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Review: 'Father Christmas Is Back' (2021) Dirs. Philippe Martinez & Mick Davis

Elizabeth Hurley, John Cleese, Kelsey Grammer, Nathalie Cox, Talulah Riley, Kris Marshall, April Bowlby, Ray Fearon and Caroline Quentin


A British comedy for the festive season on Netflix brings together domestic and international talent for a madcap comedy that examines the best (and worst) of families at Christmas...

Caroline Christmas (Cox) is hosting the annual Christmas gathering at her large country estate. She has everything planned, with fine food, decorations and lots of local events to take part in across their hometown of York, England.

The Christmas family arrive with their own unique style and interpretation of the holiday season; upper-class Joanna (Hurley), rebellious Vicky (Riley), educated Paulina (Frederick) and mother Elizabeth (Quentin).

But the arrival of estranged father James (Grammer), as well as the clash of personalities, threatens to ruin Christmas for them all. But can they unite as a family to finally enjoy the festive season together again...?

For a cheap and cheerful British festive comedy, what is the template that has been tried and tested? Bring a family together divided by class and their own interpretations of Christmas - oh, and sharing the surname Christmas - for 90mins of madcap nonsense swimming in lazy humour, flat characters but some infectious festive spirit.

Spearheaded by a crop of Brit thespian talent including Elizabeth Hurley's older sister flaunting it all out front, Caroline Quentin as the dear mother trying to hold her family together and John Cleese as the cantankerous brother, we are in decent company. Alongside these we have Nathalie Cox, Talulah Riley and Naomi Frederick and completing the Christmas siblings, all with clashing personalities and styles.

From silly sound effects to a recycled score, over-accentuating facial expressions, references to Harry and Megan and Harry Potter, this doesn't re-write the book on cheap Christmas US/British comedy on a low budget.

As the bickering is carried out from one exchange to the other amid an itinerary of festive events, enter Father Christmas himself. American legend Kesley Grammer as James Christmas, the Dad who lives in Florida after walking out one Christmas Day, now back to build bridges and inject some of that festive cheer into the family once more.

There's a simple story here from co-writer/co-producer/co-director Philippe Martinez, and the script does it's best to be fast and funny, but sadly the humour isn't very humorous even with the talent on show. Somehow though, the endearing performances by the said talent keep this mildly entertaining, especially a feisty Liz Hurley.

There's something harmless through the story of finding the Christmas spirit for the Christmas family, and while it offers nothing new, it does the job of spreading festive cheer with plenty of fine food, music, decorated sets filmed across York and plenty of woolly jumpers. At a breezy 95mins runtime, it does seem to drag a little with the isolated locations and lack of real action across the story.

The cast are having fun with what they've been given, even if it's very cheesy comedy from the outset and there is a nice message in there somewhere about the joy of family, believing in yourself and the rebuilding of broken relationships persevering through the most wonderful time of the year.

It's cheap, cheerful and harmless festive nonsense with a decent cast. As Grammer gleefully exclaims about the British - we certainly do Christmas right.

'Father Christmas Is Back' is an MSR Media production

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