Movie Review: A Kiss Before Christmas (2021)

Synopsis: Twenty years after a chance encounter in an elevator led to Ethan discovering the love of his life, Joyce, the married father of two adopted teenagers has grown frustrated with his dead-end job and never having enough money. After telling a train station Santa he wished he had taken a different elevator 20 years earlier, Ethan falls asleep at the train station and wakes up in an alternate universe where he is wealthy, but also single and childless. He then learns he has until Christmas to figure out how to get back to his normal life or he will both be stuck in his new life and forget his previous life completely.

Who's in it? The movie stars James Denton, Terri Hatcher, Marilu Henner, Rod Wilson and John B. Lowe.

Review: I came across this movie over the weekend and, since I didn't have time to watch it at the time, added it to my library to watch later. My wife and I did that last night and, overall, thought it was an enjoyable holiday film.

OK, full disclosure, this movie is basically a rip-off of It's a Wonderful Life and, more importantly, the title really doesn't match the overall plot of the film because, at no point, is Ethan (Denton) told he needs to get a kiss from Joyce (Hatcher) by Christmas. That being said, there were a lot of things going for this movie.

One of the big ones, in my opinion, was the mystery about what he needed to do to get home. As I just mentioned, despite the title, it wasn't as simple as him getting Joyce to fall in love with him again and/or get her to kiss him, as I originally thought it would be. In fact, Santa (Lowe) wouldn't even give him a clue about what he needed to do, he basically just said Ethan needed to figure it out for himself.

I also liked how the film not only chose not to have Ethan and Joyce as a couple in the alternate universe, they put them on opposite sides of a legal battle, something that generated a great deal of mistrust from Joyce even as Ethan went out of his way to prove he wasn't the man she thought he was. The decision to tell her the truth from the beginning, despite it making him sound extremely crazy, was also a nice touch because it was hard to tell if she would eventually listen or just think he was nuts.

Another thing I liked about this film was how his family didn't seem to suffer from his decision. Without Ethan in their lives, Joyce was able to follow through with her dream of becoming an attorney and his adopted kids ended up with what seemed like a pair of pretty awesome foster parents. You could even argue they were better off without him, which I'm sure added a little bit of an added sting.

The end of the film was surprisingly decent considering that's usually the weakest part of other films in this genre. I loved how the movie built a bit of suspense over Ethan's efforts to save a youth center (though I kind of guessed at how that would end) and kept him in the dark about what he needed to do to get home until the very last second. Watching both him and Joyce agonizing over the possibilty of him forgetting his real life was fairly intense. 

Of course, to be fair, Santa was a bit of an ass in this movie, at least in my opinion, considering he could have justifiably let Ethan off the hook at any time. It's not like the man, at any point in the film, liked his new life or didn't miss his family. If anything, the lesson he was supposed to learn was already learned within the first few minutes of the film, making Santa's decision to wait somewhat cruel.

Final Opinion: As I said, the title doesn't match the movie but, in many ways, that is a big part of the reason why this is a holiday film that is worth taking the time to watch.

My Grade: A


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