Okay, so tacky Christmas rom-coms are my secret guilty pleasure, and clearly Netflix knows this, because every year they multiply like rabbits in a Fibonacci sequence. With my hubby out for the evening, and my mouth-breathing cat sitting next to me on the couch, I gleefully dove into one of this year’s seemingly better offerings, Catering Christmas.
When I say better, I should clarify that I still don’t mean “good.”
Here’s the premise:
When a struggling caterer agrees to cook for the local foundation’s Christmas gala, she finds an unexpected connection with the host’s handsome nephew.
Catering Christmas opens with the usual essentials of a good Netflix Christmas movie:
Miscellaneous Christmas baking shots for the opening sequence? Check.
Tacky Christmas music in the background of literally every scene? Check.
A small town with literally nothing better to do than drink hot cocoa and bake and decorate and host expensive Christmas parties in support of poor kids? Check.
Every inch of said small town slathered in Christmas decorations? Checkity check.
A ditzy, I-live-to-gush-over-hunky-man-candy friend who has conveniently already found the love of her life and thus doesn’t constitute a romantic rival? Double check.
A decoration-obsessed perfectionistic matriarch with nothing better to do than inflict family togetherness and Christmas spirit on her time-poor children/relatives?
An emotionally-uptight, workaholic, perfectionistic heroine with Big Dreams and an ex who possesses unforgivable superficial flaws? (In this case: “He refused to try new food.” DROP HIM NOW, GIRL, OR IT’LL BE CHICKEN NUGS N POTATO GEMS FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.)
So far, so good. Enter Molly Frost, whose catering business “Molly’s Menu Magic” is embroiled in a year-running rivalry with the Bradford Bros., who had the HIDE to offer the local city hall a deal on surf-and-turf “they just couldn’t pass up” and slather their marketing pamphlets all over the Christmas decorations.
Personally, I’m more concerned how this city hall is getting away with spending precious taxpayer dollars on weekly catered dinners while their town labors beneath the heavy mantle of an eternal winter where it is always Christmas and never January. But Molly ingeniously ordered all her marketing material printed on magnets (likely using Vistaprint’s current 50% off sale) so huzzah, watch out Bradford Bros. You’re going down, boys. Molly’s approach to procuring new customers appears to involve brandishing her flagship statement to anyone who will listen: “You name it, we cater it.” Well, unless it ain’t in season, Molly.
But I digress.
Molly’s nameless friend and employee, who seems only there to gush about potential romantic candidates and trash-talk Bradford Bros., commiserates with Molly’s predicament: “They would love getting every catering job in this town, even if it meant putting us out of business.”
Okay, so someone needs to explain capitalism and business to this girl and it ain’t Molly, who’s still crowing about her magnets. “Because no one throws magnets away…” Um, I literally threw one away this morning. There are good and bad magnets, No-Name-Friend/Employee.
Enter Daniel Lissing, of When Calls The Heart fame, and this former Canadian Mountie has clearly fallen from a great height and been buried beneath a landslide of Christmas rom-com obscurity (too soon…?). Lissing plays event photographer Carson Harrison, rebel child of the small-town-celebrity Harrison family and nephew of the ruling matriarch Jean Harrison. Returning home for the holidays with nothing to do except look handsome in Christmas sweaters, Carson bemoans: “Not much use for event photographers around here.”
Really, Carson? THIS WHOLE MOVIE IS BASICALLY ONE LONG EVENT.
Carson is rising in Hollywood and on the fashion runways in Europe, which would be convincing except that he wields a camera like a toddler with a Polaroid and at one stage he even takes a picture of a bauble on a Christmas tree. Which might seem like artistic vision, except the town is literally draped with baubles on every available surface and this bauble ain’t anything special.
Carson’s immaculate family home looks like a department store and there’s some rando walking around in a full suit, waistcoat, and tie and serving Carson croissants and tea like a butler while making eyes at Aunt Jean, who wields emotional manipulation tools like guilt and passive-aggression far more effectively than Carson wields a camera.
Speaking of, Aunt Jean is running a Christmas Gala of British royal family proportions which seems like it’s going to have a guest list of 500, but we later find out it’s for 24 people and to be held in her living room. After firing her caterer for giving her “day old supermarket food” (“day old”—what a TRAVESTY, Jean) she goes in search of a new caterer and consults her folder for the only two caterers she hasn’t fired yet. Molly’s magnet wins the day, kudos to Vistaprint.
The White Witch, I mean Queen Jean, could make Molly’s career, so this is HIGH STAKES, PEOPLE. Molly has invested "every last penny" in her new business, which mainly seems to have gone towards the magnets. Molly scores a trial, only for No-Name-Friend/Employee to remind her that they’re catering for the senior citizens this afternoon. Molly remarks, “Oh, that’s today?” and I’m beginning to understand why Molly’s business isn’t going so well. Update: the creepy man turns out to be the estate manager, who seems to have nothing better to do than to bring Aunt Jean tea and swagger around the place with a British accent. I'm pretty sure he's after her family fortune, but he makes a mean cup of tea, so she's keeping him around for now.
During the trial, Molly mistakes Carson for her sous chef, a friend of No-Name-Friend/Employee who has agreed to help her as a once-off while he looks for a job. Molly trash-talks Aunt Jean and her domineering ways and orders Carson to mince-chop celery without bothering to look up from her baking. I’m beginning to understand why we don’t know No-Name’s name yet. I’m not sure Molly knows it, tbh. The trial continues without major mishaps, except that Aunty Jean eats only the tiniest mouthful of each course and proceeds to one-up Molly every chance she gets even though it appears she has never minced celery in her life. Now there are two alpha females trying to outdo each other with their unrelenting standards and unbearable Christmas spirit and Daniel Lissing really needs a new agent. Lo and surprise, Molly wins the catering gig through Carson’s intervention and rubs Bradford Bros.’ faces in her victory. Carson comes to visit Molly’s shop and calls No-Name-Friend/Employee Christina. Unsurprisingly, Christina gushes over how wonderful Carson is—she has clearly never had anyone remember her name before.
Molly and Carson reminisce on how “Food can be more than just food” and Daniel Lissing really, really needs a different agent. Maybe they can bring him back from that landslide somehow?
Aunt Jean hands over the reins of the Christmas Gala to her nephew because it’s too much work firing absolutely everyone in town and honing a stare that looks like it would melt butter during an Alaskan winter.
This forces Carson and Molly to spend even more time together, and when Molly runs out of her “special seasoning” for her cookies (thanks a lot, Christina, this is why Molly can’t remember your name), Carson and Molly must take a car trip “to the countryside” together to procure more seasoning in an obviously contrived attempt to heighten the tension and drama and romantic chemistry. Because cinnamon and cardamom and other Christmas spices cannot be found in any stores, even in this town that apparently has twenty-seven catering businesses.
In the countryside, Thomas, a “friend and veteran” prepares Molly’s Special Seasoning while Molly and Carson wander his farm looking at the endless acres of Christmas trees he’s drowned in Christmas lights.
WHAT HERBS ARE YOU PUTTING ON DEM COOKIES, MOLLY? Molly takes photos with Carson while they’re waiting for her spices (seriously, is no one else suspicious of this ex-soldier-turned-spice merchant?) and lo and behold, Molly takes a photo of a bauble because she saw Carson do it earlier and that’s what all the Event Photographers do when they’re not snapping pics of runway models.
Thomas finally emerges with an enormous, suspicious-looking box containing what must be 50kg of cinnamon or something slightly less legal. Molly and Carson are clearly unphased by Thomas’ shady behavior because they take the box and wish him a very Merry Christmas. With his special seasoning, Thomas is clearly already having an excellent Christmas and I can’t wait to see what Jean thinks of her new caterer. At least I now know what’s putting the Magic in Molly’s Menu.
Back at the shop, Molly and Christina gush about how nice Carson is. Carson has clearly made an impression on Christina in learning her name because she tells Molly: “Carson isn’t Phil (Chikin’ Nugs Ex)…he’s not going to string you along on a bunch of empty promises.”
At this point, I’m not really sure Molly remembers who Phil is because she’s not all that great with names, and she’s already ditched the senior citizens in her bid to win Aunt Jean’s favor. Not that they’ll remember, especially if Thomas brings them more of his special seasoning. Maybe Molly has her business plan worked out after all.
Though I highly doubt telling you the rest of this plot is going to spoil it, because I’m pretty sure I could write this script upside-down and with my eyes screwed shut, I’ll leave it there…
Did Christmas Catering meet my (abysmally low) standards? Of course.
Is Daniel Lissing a fool for leaving the comparably-high-quality production of When Calls the Heart? Yep.
But do I recommend this movie? Absolutely yes.
Am I going to immediately press play on the next movie? You betcha.