The Knight Before Christmas
by Cara J. Russell
Alright, bitches, I watched The Knight Before Christmas so you don’t have to. Or so that you will watch it immediately. It’s on Netflix and I’m not here to judge your choices. I highly recommend that you use the subtitles because they are, presumably accidentally, super funny. I was disappointed by this film even when judged by the standards of other holiday films, but I will admit that the leading man is cute.
The plot of the movie is that Cole (played with extremely high levels of charm by Poldark’s Josh Whitehouse) wants to be a true knight. An “Old Crone” sends him to 2019 on a quest that must be completed by midnight on Christmas.
He keeps calling this woman “Old Crone.”
“Stop doing that!” I yell. “It’s rude!”
Alas, he does not care for my opinion. He ends up (remarkably unfazed) in a quaint small town in Ohio and is taken in by Brooke, played by Vanessa Hudgens. She is a schoolteacher who does not believe in True Love. Oh, gracious goodness me, I wonder what will happen.
You guys, I have so many questions, and if you approach this kind of movie with a questioning mind, you are in the wrong frame of mind. Why can everyone understand Cole? How can he understand them? How does Brooke, a high school teacher, afford her lavishly decorated house? Why is Cole waxed? Why does Brooke think he can drive a car? Every time they discuss or portray Cole’s original time, 1334, it’s done with such blatant disregard for historical fact that I was reduced to screaming “STOP HURTING ME” at the screen while my daughter, who valiantly watched this with me, patted me soothingly and crooned, “There, there.”’
The answer to all these questions, of course, is: because these things let the story happen with a minimum of actual conflict and a maximum of eye candy. It is escapism in the purest sense. If you are in the mood for that, there’s nothing wrong with that. Life is tense. Screw it. Get some hot cocoa and watch beautiful people in beautiful places be decent to each other. We could use more basic decency in this world even if it comes in a package this improbable. The important thing to ask is not: “Is this movie, in terms of plot, cinematography, acting, character development, musical score, or any other measure good?” (No).
The important thing is, “Is there a horse and a puppy?” And the answer to that is, “Yes.”
The most important thing about the movie (even more than the horse and the puppy) is whether the leads have chemistry, to which I regretfully say, “meh.” Cole is REALLY into Brooke. Also, he is super adorable. I’m as smitten as I can possibly be with someone who is essentially a golden retriever. Brooke, however, looks kinda over this. I mean, she likes Cole, but I don’t think she’s as into him as he is into her. I think she was supposed to have a character arc but it never happens, so honestly – I give them a year. It’s a big problem that the movie fails in this all important point.
It’s true that these kinds of Christmas movies are not made to be high art, but it’s also true that some are better than others and this one was not the best and on occasion it was actively toxic. My daughter said, pensively, “Remember in fourth grade when they make you make bell graphs of plot points? In this movie they plugged in the plot points but they forgot to fill in everything in between.” Daughter was also irritated, as was I, that there is no “learning about 2019” montage. Instead, and please recall that this is a Netflix original, Cole learns about 2019 by watching Netflix shows, including the 2019 Netflix original Holiday in the Wild. You can find a fabulous explanation of the meta-interconnected Netflix Christmas universe (there are Vanessas everywhere!) at this link on Vulture.com.
I must also point out that problematic things happen. Brooke slut shames someone for being a flirt (!). There are weird food issues. The moral seems to be, not only might the impossible happen, but that one should not question it, which seems like an extremely bad approach to life. There’s a lot of talk about how you can have anything if you want it badly enough, which I think is toxic and victim blaming as hell.
I’m sad to say that there is a also a genuinely big awful thing:
At the beginning of the movie, Brooke counsels a sad high school student who has been “dumped” that true love isn’t a thing and the kid should concentrate on her own goals. Near the end of the movie the kid pops up and she’s super happy because the dirtbag who dumped her is asking for her to come back, but she’s doing really well focusing on herself and her own goals in life. Then Brooke explains to this poor kid, who visibly deflates before our eyes, that actually true love is totally a thing, a totally important thing, the thing of things, and that the teen, now clearly sad and confused, will recognize true love when it comes along.
Now, let’s say Brooke had added, “Yes, true love is a thing, but dirtbag ex is not it. Keep working towards your own dreams, and you’ll recognize true love when it does show up.” I’d have no problem with that. But Brooke doesn’t say that dirtbag ex isn’t true love. She’s basically shoving this poor girl back at dirtbag ex even though we know that dirtbag ex is, in fact, a dirtbag. And the kid clearly feels like this is bad advice but that she should doubt herself anyway. It’s genuinely upsetting.
In conclusion, even allowing for my terrible, terrible attitude which just would not stop asking questions (“Why doesn’t Brooke eat her food at the diner? Why does Cole call all beverages mead?”) this is not prime holiday viewing.
Alas. Thank goodness there are 1,000,000 other holiday options to view in which other people will open their hearts and discover the true meaning of Christmas.