Lohan’s Return Worth Celebrating in the Otherwise Middling Falling for Christmas
It’s easy to forget that, for a short time during the early 2000s, Mean Girls and The Parent Trap remake actor Lindsay Lohan was on her way to becoming one of the world’s biggest stars. Why and how everything went off the rails isn’t worth getting into, but it is another reminder how child superstars are so routinely used, abused, and callously discarded when their lives become too problematic and complicated to control. Bottom line? Lohan deserved better, and here’s hoping all is going well for her now.
What’s similarly easy to overlook is how gifted a comedian she was. Lohan made it all look effortless. Even in forgettable endeavors like Herbie Fully Loaded, Just My Luck, or Georgia Rule there was still an incandescent glow enveloping her that was difficult to resist. Robert Altman’s masterful A Prairie Home Companion arguably showcased Lohan at her best, delivering an award-worthy performance alongside perennial heavyweights like Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, and Woody Harrelson.
Falling for Christmas is Netflix’s latest slice of holiday-season romantic schmaltz and it is notable for precisely one reason – the return of Lohan as a bona fide comedic star. The film is interesting because of her. More to the point, it is only worth watching because of her. Lohan is the driving force that gives this otherwise unremarkable venture any energy it has. There are moments where she reminds viewers just how magnetic she can be, and for that reason alone, Janeen Damian’s directorial debut is at least somewhat noteworthy.
But, even for Netflix, Falling for Christmas is pretty anemic. Jeff Bonnett and Ron Oliver’s screenplay doesn’t exactly aim high, and Damian’s handling of the material is nothing special. It plays out like a mid-level sitcom that has no interest in doing anything unexpected. It’s a holiday fairy tale — only without any charm, making the whole thing something of a paint-by-numbers copy of a better motion picture, and not even Lohan’s spunky effervescence is enough to change that.
The film cribs from a variety of sources, not the least of which is 1987’s Goldie Hawn–Kurt Russell romantic comedy Overboard. Thankfully, Bonnett and Oliver do not follow that template to the letter. Unfortunately, they do not bring any wit or urgency to their rudimentary plotting of what transpires after their main character suffers a concussion and is stricken with amnesia.
Lohan portrays socialite Sierra Belmont. Her father Beauregard (Jack Wagner) is the billionaire owner of a major hotel chain, who desperately wants his daughter to make something of her life and is trying to hold his tongue over her relationship with flighty influencer Tad Fairchild (George Young). Tad stages a marriage proposal to Sierra at the top of a snowy cliff. But an accident sends both hurtling off different sides of the mountain, which then leads to her losing her memory and him getting lost in the woods.
The crux of the story finds Sierra rehabbing at a small snow lodge owned and run by Jake Russell (Chord Overstreet), his mother-in-law Alejandra (Alejandra Flores), and adolescent daughter Avy (Olivia Perez). Unlike Overboard, even though they have a history, Jake never tries to gaslight Sierra. Instead, he and his family do what they can to help her recover her memory. In turn, she helps them out at their struggling establishment, unwittingly becoming a better, far less selfish person in the process.
It’s all perfectly harmless. Both Sierra and Jake have semi-tragic backstories that have stopped them from allowing true love to reenter their lives. This of course means sparks will fly, and by the time memories are restored, identities are reclaimed, and Christmas Eve miracles are performed, it isn’t exactly shocking who is going to get their happy ending.
After a rough beginning, Lohan takes that moment when Sierra loses her memory to come ebulliently alive. She’s as willing as ever to throw herself into every scene. Her physicality remains strong, and I’m still struck by how easy she makes each comedic set piece look. Lohan’s performance is far more appealing than the film deserves, and while her chemistry with Overstreet is nonexistent (he’s something of an inert wet noodle), her few scenes with the peppy Perez have a spunky spontaneity that every other second of the running time frustratingly lacks.
I’m not going to further badmouth Falling for Christmas. Nothing truly terrible happens, and even in something as middling as this, it’s still wonderful to see Lohan back on the screen, willing to do whatever it takes to generate a laugh or get the audience to smile. Not that that’s enough to make this a holiday gift worth unwrapping. More just one to shake a bit before placing back under the tree to be regifted to someone else during a white elephant party at a later date.
Film Rating: 2 (out of 4)