Vanessa Hudgens has cemented her position as the queen of Christmas with her latest Netflix festive romcom. But what is it about? And is it… good?
This story contains spoilers for The Knight Before Christmas. If you don’t want to be spoiled, please click away now.
The Netflix Christmas cinematic universe is vast, like a suburban mall, and oddly sweet, like a little pastry taster handed out by someone wearing a novelty costume working in said mall.
Each year, the streaming platform has offered up fresh bounty for silly season binge-watchers like an eager hostess placing the Christmas turkey proudly on the table. Netflix has had festive-season romcoms about plucky young journalists-slash-cupcake-bakers falling in love with the standoffish princes from far-away lands with totally legit names like Aldovia and Belgravia. It has had a movie in which Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn co-starred as Mr and Mrs Claus. It has had a movie in which Sam from The West Wing and Charlotte from Sex And The City fall in love after saving elephants in Africa. Netflix really does have it all.
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The undeniable queen of this silly season bounty, though, is Vanessa Hudgens. Last year, the actor put in double time, playing two lookalike roles in The Princess Switch. (A sequel, in which she will play a third lookalike, is coming next Christmas with all the inevitable certainty of a tax return.) This year, she doubles down on the regal romcom energy with The Knight Before Christmas, streaming now on Netflix.
Hudgens is charming as Brooke, the no-nonsense high school teacher who finds herself opening up to the possibility of love when she has a chance meeting with Sir Cole (!), a handsome 14th century knight (!!!) who has time-travelled (!!!!) from Norwich (sure!) to present day Ohio. Buckle up, folks. Because this movie is wild.
1. This movie opens with a character called Sir Geoffrey surveying the pre-Christmas weather conditions and describing them as having “good, soft wind”. Is this movie… a masterpiece?
2. OK, so Sir Cole, my new favourite time-travelling knight (sorry, Jamie from Outlander) is played by Josh Whitehouse, aka the star of one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasure television shows Poldark. I think I am legally obliged to love this film now.
3. Sir Cole keeps calling this woman an “old crone”, which isn’t a very nice thing to call a lady. No wonder she sends him into the future as punishment. I’d have turned him into a frog by this point.
4. “Where will the quest lead me?” Sir Cole wonders wistfully. Ohio, baby!
5. It is wild that this Netflix movie sets up that Sir Cole is a knight from Norwich – which, OK sure – and that he travels to the future to Ohio, but to a fictional town called Bracebridge. Why opt for the very real location of Norwich and the very fake location of Bracebridge? Why not have Brooke live in, you know, Cleveland? Just some food for thought.
6. Brooke is giving a speech about how knights in shining armour don’t exist, and that women should give up on the fairytale of true love. Girlfriend has no idea what is in store for her.
7. There’s a lot of fun, fish-out-of-water stuff in this movie that is both deeply ripping off every other piece of time travel pop culture and yet, ultimately, satisfying. Cars are called “steel horses”, hot chocolate is “sweet mead” – and, when the hot chocolate is deemed pleasing Cole asks for “another, serving wench!” to some harried service industry worker – and the television is called a “magic box”. I don’t care how silly it is, I will always enjoy out-of-time humour, so much so that I demand “another!” to all of these jokes. (Don’t @ me.)
8. My pet peeve in pop culture is when people order food and don’t eat it. So yes, I was very frustrated when Brooke sat in that diner and didn’t touch her cheeseburger.
9. On the other hand, did Fiji Water sponcon this movie? Because there are whole, entire scenes in which both Brooke and Cole just stand in the living room drinking bottles of Fiji Water. Wild.
10. Ah yes, a totally normal moment in this Netflix movie where the two main characters stop what they’re doing to binge-watch OTHER NETFLIX CHRISTMAS ROMCOMS. Does this mean that they might have watched The Princess Switch, meaning that they might have watched a movie in which Brooke is confronted with not one but two of her doppelgangers? Is it possible that there can be three women in this world who all look like Vanessa Hudgens?
11. Cole really knows his way around a Christmas tree. And an axe.
12. “Can girls be knights?” Brooke’s adorable niece Claire asks. “Girls can be whatever they want to be,” Brooke responds. I’m inspired.
13. OK so this movie just referenced a Christmas tree ornament that was bought in Aldovia! AKA the fictional royal kingdom in which A Christmas Prince is set. The Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe is real.
14. Every day in this movie Brooke is wearing a new coat. She has at least five different jackets, all of which are completely different. How many coats does she own? How can she justify this many jacket purchases?
15. Cole is a handsome knight who loves hot chocolate. This movie is a PG-13 dream.
16. Hello! Maybe it’s not a PG-13 dream, Cole and Brooke are now having a little sexy bread-kneading session – that is not a euphemism, they’re literally kneading bread – straight out of the Ghost playbook.
17. Brooke is wearing ANOTHER COAT. Incredible! This movie is propaganda for Big Outerwear and I, for one, am here for it.
18. I have this theory that the reason that Hudgens is starring in so many Christmas romcoms is because she looks great in both red and green. This movie really proves that theory. Of course the climactic romantic moment, in which Cole completes his quest and must return to his home in the 14th century, has to happen while Brooke is wearing a very festive red lace gown.
19. Oh, Cole came back! He couldn’t live without her. That’s very, very romantic. It’s just… And this is a very small quibble really, but… What about his family? He just leaves them in the 14th century like, see ya later, and doesn’t even tell them that he is going back to the future, or even that he went to the future in the first place. It’s sweet that he came back for Brooke but I feel bad for Cole’s brother. They’re never going to see each other again.
20. Ah yes, the movie couldn’t end without Brooke in one last new coat! And this one is a very festive green colour. Happy Christmas, everybody.
The Knight Before Christmas is streaming on Netflix now.
Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.
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