Released: 20th November
Seen: 7th December
Sometimes a bad film is hard to write about because its badness is hard to explain. It’s hard to express in text form why the tone of a piece doesn’t work or how a performance doesn’t quite land. A bad film can also be so spectacularly bad that you wonder if you can just make a review of it “Everything about this film is wrong” and leave it at that… but that’s no fun. Strap yourselves in, I found something spectacular.
The App That Stole Christmas follows Felix Rhome (Jackie Long), a multi-millionaire who has made an amazing app called Bomazon which is… uh… Ok, it’s Amazon but with shitty graphics. Anyway, the point is that his company and his app are distracting him a lot around Christmas and because this is a Christmas movie, he must therefore be taught the meaning of the holiday by being put into a coma and forced to help Santa make toys.
The App That Stole Christmas tries to be a parable about how spending time with apps is bad and that we should all spend more time together. It does it with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face by having characters repeatedly say “Presence not presents” as though it’s an original idea and not a phrase that’s printed on a hipsters coffee mug. It tries to pull the whole “Oh the dad needs to spend quality time with his family instead of working” thing, except it never shows us that Felix’s work is getting in the way of his home life. Hell, if anything it shows that his work is responsible for giving his family a decent home life where they don’t have to worry about anything. He’s not a neglectful father or abusive or in any way cruel, he has a regular job where he runs a company that’s clearly making enough money to keep his family in a big, beautiful home.
Of course in order for a story like this to work, you need a good script and The App That Stole Christmas doesn’t have one of those. Every line of dialogue is almost painful to hear, including the 79 times when the main character says “I have this app” because that is his entire personality. Somehow this film is simultaneously padded as hell and too short to properly tell this story. Scenes of the wife character (who probably has a name, damned if I can be bothered to learn it) going to a hairdresser seem to be there to prove that they actually have got a cast, meanwhile the actual story of teaching Felix that he needs to spend more time at home is almost non-existent.
You know what else is non-existent in The App That Stole Christmas? Acting ability. Oh my god, is this film made up of the practice takes that they did to make sure they got the blocking correct? Because that’s how amazingly bad the performances are. If you gave a performance like the ones in this film in an amateur theatre production in a small town in the middle of nowhere, you’d be relegated to the chorus if you were lucky enough to be cast at all. No one can act, not a single cast member is even approaching decent. They read the lines like they just learned what words are. It’s kind of amazing… but then again, clearly ability wasn’t a factor in getting hired, especially if we take the sound mixing into account.
Seriously, the most amazing part of all this is how awful the sound is. I’m not just talking about poorly picked backing music that overpowers the dialogue, I’m convinced that whoever was operating the boom mic didn’t bother to aim it at the people who were talking. You can usually tell the difference between badly mixed audio and badly recorded audio and this is objectively the latter, it’s bad enough that I know for a fact if you handed in this audio mix into a film school that you would probably get a failing grade. They didn’t even bother to try and do ADR (Audio Dialogue Replacement, basically dubbing over dialogue if it’s badly recorded or if they need to change a line after filming), at least a bad dub might’ve been funny instead of aggravating.
Every single scene in The App That Stole Christmas is just bad on every level. The lighting is bad, the frame composition is bad, the performances are god awful, the editing is bad. Hell, the font used in the end credits is bad, I’ve seen student films that are better than this and this somehow ended up on Netflix. At barely an hour long it’s amazing just how much awfulness they crammed into a single movie, and the fact that there will apparently be a sequel to this next year is just shocking to me. It’s so stunningly awful that I almost want to recommend it purely as a resource for future filmmakers in what not to do.