If you’re going to do an Overboard knockoff that slides into the generic sludge of sentimental holiday-season rom-com, then at least find a couple of leads with the charisma and chemistry to pull it off. Unless you’re feverish with excitement at the prospect of Lindsay Lohan’s screen comeback — and if you are, I’m sorry for your life — Falling for Christmas won’t give you much pleasure beyond the recollection of Goldie and Kurt’s fractious, frisky rapport in the 1987 favorite about an obnoxious amnesiac heiress who falls for a blue-collar misogynist. As a model for stars with terrific comedy chops elevating mediocre material, there are worse starting points.
This sub-Hallmark dreck made by a bunch of hacks that don’t deserve to be named is the first film out of Lohan’s Netflix deal and her first feature in three years. Not to beat up on a former child star who has overcome more than her share of demons, but if this is the best vehicle she could find, waiting another three might not have been a bad idea.
Falling for Christmas
The Bottom Line
I get the fundamental pleasures of the basic-cable holiday movie that the streamers are now eager to get in on — flat acting barely a notch up from soaps; bland visuals less polished than a Hershey’s Christmas commercial; toothless plotting with nothing to offend your grandma in Ohio; a happy ending in which everyone is left beaming with hearts full of love and seasonal cheer. But even that formula demands a modicum of humor and verve.
Lohan plays Sierra Belmont, daughter of a wealthy hotel magnate, which right away made me wish they had meta-cast Paris Hilton. Since no kind of acting nuance appears to be required, at least she might have had some fun with it. When we first meet Sierra, she’s been flown up by her father Beauregard (Jack Wagner) in his private plane to his luxury ski resort to discuss keeping her out of trouble by appointing her Vice President of Atmosphere. But Sierra has other plans, as does her vain British social media influencer boyfriend Tad (George Young), who screams “gay” so loud he takes the surprise out of a later plot turn.
Sierra is assigned a personal assistant (Chase Ramsey) and a glam squad to prepare her for lunch with Daddy, and much ado is made of her choosing an ugly-ass firetruck-red onesie identified as “the Valenyagi.” While that outfit earns its own slo-mo elevator exit with wind machine, it’s basically the kind of hideousness you get when your ersatz movie can’t land a real couture endorsement and you want to suggest, oh, I don’t know, Valentino, Balenciaga and Issey Miyake?
Equally inauthentic is romantic lead Chord Overstreet, who’s what you get in place of a Chris Hemsworth. The Glee alum here exudes the magnetism of a potato, though admittedly, that’s as much the script’s fault as his.
Overstreet plays Jake Russell, the cash-strapped owner of a far more modest family-run mountain retreat, the North Star Lodge, who’s just been turned down by Beau for an investment stake when he collides with Sierra and spills cocoa on the Valenyagi. This sends Tad into a flap but doesn’t leave enough of an impression on Jake for him to recognize Sierra when he finds her unconscious at the bottom of a mountain.
That happens after Tad proposes in the middle of a mountaintop Instagram photo opp and Sierra goes for a tumble, colliding with a tree. Tad falls in the other direction and gets conveniently stuck out of the way with wildnerness ice-fisherman Ralph (Sean Dillingham).
Since Jake’s struggling establishment has plenty of spare rooms in the runup to Christmas, he volunteers to put the unidentified Sierra up at the North Star, where she bonds with her recently widowed rescuer’s plucky daughter Ava (Olivia Perez) and kindly mother-in-law Alejandra (Alejandra Flores). I guess Ava’s missing tooth is meant to be cute, but there’s only so much adorable mugging I could take.
Unlike Kurt Russell’s Overboard character, sad-eyed Jake is too nice to exploit his memory-deprived guest, but she decides to pitch in anyway. No hilarity ensues as pampered Sierra tries and fails to make beds, cook breakfast, clean a toilet or do laundry. (Paris would have killed this; she’s already done most of it on The Simple Life.) But when they visit a Christmas market in town and a twinkly-eyed old Santa type (Bus Riley) gets wind of Ava’s secret wish, things begin to shift.
No prizes for guessing that Sierra will be acing the housekeeping chores and flipping pancakes before long, as she and Jake start exchanging swoony glances. She also digs into her residual memory bank to do what all useless heiresses are genetically programmed to do — throw a fundraiser!
All this is allowed to go on for four days because Beau is away on business and Sierra’s minders seem to have forgotten about her, just as nobody in this bustling town seems to recognize a socialite heiress who early on complains that she wants to be known as more than the spoiled daughter of Beauregard Belmont. No doubt they’re all too busy with wholesome pursuits to be on social media or read TMZ.
The script is beyond formulaic, so of course, when Beau returns to the resort and sends out a search party, Sierra gets yanked back to her real life just in time to reevaluate it. She also experiences a heart-tugging montage of dreamy Jake moments set to a song called “Without You,” performed by the star’s sister, Aliana Lohan. (I forgot to check the credits to see if Dina did the catering.)
Lindsay Lohan has as much right as anyone to attempt a comeback, but the high points of her rocky career have mostly been about the right placement in winsome showcases — The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, A Prairie Home Companion — rather than any notable acting range. Here, there’s little to distinguish between Sierra in monstrously entitled mode and Sierra transformed by the kindness of honest folks enduring real struggle. It’s mainly her outfits that are different. The only person really making an effort is Young, but even over the top Tad wears thin.
The movie looks cheap, with a startlingly bad green-screen ski sequence and a couple of animatronic critters that will fool no one. The main expense seems to be the holiday songs plastered all over the soundtrack. In one in-joke, Sierra wakes up to the familiar Netflix ta-dum logo tone and can’t switch off fast enough when A Castle for Christmas pops up on her TV. But at least that Yuletide entry had a gorgeous location and charming leads in Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes. This shabby fake should be so lucky; it’s a genuine Valenyagi.