Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 7, 2022)
With Elizabeth Hurley, Kelsey Grammer and Billy Ray Cyrus in tow, can we claim Christmas in Paradise comes with an all-star cast? No, but at least they offer some “above the title” appeal to this direct-to-video project.
Joanna Christmas (Hurley) plans a quiet yuletide season with husband Felix (Ray Fearon) and infant daughter Chloe (Aaliyah Fred). However, this hope goes down the toilet when she and her sisters Caroline (Nathalie Cox) and Pamela (Naomi Frederick) learn that their father James (Grammer) recently ditched his fiancée Jackie.
James retreats to a tropical island where he enjoys a non-stop party. This places the clan into a mix of conflicts as they debate how to spend the holidays.
Decades ago, it became a Hollywood cliché that older male actors would match with much younger female actors for romantic partners. This meant I went into Paradise with the idea that it’d pair Hurley and Grammer as a couple, with Cyrus in the mix as a rival for Liz’s affection.
Imagine my surprise when I realized Grammer would play Hurley’s father, especially given that they only enjoy a 10-year age difference. I actually feel a little bad for Grammer, as he’s literally too young to be Hurley’s dad – though the story tries to compensate with a notion that James was only 17 when Joanna came along.
Never mind the stretch of reality that casts 57-year-old Hurley as the mother of an infant. I thought the movie might indicate she and her husband adopted or used a surrogate, but nope – the film intends for us to believe Joanna birthed that baby herself.
Sure, Hurley looks amazing for her age but c’mon! All of this led me to fear Paradise would become more of a vanity project than anything else. Heck, some poor kid gets stuck with lines that tell Joanna how beautiful she is and that she looks like a princess!
Though not just an ego boost for Hurley, as co-executive producer Grammer and long-faded singer Cyrus get their own jolts as well. James proves irresistible to everyone – including hot, much younger women – and Cyrus plays “Jimmy Ray Love”, described as one of the greatest Country singers of all-time.
Yeah, the man remembered solely for “Achy Breaky Heart” and fathering Miley Cyrus plays a country legend. Um, sure.
This allows the movie to indulge in seemingly endless scenes that feature Cyrus’s music. We get the inevitable use of “Achy” – Calypso style! – and other sub-mediocre mush along the way, all of which waste minutes of film for no real purpose.
Not that Paradise comes with anything else to sustain it. The movie attempts to balance a mix of conflicting tones, as it hops from romance to broad comedy to wistful nostalgia to drama to tragedy.
All of these shifts feel awkward and they fail to blend in a positive manner. At its heart, it seems like Paradise wants to offer a wacky comedy about sisters and their late-life-crisis dad, but the film instead indulges in weepy Hallmark Channel sentiment too much of the time.
Indeed, all the promotion for the film emphasizes potential comedy, but the movie barely attempts laughs. Paradise opts for a mostly somber tone that shoots for emotion it never remotely earns.
Nothing about this movie works. Basically a sketch of a story made by filmmakers with little discernible talent, this turns into a pretty awful holiday tale.