Other Media Review

Movie Review: The Knight Before Christmas

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.

Vanessa in a terrible white sweater
Can someone explain this sweater to me? It has puffy shoulders and bobbles. Who did Vanessa piss off in the costuming department?

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.”

pretty horse draped in red velvet with a helmeted oddly costumed man in front of him standing in a stone courtyard somehow all the costumes and the windowframes of the courtyard are red
Pretty Horsie

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.

What say you and I binge watch together? says Cole.

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.

Add Your Comment →

  1. Kit says:

    I was going to watch it! But on second thoughts, maybe I’ll just watch Horrible Histories? Anyway another Netflix Christmas film Klaus looks promising…

  2. Juliana says:

    Klaus is wonderful. I’m an animator, so I’m biased. But it’s actually very funny and not terribly sentimental.

  3. Jill Q. says:

    I really enjoyed this, but I might have enjoyed it b/c I had the Vulture article open *while* I was watching it and started whooping with laughter at multiple points. Just as I would think “hmm, really?” about something stupid in the movie the article would articulate the same point in a much cleverer way. It’s also what I consider a “folding laundry” program which I ask very little of. I need them to amuse me while I fold laundry but not be so gripping I need to pause when I walk upstairs to put stuff away. Fit the bill perfectly.
    It’s very much a YMMV kind of thing.

  4. Taylor says:

    Klaus warning (spoilerish)

    The very end made me ugly cry in a great way. It didn’t effect 5 at all.

  5. Ms. M says:

    Actually, I can buy that a small-town Ohio teacher has a big stylish house. Money goes a lot farther in small midwestern towns and she probably inherited the house.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I “watched” it last night. I use that term loosely because I had it on in the background while making photo calendars as gifts, and yeah. It’s just dull. Lovely eye candy, but dull. And, I definitely puzzled about she afforded that house.

    If you want the Christmas/Holiday Schmaltz on Netflix, just watch the Dolly Parton series instead.

  7. Lepiota says:

    Ms. M – I was just signing on to make the same point. It’s common for graduate students (without family money) to buy houses in Cleveland, which isn’t even a small town? (Fairly nice parts of Cleveland, even.) Though small towns in Ohio often come with baggage.

  8. Jacquilynne says:

    By far the worst part of this movie is how they immediately set it up for a sequel.

  9. cleo says:

    Though small towns in Ohio often come with baggage.

    A*freaking*men to that

    I loved the review and the side conversation about Ohio is A+ content – my mother grew up in Ohio in a medium sized town with baggage.

  10. Liza S says:

    I love this review, thank you! The linguistic issues alone would drive me bonkers, so I’ll pass on this film.

  11. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    I guess he had to use “Old Crone” rather than “Old Woman” to avoid Monty Python and the Holy Grail vibes—although it would have been hilarious if she’d retorted, “I’m not old…I’m only thirty-seven.”

  12. Lisa F says:

    Aw, I was hoping this would be a wonderfully cheeseball enterprise. Oh well!

  13. sula says:

    Here’s a rec for a Christmas romance movie on Netflix – Santa Girl. The fluffy story of Santa’s daughter going to college. I may be a wee bit biased because it was filmed on the uni campus where I work and I know all the extras (acting majors) and locations, but it’s cute and schmaltzy and seasonal.

  14. I will probably watch this just for the cheese factor. And because I watch all the holiday movies. LOL. Would you say that it’s better/worse than CHRISTMAS PRINCE?

    For those of you who like the Hallmark movies, out of the new ones I’ve watched so far this year, CHRISTMAS WISHES AND MISTLETOE KISSES was cute, as was THE MISTLETOE SECRET. My mom also really liked MERRY AND BRIGHT.

    I’m looking forward to SENSE, SENSIBILITY AND SNOWMEN next weekend on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. That one features Erin Krakow and Luke Macfarlane, both of whom I really like. TWINKLE ALL THE WAY on Lifetime with Sarah Drew and Ryan McPartlin looks cute too. For me, a lot of my enjoyment comes from seeing actors that I’ve liked in other projects in the holiday movies.

  15. OKReader405 says:

    Elizabeth, watched Dolly P’s CRACKERJACK with hubby last night. I called out the plot points; political, racial, gender etc and the general tropes before they came up. Only missed one! Hubby was mightily impressed and asked to be excused from future episodes.

  16. Lace says:

    Yeah, there’s me going from “ooh ooh ooh” to “at least I have ninety minutes of my life back.” Many thanks for the review.

  17. Mikki says:

    I was super excited to see this review cause I just watched this yesterday and it’s probably one of the dumbest movies I’ve ever seen, but I still kind of liked it despite myself. Not one single thing happens during the entire plot that couldn’t have been predicted by reading the summary, and about 30% of it is stolen off the first Thor movie (right down to the smash the drink on the floor and yell for more scene!), and I hated that scene with the poor student. I found the part with the Old Crone hilarious because that actress was literally like 40 and they didn’t even try to make her look old besides grey hair. That being said Cole is truly adorable and very pretty to look at and I watched it while doing other stuff, so I didn’t give it enough attention to be annoyed with the dumb parts. I would give a lot for a better version of this movie where I still get to see Cole running around being just as sweet and kind and pretty.

  18. QOTU says:

    I also likes Santa Girl, in particular because you could tell that it was an actual college and not some 70 million square foot dorm where everyone has a complete apartment. Also, the actors were all wearing normal clothing. The lead being the kooky girl from that Selena Gomez Disney show didn’t hurt.
    I also watched “Netflix original” the Ice Storm (book was WAY better, but fine way to spend the time)

  19. QOTU says:

    OMG, I meant “Let It Snow”. These winter names are all swirling in my brain!

  20. Lepiota says:

    cleo –

    I only recently moved away from Cleveland. And I’m from Seattle (in fact, I grew up in the middle of Seattle’s gay neighborhood, which was awesome!) So while my years in Ohio were very worthwhile and educational… there were a few too many of them, and… yeah.

    (Now I am living in a passive solar cottage in the woods near Chapel Hill with my cats, and designing robots. It is my best life.)

  21. Kris Bock says:

    I want a Mystery Science Theater 3000-type show with the entire bitchery snarking on movies.

    Until we have that, thank you for this.

  22. Amy says:

    I will watch pretty much any and all holiday movies. So this one will be on rotation at some point. But when I saw the trailer for this I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing! It’s just so absurd.

    Thanks for taking one for the team and watching/reviewing this movie 🙂

  23. Lepiota says:

    Kris –

    Y’know, that could be done. It would almost work better with a broadcast something, because we’d want to be coordinated.

    And then a twitter hashtag? I know there are also large scale conference call things, but the twitter tag thing seems like it would scale better for this format.

  24. Rebecca says:

    I liked it! Although full disclosure, I was on my third glass of wine… I was in the mood for cheesy… Cole was cute, and hot straight out of the shower in nothing but a towel attached low on his hips… and finally, I am guilty of watching Hallmark Christmas movies at Christmas time, and this is pretty much on par, “leave your brain at the door,” not too hard viewing, as per Hallmark offerings – wine needed.

  25. Kathryn says:

    While watching, I texted my cousin who lived in the town where they filmed the Ohio scenes, and she asked me if it was any good. My response was “it’s awful. I love it.” My husband and I had so many of the same questions that you had too. But for some reason, the production values are high enough and the male lead is charming enough that I still enjoyed it.

  26. Martha Smith says:

    The film is cozy, moderately sad and moderately funny. You get real pleasure from viewing, and I am confident that it’ll be nice to review in the future. “The Knight Before Christmas” is a wonderful film that you can watch yourself or with your family. It has everything you need to create a festive mood: morality and a Christmas miracle. Thanks for your review!

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