Christmas and holiday movies can be formulaic and still be good — they just need a certain charm and pizzazz. Genie has tons of amiability, but it doesn’t do quite enough to make things memorable.
Bernard (Paapa Essiedu) isn’t having a good Christmas. He works non-stop at his job for a thankless boss (played briefly by Alan Cumming), and his wife Julie (Denée Benton) decides they need a break after he arrives late for his daughter Eve’s (Jordyn McIntosh) birthday celebration. However, there’s a bit of good luck that ends up coming his way when an antique he possesses turns out to be housing a genie. Flora, who’s been in the trinket for over 2000 years, is new to the ways of the 21st century, but she’s going to use everything in her power to help Bernard get his family back together.
Like I said, this movie is amiable. Essiedu and McCarthy have good chemistry, and there’s some enjoyment to be gained from watching Bernard introduce Flora to food like pizza and movie stars like Tom Cruise. When the film is just about these two hanging out, it’s a fun time. The main issue is that the relationships between Bernard, Julie and Eve aren’t properly fleshed out. There’s not enough there for us to understand how Bernard has been a distant father and husband. When he misses Eve’s birthday, it’s not through his own volition. So he isn’t a workaholic or someone that intentionally neglects his family, he just works for an unreasonable employer.
Afterwards, we actually see him make overtures to reunite with his family, and Julie is the one who constantly rebuffs his efforts. It feels contradictory, especially when we consider her conversations with her mom. It also comes across as a tad scummy when we see her going on playdates with another man and his child, so quickly after she made her decision. The movie wanted to keep Bernard likeable, so in turn, it makes it difficult for us to properly understand where Julie is coming from.
Then there’s the whole Mona Lisa set piece, which isn’t funny and frankly unnecessary. And so is Bernard’s whole awkward dinner with his own relatives. I’m not sure what they wanted to accomplish with this scene, as it isn’t funny nor is there a purpose to it. It’s like the screenwriter didn’t know what else to pad the movie with besides Bernard’s whole situation with his family. It also feels strange that Cumming is cast in a movie that requires him to do barely anything.
The conclusion of the film is perhaps the most interesting part. Underneath its cheery facade, we consider whether there is truly a permanent breaking point to relationships. Maybe there does come a point where things become irredeemable, no matter the amount of effort and overtures. Genie is saying that what we do for the people we love each and every day counts, because when some things break, they can be lost forever.
It’s a good message for a holiday flick, I just wish it had a lot more charm.
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It feels ironic that a movie about magic and wishing doesn't feel all that magical.
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