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Ilya Drozdov
Ilya Drozdov

Christmas With The Campbells

Duffy, playing up the elderly hair-dresser determined to keep sex on a schedule with her retirement-ready accountant husband (George Wendt) but getting into this banter with the nephew, is just as cute.

Christmas with the Campbells

Christmas with the Campbells spikes the eggnog with raunchy dialogue, a romantically charged narrative, and wicked double entendres. Co-writer/producer Vince Vaughn goes gleefully naughty with the standard romantic comedy plot. The premise has a dumped girlfriend spending Christmas with her ex-boyfriend's family. His hunky cousin arrives unexpectedly and sparks predictably fly. The picturesque winter setting and genial small-town facade hide a lusty undercurrent. A good ensemble cast of Hollywood veterans has comedic chemistry when the script starts to meander. It gets a bit silly but Christmas with the Campbells had me laughing out loud.

Jesse (Brittany Snow), a sweet-natured, part-time family portrait photographer, sees a committed future with her boyfriend. Shawn (Alex Moffat), an arrogant and narcissistic accountant, has other intentions. He cruelly dumps her a week before Christmas. Their plans of spending time with his beloved parents are shattered. Shawn has an important job interview in New York City that supersedes everything else. A broken-hearted Jesse will have to spend the holidays alone.

The quaint opening gets heated fast when Shawn breaks up with Jesse. His monologue describing her boring career choices, but their spectacular sex life sets the stage for shenanigans to come. The film delights in making the wholesome dirty.

Christmas with the Campbells strains to fill its ninety-minute runtime. There's a lot of frosting on this cake. My attention waned but was always brought back by the likable cast. I've been a fan of Duffy (Newhart, Designing Women) and Wendt (Cheers, Gung Ho) since childhood. I got a kick out of seeing them play a dirty old couple chugging Purple Drank.

Julian Roman has been with Movieweb for nearly twenty years. An avid film buff, he feels lucky to have interviewed and written extensively about Hollywood's greatest talents. In his spare time he plays guitar, treasures good company, and always seeks new adventures.

Review: There are three types of people during the holidays: the die-hards who love everything and anything Christmas, the people who are wholly and unabashedly against anything Yuletide, and Hallmark fans. The greeting card company turned television network has churned out romantic and feel-good movies set during the Christmas season for years with their primary competition, Lifetime, doing much of the same. For the most part, these movies are painfully happy and cliche, populated by small screen stars and bygone performers looking for a last-ditch chance at relevance. With so many of these movies made every year, the bar is set very, very low which means you get porn-level acting and production values to go along with fantastically formulaic stories about exes falling in love, lonely hearts finding their dream partner, and all with an unhealthy dose of Christmas cheer. Christmas with the Campbells follows that same formula and is chock full of holiday energy but with a profane parody at its core.

Produced by Vince Vaughn alongside his collaborator and A Christmas Story actor Peter Billingsley, Christmas with the Campbells employs countless veterans of Hallmark and Lifetime productions. The music from Tommy Fields is exceptionally generic and the cinematography from Kristoffer Carrillo is reliably bland. I am not sure if everyone involved with this movie thought that this would be funnier than it is, because the humor feels barely above a Saturday Night Live sketch. In fact, this movie feels quite a bit like an overlong SNL bit that feels far too long when presented as a feature film. While Long and Snow do have some convincing chemistry, they are also the few who feel truly natural in their roles. Alex Moffat is far too broad for his role while Julia Duffy and George Wendt could have been ripped right from any real Hallmark film.

It's that time of year again: Christmas movies are everywhere. The Hallmark brand of Christmas stories have become a subgenre all on their own, and they've begun to spread to Netflix and other platforms. Now AMC+ is getting in on the game with Christmas with the Campbells, a syrupy, awkward twist on some of the brand's most common tropes. A sweetly earnest Brittany Snow works to elevate the material, but there are a few eyebrow-raising elements that are hard to get past (but perhaps make more sense once one realizes Vince Vaughn helped write the screenplay). It might be easy to brush aside holiday-themed fare like this due to its predictability or cheesiness. However, in the case of Christmas with the Campbells, this is a holiday movie that doesn't have a great deal of charm despite its intriguing premise.

Amateur photographer Jesse (Snow) is someone who loves the simple things in life, much to the chagrin of her hotshot jerk of a boyfriend, Shawn (Alex Moffat). With Christmas fast approaching, Jesse is eagerly gearing up to spend the holidays with Shawn and his family in their picturesque small down when Shawn abruptly breaks up with her. Despite this, though, Shawn's mother Liz (Julia Duffy) still insists that Jesse come stay with her and husband Robert (George Wendt). As Shawn has decided not to come home for Christmas, it seems like the perfect scenario. However, Jesse soon finds herself questioning the decision to spend time with the Campbells, especially once Shawn's charming cousin, David (Justin Long), turns up and sweeps her off her feet.

While some might recoil at the idea of voluntarily spending time with their in-laws, there's something compelling about Christmas with the Campbells' set-up. Jesse feels a genuine kinship with Liz and Robert, likely spurred by some past family issues on her side that are never really fleshed out. It isn't too unbelievable that someone like Jesse, innocent and uncomplicated, would be okay visiting her ex-boyfriend's parents. What's more difficult to comprehend, though, is why Jesse and Shawn lasted so long at all. As written by Vaughn, Dan Lagana, and Barbara Kymlicka, Shawn is a one-note character who seems primarily concerned with sex and money, in that order. Moffat nails his sleaziness, but Shawn's incredible lack of depth puts him at odds with the wholesome tale Christmas with the Campbells is trying to tell. The same is true for the sexual humor injected throughout; though nothing ever comes of it onscreen, there are many crude lines throughout Christmas with the Campbells. The profane humor doesn't mesh well with the sentimental side of things, and neither do the quips David makes about kissing his aunt.

Director Clare Niedepruem keeps things moving at a decent pace, ensuring Christmas with the Campbells doesn't overstay its welcome. The movie is also helped by Snow, whose bright-eyed portrayal of Jesse goes a long way in keeping viewers on board for the journey. She shines here, and her chemistry with Long makes the connection between Jesse and David far more believable than the one between her and Shawn. Long's accent runs the risk of getting a bit too silly at times, but he plays David's charming sense of honor quite well. The rest of the Christmas with the Campbells ensemble is reliably solid. In addition to Moffat, Duffy and Wendt make for a nice (and surprisingly raunchy) onscreen couple, and JoAnna Garcia Swisher does well despite being gifted some truly cringeworthy innuendos disguised as normal dialogue.

If the romance between Jesse and David doesn't quite make one swoon, it will draw some smiles. The journey isn't the most exciting romance to hit screens this year, as Niedepruem instead stages their courtship with a steady, straightforward approach. There isn't a lot of tension here, but there is some sweet contentment. Unfortunately, Jesse and David's love story takes an all-too-familiar turn late in Christmas with the Campbells as the screenwriters fall back on one of the most common and frustrating obstacles in the romance genre. This makes the climax a bit maddening, but viewers won't be surprised with how Christmas with the Campbells ends. After all, this is the type of movie that has its conclusion telegraphed from the beginning, not that there is anything wrong with such an end. There is a comfort that comes from knowing things well end up happy and okay.

Christmas with the Campbells tries to take some big swings toward shaking up the conventional holiday movie mold, but it ultimately ends up being more of the same, just with some sticky moments. The earnestness of its cast, especially Snow, makes up for some of the other elements that are lacking. However, this is a romance that likely won't stick with audiences beyond the initial viewing. There are plenty of other offerings this holiday season that provide more cheer.

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Even though it is not a Hallmark movie, it makes sense that it would sound like one. Director Clare Niederpruem and co-writer Barbara Kymlicka have both worked on films for the channel. The difference between Christmas with the Campbells and any of the innumerable holiday romantic comedies found on Hallmark is Vince Vaughn (Freaky) helped punch up this script. Though it has the comforting premise found often this time of year, it is not always family friendly.Listen to the latest episode of the AIPT Movies Podcast!Christmas With the Campbells does not double down on the raunch and toilet humor. While there are plenty of naughty jokes to be found, the film does not do away with all of the nice. In a decision that borders on parody but never quite crosses the line, it is a strange mix of naughty and nice. The plot is sweet and goes in the expected directions, whereas the jokes are laugh out loud funny and do not pull any punches. It is a far cry from the sanitized fare that play throughout households during December.The entire cast do a wonderful job, but it is Justin Long that stands out the most. After playing two similar characters in House of Darkness and Barbarian, Long goes in the exact opposite direction in Christmas with the Campbells. Much like the actual movie, he is almost playing a caricature of a rom-com lead. He has the good looks, charm and the folksy good manner, but this does not prevent him from making completely inappropriate comments. 041b061a72


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