that it’s just formulaic, it’s also extremely boring. Operation Christmas Drop, in sharp contrast to Holidate, seems afraid to push the formula made famous by Hallmark (and co-opted by Netflix) and ends up being an extremely safe film. Holidate makes an attempt to subvert the expectations of the viewers, and even though it’s still not a great movie, it’s trying something new. The worst part about Operation Christmas Drop is that the movie isn’t trying anything at all.
Why Holidate Is Better Than Operation Christmas Drop
Operation Christmas Drop’s soundtrack and use of a beautiful, tropical location feels a little like an attempt to hide its paper-thin plot, just as Holidate tries to hide the lack of chemistry between its leads with an edgy, self-aware script – but ultimately Holidate is a much better film. Netflix’s best Christmas movies are the ones that knowingly lean into the insanity of their premise, such as The Princess Switch, and Operation Christmas Drop fails simply by playing it too safe. Ultimately, Holidate is a better movie than Operation Christmas Drop, if only because its willingness to take risks makes it a much more enjoyable movie to watch.
Netflix has increased its output of original Christmas movies in the last few years, and with every deranged masterpiece like A Christmas Prince, there is an equally boring, predictable failure such as Christmas Inheritance. Netflix has successfully co-opted Hallmark’s romantic-comedy formula with most of its offerings – but when Netflix tries to experiment with or break that formula, the results are at the very least entertaining. If Netflix is going to continue releasing a full slate of original Christmas rom-coms every year, hopefully, the future is less like Operation Christmas Drop and more like Holidate.
Next: What To Expect From Operation Christmas Drop 2
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