When Netflix wants something, it stops at nothing to achieve it. It wanted an Emmy, so it made House of Cards. It wanted an Oscar, so it made Roma. And now it really, really wants you to spend your Christmas watching the fourth one from Sex and the City petting a baby elephant, because it has made Holiday in the Wild.
Yes, Christmas is still some way off, but it might be good for you to get ahead of this one. Every year, Netflix stakes a claim to out-Hallmark Hallmark when it comes to producing syrupy, formulaic, B-grade festive movies. In 2017 the big breakout hit was A Christmas Prince, last year it was the inexplicably fun Kurt-Russell-is-Santa-now romp The Christmas Chronicles. And while competition is tighter than ever this year – coming in the form of The Knight Before Christmas, animated movie Klaus and yet another Christmas Prince installment – you’d be a maniac to bet against Holiday in the Wild. Because Holiday in the Wild is a colossally, unstoppably silly film.
Name another film where Kristin Davis travels to Zambia and falls in love with Rob Lowe. Name another film where Rob Lowe plays a berserk cross between Indiana Jones and Michael Caine’s character from Jaws 4 who appears to have been preserved in a giant vat of Créme de la Mer. Name another breezy rom-com where – and there’s a chance I’m overthinking this, but bear with me – a mourning baby elephant who we first meet standing over its dead mother’s corpse acts as an allegory for the aftermath of divorce. You cannot, because only Holiday in the Wild has those things. Also it uses the song Send Me On My Way by Rusted Rocket to soundtrack a pivotal montage of gradual African acceptance, because of course it does.
It’s hard to pinpoint what the silliest moment of the film is, given that you’re basically sprayed in the face with them from the outset. A favourite comes early, when Davis’ cartoonishly workaholic husband announces that he’s ending their marriage 15 seconds after their son leaves for university. Literally 15 seconds. She waves goodbye, turns around and then her husband leaves her. She doesn’t even have the chance to draw breath. If their son had to stop and tie his shoelaces in the lobby, there’s an extraordinarily good chance that his dad would have beat him out of the door.
But then there’s the moment when Lowe’s existing love interest, a South African blonde woman who remains perfectly made up at all times despite living and working in a Zambian elephant orphanage, becomes so abjectly evil that she ultimately dooms the entire elephant population of Africa to extinction because she doesn’t care for one of Lowe’s drawings.
Or the bit where, out of nowhere and without any sort of prior hint, Davis explains that she is actually a vet. Or the bit where Lowe looks at a buffalo and says “Some say the buffalo is the most dangerous animal out here, but they’re wrong”, before proclaiming with as much soulful hurt as he can muster that actually “We are”.
Or maybe it’s the bit where the film ends, and you realise that it only had the thinnest possible veneer of festivity, almost as if the producers didn’t want it to be a Christmas film at all, but then they realised that it wasn’t very good so they slung some tinsel in it as a cynical attempt to get it greenlit as a Christmas movie because they really wanted to spend a few months hanging out with Lowe in Zambia.
To be clear, this isn’t a bad film. If you like elephants, for example, you’ll go crazy for Holiday in the Wild. If you want to watch Lowe emit a low-level hum of charisma, this is the film for you. If you like knowing exactly how a film will go, beat for beat, right from the very first scene, you’ll be in heaven here. Holiday in the Wild is a nice, pretty, easy, undemanding film, which is ultimately what people want from their Christmas output. It’s cheesy, it’s stupid, but it’s also really quite charming. And if it reaches A Christmas Prince level of infamy, we’ll be seeing sequels and spin-offs for years to come.