Stream or skip?


Stream or skip? +2023

Freevee joins the Holiday Romcom Arena Hotel for the holidays, a Christmas film full of sweet encounters, misunderstandings and magical moments. But is this the movie you want to see? Or do you check right away when it starts?

The essentials: Madelaine Petsch (Riverdale) plays Georgia, the manager of the venerable Hotel Fontaine in New York City – “venerable” is code for “old and with many cracks in the walls”. There she leads a staff of good-natured associates, all preparing for the Jingle Mingle party on Christmas Eve. There’s Kiki (Jamison Belushi), a concierge trying to find enough birds in Midtown to bring The 12 Days of Christmas to life; Milton (Neil Crone), a handyman who suspects bartender Flo (Jayne Eastwood) has a crush on him; and Chief Luke (Aladdins Mena Massoud), who cooks lunch for Georgia every day, but she still hasn’t realized he’s into her. During this special week before Christmas, a number of interesting guests check into the hotel, including a prince who’s no longer a prince (Max Lloyd-Jones) and a pop star in need of a hit single (Kayleigh Shikanai).

Madelaine Petsch plays the leading role "Hotel for the holidays." Credit/Shane Mahood |  Amazon Freevee
Shane Mahood/Amazon Freevee

If you can’t tell already, there’s a lot of storylines to follow in this one, but the main thing is Georgia trying to raise the money she needs to open a sister hotel to the Fontaine that’s modern and crack-free Walls. Her plan: take this surefire winner of an idea to the ex-prince and hope his once-royal pockets still have some royal cash in them. However, she has to secretly woo him because she doesn’t need her peers – especially Luke – to find out what’s going on.

Which movies will it remind you of?: This is a holiday movie in the love actually style, albeit with a number of TV-movie tropes.

Notable performance: Madelaine Petsch and Mena Massoud are both solid actors who will one day be great holiday romcom leads. Unfortunately, the crowded cast and dozens of storylines leave you wanting to see a lot more of Petsch and Massoud together. There’s a lot of talk about their dynamics in this film because there’s no time to show them properly.

Madelaine Petsch and Mena Massoud in the leading roles "Hotel for the holidays." Credit/Shane Mahood |  Amazon Freevee
Shane Mahood/Amazon Freevee

Memorable dialogue: There are a few funny lines in this one, including one from pop star Pandora posing as holiday help Pam. Kiki tells her to come to work at 8am, to which “Pam” replies, “Don’t be silly. 8 o’clock does not come in morning…does it?” But the dialogue that struck me the most came from Luke: “I don’t even know what that is because you won’t tell me!”

A holiday tradition: The film builds on the Jingle Mingle Party at the Fontaine, held on Christmas Eve for those with no other plans or place to be.

Two lovebirds: You could throw some of this year’s holiday movies in a blender and come up with something Hotel for the holidays. Want a film just about the hospitality industry? To attempt Have a delicious Christmas (discovery+), In love with Christmas (Netflix) or A cozy Christmas inn (Mark).

How about a Christmas film about a chef? There is Sweet Navidad (Lifespan), Bake all the way (Lifespan), Serve the holidays (also on Lifetime, WTF), Gastronomy Christmas (Large American family) and Christmas on the slopes (UPtv).

Movies about pop stars going undercover and/or interacting with normal people? In a happy measure (Mark), Christmas with you (Netflix) or Undercover vacation (Mark).

There are too many movies about kings. The ones about princes include special The Invention of the Christmas Prince (Mark), Crown Prince of Christmas (Large American Family), A prince and pauper’s Christmas (ION), A Royal Corgi Christmas (trademark) and A royal Christmas on ice (Large American family).

[Deep breath] Last but not least, holiday movies about couples brought together by the love of dogs: The dog days of Christmas (Lifespan), Dognapped: hound for the holidays (ION) and A Royal Corgi Christmas (Mark).

Memory: All of these movies are from 2022.

Madelaine Petsch and Max Lloyd Jones star "Hotel for the holidays." Credit/Shane Mahood |  Amazon Freevee
Shane Mahood/Amazon Freevee

Does the title make sense?: The title sounds shaky before you know the premise and realize you have to preface it with “Georgia will a” for it to make sense. The film could be titled Christmas in the fountainwhich sounds noble, even if one wonders what a fountain is.

Our opinion: Every streaming service these days is getting on the original holiday romcom train, and it makes sense. Netflix A Christmas Prince propelled the genre to the forefront of seasonal pop culture consciousness in 2017, and these types of films have grown in prominence every year. For that reason, it makes perfect sense that Freevee, the Amazon-owned streaming service formerly known as IMDbTV, would want to join in the fun for its first post-relaunch holiday season. And you know, casting Cheryl Blossom and Disney’s Aladdin as the leads was a very good decision, one that could have immediately set the tone Freevee is aiming for in their vacation movies and set them apart from Hallmark and Netflix. Christmas romance targeting Gen Z and the youngest young millennials? Go Freevee!

That’s not exactly what’s happening inside Hotel for the holidays. This film juggles far too many storylines for a single mood to be made clear. There are almost a dozen relationships, from friendships to commercials, that we’re told to keep an eye on throughout this 85-minute film, and that leaves them all to be desired.

Each of these plots could have filled a movie of the same length—remember that grueling “Two Lovebirds” section above? What we get instead is a movie that feels like the finale of the first season of a TV series – a fine series, to be fair! This cast is talented and Hotel Fontaine has a lot of character, much more than most of the hotels and inns we see in these films. But the film throws us into the everyday life of Fontaine and doesn’t spend time establishing any of those character dynamics. That’s because instead of spending a few scenes introducing Luke and Georgia, the movie maybe showing us Luke making a grilled cheese for Georgia for the first time, maybe building some sort of romantic tension, spends that time Joking Kiki with a rude Santa Claus standing in front of the hotel, all for a very tiny payout at Jingle Mingle. The movie is about Georgia and Luke, so let it be Georgia and Luke.

Mena Massoud plays the leading role "Hotel for the holidays." Credit/Shane Mahood |  Amazon Freevee
Shane Mahood/Amazon Freevee

It’s a shame, too, because the film has some really excellent moments of camp, intentional or not — like a perplexed Pandora staring blankly at a Word doc that just says “Pandora’s New Hit” at the top, or the fact that this brilliant chef Georgia meticulously prepares a single, sad-looking grilled cheese for lunch. This is a fun place to be if the movie doesn’t jump from one subplot to the next.

Our appeal: SKIP IT – or if you’re a fan of Petsch and/or Massoud, take 20 minutes out of your vacation schedule to check out their story.

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