Talking Movies: A Boy Called Christmas, California Christmas: City Lights and Never Kiss a Man in a Sweater

Spling reviews A Boy Called Christmas, California Christmas 2: City Lights and Never Kiss A Man in a Christmas Sweater as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about three Christmas movies.

Starting off with a film now on Netflix…


A boy sets out to find his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of Elfhelm.

Director: Gil Kenan

Stars: Henry Lawfull, Toby Jones and Maggie Smith

– This magical adventure is based on the book by Matt Haig, essentially creating a vivid origin story for Father Christmas.
– Starring young Lawfull, who looks like an enchanted creature, he’s supported by Jones, Smith and a wealth of talent, including: Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Stephen Merchant and Michael Huisman.
– It’s a visually captivating tale, embodying the winsome and heartwarming spirit of Christmas while touching on some more emotional and timely themes.
– Its decadence and splendor is carried through by its casting, finding some of the most naturally fairytale-looking actors available.
– Using a Princess Bride style storytelling device with Maggie Smith instead of Peter Falk, certain allowances are made when it comes to creative freedom, taking the edge off the candied fantasy with a a slant to the humour and taking the pressure off the effective and rather sleek visual effects.
– Leaning into some light peril, A Boy Named Christmas is heartfelt and even though you remain thoroughly entertained with high spectacle, there are moments that run deep.
– This Christmas film beautifully blends from one scene to another, finding a good balance when it comes to real versus unreal as represented by its elf-like lead.
– It’s not quite as original or charming as Paddington, but is just as entertaining, harmless and delightful – a fun escapist treat for all ages.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a movie now on Netflix…


Now running a dairy farm and winery, Callie and Joseph’s romance is threatened when business and family obligations call Joseph back to the city.

Director: Shaun Paul Piccinino

Stars: Lauren Swickard, Josh Swickard and David Del Rio

– California Christmas was a surprisingly enjoyable and heartwarming Christmas romantic comedy in 2020, which has been followed up in quick succession by its sequel.
– While David Del Rio injects Andy Samberg charm to keep things amusing and upbeat in the countryside, but it’s difficult reigniting the warm and winning co-lead chemistry of the original.
– The sequel seems like a rush order, commissioned based on the success of California Christmas and half-baked in a bid to get everything ready in time for 2021.
– Being the screenwriter and producer respectively, as well as co-leads, there must have been a great deal of pressure to repeat the authenticity and charm of the first film.
– Unfortunately, City Lights falters under the weight of such severe time constraints making it a Christmas miracle that it even exists, written and released in less than a year.
– Joseph’s character is so different you wonder why it even worked to begin with, while strange decisions around characters and subplots reinforce the fuzziness of the production.
– It’s still lightly enjoyable enough to roll with the missteps and slapdash feel but it does pale in comparison to the original’s fine-tuning and more considered approach.
– While California Christmas: City Lights does flounder in its heavy-handedness, you can’t fault their commitment to delivering entertainment with a twinkle in the eye.

A flimsy 4 on the splingometer!

And finally a movie on Showmax…


Maggie is facing Christmas alone until Lucas become an unexpected house guest.

Director: Allan Harmon

Stars: Ashley Williams, Niall Matter and Lisa MacFadden

– Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater is sound advice, whoever you are, serving as a front for a surprisingly adept and even definitive Christmas romcom.
– The sitcom setup is almost as over-the-top as the movie title, yet this crisp and joyous movie has such a big heart it’s difficult to hate.
– While decidedly vanilla, playing it safe with its clean cut and sweet-natured romantic escapade, it comes to embody the cinnamon of all things Christmas.
– Williams and Matter could play siblings but enjoy workable on-screen chemistry as a silly accident draws them closer together.
– It’s focus is on good clean fun as Williams brandishes her winning smile as if it were a competition, serving as a mascot for the tone.
– Moving at a good pace, capturing the goodwill, community spirit and filled with a heart for love and charity, this is about as nice as a movie can get.
– Armed with a sense of humour, it does have a smidge of Gilmore Girls and Bridget Jones’s Diary, not overstaying its welcome like a good house guest.
– This unassuming romantic comedy isn’t going to change your world but is filled with so much infectious hope and positivity that its breezy mix of entertainment will bring a smile.
– It leans heavily on clichés for structure but is so affable and sweet-natured you have to give it the benefit of the doubt.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

A BOY CALLED CHRISTMAS… spellbinding visuals, a magical origin story, a stellar cast and earnest performances add up to a spirited and entertaining Christmas tale… A solid 7!

CALIFORNIA CHRISTMAS: CITY LIGHTS… this slapdash and made-to-order sequel has glimpses of what made the original so authentic, charming and entertaining… A flimsy 4!

NEVER KISS A MAN IN A CHRISTMAS SWEATER… winsome co-leads, good clean fun and charitable Christmas spirit overrides clichés in this definitive Christmas romcom… A satisfactory 6!

For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!