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There’s no place like Guam for the holidays – ‘Operation Christmas Drop’

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The deluge of holiday movies is underway, with scores of new offerings coming at us over the next couple of months. You can’t fight it, so you might as well go along for the ride.

And there’s joy to be found. Sure, most of the holiday fare we see has a churned-out quality, a cookie-cutter sensibility. But so what? These types of movies are almost always intended as comfort food, nothing more. Familiar and uncomplicated. Consume them with that in mind and you’ll have a good time.

This brings us to “Operation Christmas Drop,” a Netflix original currently streaming on the service. As a holiday movie/rom-com crossover, it’s part of one of the largest holiday film subgenres, and there’s little about it that sets it apart from a dozen other movies. It is an easy-to-drink cocktail, egg nog by way of the tropics.

Everything you think is going to happen, happens. There are no surprises here, nothing the least bit challenging or provocative. What flavor there is comes from the tropical setting, but even that is just the barest hint. This movie is as bland and inoffensive as they come, something you can have on in the background during multi-generational family celebrations.

Erica Miller (Kat Graham, “Emperor”) is a political aide looking for ways to advance to her career. She works long hours, much to the detriment of her personal relationships (though in some ways, she uses work as an excuse to not have to spend time with her dad and his new wife). She’s doing her best to gain the attention of her boss, Congresswoman Bradford (Virginia Madsen, TV’s “Swamp Thing”) – rumor has it that the chief of staff position might be opening up and Erica wants her shot.

Bradford is crusading against government waste, so when she sees an article about Operation Christmas Drop, an unofficial program being run out of an airbase in Guam, she wants to find out more. Specifically, if government resources are being diverted to enact it. Erica is tapped to head to Guam and find out just what is going on.

On her arrival, she meets Captain Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig, “Bad Boys For Life”), the easygoing pilot who spearheads Operation Christmas Drop. He has been tasked with showing her around the operation, the base and the island – a task he takes as an opportunity to prove that not only is the drop valuable, but that it costs the government nothing.

As Erica learns more about Operation Christmas Drop, meeting both the givers and the recipients, she starts to believe in its value. She also – big surprise – starts to become enamored of Andrew. However, that big promotion awaits, and the path to that job becomes a lot easier if she can give her boss what she wants. What will she choose? And will the Christmas spirit also play Cupid?

Reader, you know the answer.

It’s impossible to watch “Operation Christmas Drop” and not be at least somewhat charmed by it. That’s not to indicate that it’s a particularly good movie – it really isn’t – but it is fully and unapologetically what it is. It is what it is and if you don’t like it, it doesn’t care because it isn’t aimed at you. This is a movie that knows precisely what its target audience wants and happily delivers it without a trace of irony or cynicism.

(This despite several moments here that read like nothing so much as straight-up recruitment ads for the military. Frankly, the fact that the movie still manages to mostly avoid feeling cynical in the face of all that is probably the most impressive thing about it.)

But the setting is nice, albeit flattened by the nigh-ubiquitous Netflix sheen. And the story itself – loosely based on a longtime real-life operation – is heartwarming. Sure, it’s reductive in a lot of ways and there are a LOT of questions; there are moments that defy logic and logistics alike.

But again – you’re not clicking on “Operation Christmas Drop” because you’re looking for a challenging, complex cinematic masterpiece. You’re here because you know exactly what you’re getting, and right now, that’s all you want. It is simple and sweet, an easy half-watch.

As a central couple, Graham and Ludwig are a perfectly cromulent pairing. There’s not a ton of chemistry there, but the two prove to be fairly game – they’re both willing to simply smile their way through. Considering the generally low-energy vibe of the rest of the film, their dynamic more or less works. Again – it’s not ideal when your rom-com’s lead couple doesn’t really seem to click romantically, but it could be worse. Literally everyone else in this movie – from Madsen on down – is operating at replacement level. Not bad, not good – they just … are.

“Operation Christmas Drop” exists because it checks the right boxes for Netflix. That’s it. But ultimately, that’s OK. It’s palatable holiday-themed fare and nothing more. This kind of movie might not be for you – it isn’t for me – but if you like it, chances are, you’ll really like it. And it’s tough to call that anything other than success.

[2 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 09 November 2020 12:02

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