Netflix is all about the comebacks this holiday season. First, the streamer brought back Lindsay Lohan for a chalet romp with Falling for Christmas. Now, because they couldn’t get him for He’s All That with Addison Rae, here comes Freddie Prinze Jr., back in all his cheesy rom-com glory with holiday music flick Christmas With You.
Christmas With You is a glorified Lifetime movie, taking notes from Marry Me and adding a festive dusting of snow to the mix. Washed-up pop star Angelina (Aimee Garcia) can’t be bothered to compose a Christmas song, though her label says that’s what she needs to stop herself from becoming totally irrelevant. Bah, humbug! Angelina refuses to whip up a Mariah Carey-style classic, instead thrusting herself into a real personal crisis.
Here’s where the Marry Me similarities kick in: Feeling so hopeless about her life, especially missing her deceased mother, Angelina resorts to the “tagged” section of Instagram, to see what her fans are saying about her. One fan, high school kiddo Cristina (Deja Monique Cruz), posts a particularly heartwarming video—she’s performing an Angelina song dedicated to her mom, who also passed away.
Instead of liking the video or reposting it to her story, Angelina opts to visit this girl without any warning, ditching her entire glamorous NYC lifestyle just days before Christmas. Thank goodness the girl not only lives within driving distance, but also attends a performing arts school, where her handsome father Miguel (Prinze Jr.) teaches music. The stars have aligned for Angelina, who might just be able to plunk out a Christmas song with this sweet little man.
Netflix always seems to blend the right amount of cheesiness with just enough tenderness in its Christmas slate. Christmas With You, which would pair perfectly with some mulled wine for a Falling for Christmas double feature, is no different. When you press play on a Netflix holiday rom-com, you should not expect greatness—rather, some silly fun times, a bounty that the baffling plot of Christmas With You has well-stocked.
Once you look past the staged, ridiculous, predictable nature of this movie, Christmas With You becomes perfectly goofy. The title itself isn’t even accurate: “Christmas With You” references the song Angelina sings in the film, but the song’s lyrics are actually “there can’t be no Christmas without you.” The movie dedicates itself to being otherworldly in ways similar to this, like when Freddie Prinze Jr., joins Bumble because he’s “too old” for Tinder. Is that a thing? Is the audience on Bumble older? I’ve never heard this. But, hey, Netflix rom-coms exist in a different reality.
The biggest gripe to have with the film is the lack of effort put into the Christmas side of the storytelling. Christmas With You could take place at any time—again, see Marry Me—but the fake snow and over-decorated house cover up the lack of holiday plot. Further, Christina is celebrating her quinceañera throughout the film; couldn’t this be the celebration at the movie’s core, rather than the holiday season? Nevertheless, Netflix needs to churn out more holiday content to keep us stuffed on Christmas cookies and holiday cheer, so Christmas it is.
Another slight downside: Christmas With You doesn’t offer Freddie Prinze Jr., too much space to swagger around, like he did in Boys and Girls and She’s All That. While he’s naturally charming on his own—that smile!—his character lacks any whimsy. He’s a dad, a teacher, and that’s pretty much it. Where’s the playboy, the suave know-it-all, the goofball we know and love?
He’s still Freddie Prinze Jr., though, and Netflix is doing a great job at garnering all the nostalgia players to buff up its slate this year. That list also includes Sarah Michelle Gellar, his wife, who recently starred as the headmaster of Do Revenge. But if you’ve been waiting for a great feature film comeback from the beloved ’90s star, don’t expect to see him in all his glory—Christmas With You brings him back, yes, but he feels a little like an animatronic rather than his old self.
Still, isn’t that kind of fun? Netflix brings in an animatronic Freddie Prinze Jr., for this goofy Marry Me-Esque movie with a terrible-yet-catchy song (Meghan Trainor, your days as on the Billboard Top 100 list are numbered). This is what the holiday spirit is about! Set up the Christmas tree and remember the good ’ole days, when Prinze Jr., ruminated on Scooby Doo: “It was a talking dog.” What a legend.
Christmas With You does what it needs to do to enter the Netflix holiday rom-com hall of fame. There’s a formula, and the formula works. Equal parts cheese and heartwarming, with one big comeback, an undeniably snappy tune, and a blizzard, Christmas With You will be a perfect backdrop for all holiday parties, Thanksgiving prep, and Christmas decorating.