Every year for nearly a decade it has felt like we are approaching the limit of Holiday cheer saturation. But then, just as the calendar turns a corner from October to November, we can see on the horizon that there are still some untread corners of humanity left to douse in merriment and spiced wine. Cup of Cheer is made for fans of Christmas who are aware of the absurdity, but still love it so. In other words, if you cannot tell if your ugly Christmas sweater is ironic or not, this is the film for you.
Directed by Jake Horowitz, and written by both Horowitz and Andy Lewis, Cup of Cheer is a comedic sendup of Hallmark-esque holiday films. Stepping into the big shoes of Lethal Weapon and Scary Movie, Cup of Cheer turns the holiday charm up to 11 and then mocks it mercilessly. While the plot is merely a framework for certain scenes and does little more than carry characters from one gag to the next, its very structure is a smart satire on so many cheesy romantic comedies.
Mary (Storm Steenson) is a perky journalist who is hunting for her big Christmas story. She decides to head to a small town to find her angle and get away from the big city. None of this is done through hints and subtext, mind you. The dialogue itself is obvious to the point of absurdity and really goes for blood in exploiting just how silly these types of movies are. On the way out of the office Mary’s editor tells her to not fall in love and discover the true meaning of Christmas. You can see where this is going.
Inevitably Mary meets hot, hot chocolate shop owner Chris (Alexander Oliver) who is at risk of losing his shop to a corporate hot chocolate chain. Now Mary has her story and she can help save Chris’s believed business. Sprinkle in a little male ego bruising, a cookie baking montage, and we have ourselves a movie.
Steenson and Oliver have a great rhythm together on screen and keep many of the plot heavy (if you can call them that) scenes moving forward. Though they occasionally stray into feeling like an off night in regional improv, whenever they are given something specific to poke fun of the dialogue is cutting and hilarious. Liam Marshall also has a fearless turn as a multitasking elf, but the film is nearly stolen by Helly Chester. Every single time her character, Mrs. Clovenwitch, stepped into a scene my heart grew three sizes. Her delivery and timing is that of a legend and she truly brings Cup of Cheer to a higher level of comedy.
Cup of Cheer is not without its shortcomings. As mentioned, the pacing tends to veer away from its peppiness which can drag the film down and make it a bit tedious. And while the performances are all solid, the sets and certain camera framing decisions make it feel a little amateurish at times. However overall this feels like a labor of love rather than a big budget release, and the affection for filmmaking is evident.
Anyone who loves Christmas but it also in on the joke should absolutely check out Cup Of Cheer.