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As Christmas Movies Go, You Could Do Worse Than 'Happiest Season'

It’s become clear to me that other people are way more into Christmas movies than I am. That’s not to say I don’t like them, it’s just that every year it seems like there’s something almost everyone is talking about that I’m surprised almost everyone is talking about.

This year, it’s the Hulu movie Happiest Season, and I need to be extra clear that I’m not surprised everyone is talking about it because I think it’s bad — I don’t. I’m surprised because it’s like a lot of Christmas movies that become hits: It’s totally just fine. It’s fine! It’s fine.

Happiest Season stars Kristen Stewart as a woman who has a hard time around Christmas, as her parents died some years earlier, but whose girlfriend, played by Mackenzie Davis, of course loves the season. On a bit of a whim on a romantic night, Davis asks Stewart to come home with her for Christmas to meet her family. Stewart accepts, but Davis immediately regrets it, because she hasn’t actually even come out to her family, which she doesn’t reveal to Stewart until the two are already well on their way to her parents’ house. This is not ideal.

The first two-thirds of the movie have plenty of jokes, some of which made me laugh out loud, some of which are extremely strained, about par for the course. We meet Davis’ family, who are mostly insufferable — her father is running for mayor, her mother is extremely concerned with appearances, and one of her sisters is a super intense former attorney who now makes high-end gift baskets with her husband while they sort-of attend to their twin children. The only one who’s bearable is her other sister, Jane, who is a bit of a weirdo but pure of heart.

But as much as I disliked most of the people, the last third of the movie ended up making it work. We start to understand why they behave the way they do, and it’s not pretty, but it makes sense. They become more than caricatures. Maybe not a lot more! But more.

I say the movie is just fine, but I should add that the acting is better than that. Stewart is fantastic and the only one who seems like a fully realized person for the entire film. And Aubrey Plaza and Dan Levy are knockouts in small roles that made me wish those characters had Christmas movies I could watch. Throw in Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Alison Brie, and whether you end up liking the film or not, they bring as much to it as they can.

Happiest Season seems to be this year’s Christmas sensation, and let’s be honest, you already know if this is the sort of thing you look forward to each year. And if it is, what I’m about to say is actually sort of an endorsement: You could do a lot worse.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.