Tis the season for holiday-themed fare and the streaming services are capitalizing on that with a blitz of new stuff that they hope will find a place on your list of festive classics.
Netflix has the yule log blazing with a number of holiday originals including “Let it Snow,” “Klaus,” “The Knight Before Christmas” and “Merry Happy Whatever,” the new series starring Dennis Quaid. More content arrives this week, like “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby,” the third in that series, and “RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular.”
Taking a spin through some of the new titles, animated film “Klaus” is worth watching, with its delightful animation style, self-aware jokes and new take on a festive story, with voice work from Jason Schwartzman, Rashida Jones and J.K. Simmons.
“Let It Snow” takes the idea of a snow day and crosses it with the time-honoured tradition of a teenage rager of a party, filled with Netflix’s next generation of stars, including Kiernan Shipka (“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”). It’s formulaic, wholesome and made me wish that it was about 10 per cent raunchier, just so it lived up to its 1980s-’90s inspirations. It’s the one you may be able to watch with a picky teenager.
Disney Plus launched with mostly TV series, but it also has “Noelle,” starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader, who play Santa’s adult kids who have to save Christmas. It’s slightly better than Hallmark level, with a progressive take on the replacement Santa formula that is incredibly cheesy and has some terrible CGI, but is almost saved by Kendrick’s considerable charm.
The ultimate goal for any of these projects is to get on our annual Christmas rewatch lists, but they also expose some of peak streaming’s limits. Festive classics are one of those things that most of us don’t care about until we do and, for the most part, streaming services will leave you disappointed when you are looking for perennial classics.
I used the JustWatch search engine to check the availability of some of my family’s holiday favourites and where they are streaming in Canada. “Elf” is available on Amazon Prime Video, “Die Hard” is on the Starz level of Crave. The original version of “Miracle on 34th Street” is on Disney Plus, but “White Christmas” is not available for streaming.
There are no Rudolph or Frosty specials or “It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas.” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” are also missing from streaming services. So is “Love Actually.” “Home Alone” is on Disney Plus, which is likely the best place to find older holiday-themed fare, although one notable exception is the infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special.”
As we well know, the libraries of these services are constantly changing, with some beefing up their holiday fare just in time for the season. Netflix, for example, is adding “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the 2000 Jim Carrey version), arriving on Wednesday. Amazon Prime Video is adding “Bad Santa,” “Four Christmases” and a few of the “Nativity!” comedies from Britain.
Those might not be universally hailed as holiday classics, but there are some households that hold them dear.
The best advice in a splintering streaming world is to shell out for the DVD version or a digital copy of your holiday favourite to ensure your festive binge-watching sessions remain holly jolly.
- One of Amazon Prime Video’s marquee and award-winning series, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” returns for its third season on Dec. 6.
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- Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, arrives on Netflix Dec. 6. Like “The Irishman” last week, this film had a short theatrical run and has received raves for its look at a disintegrating marriage.
- “Tiffany Haddish: Black Mitzvah,” the comedian’s latest, arrives Dec. 3 and is in part about her learning that her ancestry stems from Jews from Eritrea.