REVIEW: ‘Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square’ is Exactly as Holly and Jolly as You’d Think

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Dolly Partons Christmas on the Square

What glitters, lifts the spirits, and rhymes with “holly, jolly?” It’s Dolly! A heavy dose of Dolly Parton is always a good thing. Take the icon and wrap her in all the tinsel and trimmings of the holiday season and slap on a feel-good, completely familiar Christmas narrative and you’ve got the cozy cinematic equivalent to peppermint cocoa that is Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square.

Of course, Dolly Parton is the essential ingredient of Christmas on the Square. The film stars Parton and Christine Baranski, with performances by Josh Segarra, Matthew Johnson, Jenifer Lewis, and Jeanine Mason. In Christmas on the Square a rich and mean-spirited woman, Regina (played by Baranski) returns to her small hometown after her father’s death. Regina has one goal and that is to evict the residents of the community, sell the town to a mall developer, and forget that she ever came from such a place. Did I mention that Regina plans to carry this out just before Christmas?

The townspeople open up to Regina, fighting back against her desire to sell and connecting with her by sharing their stories. Regina rekindles an old romance, finds clarity in her own shadowy past, reconnects with old friends, and gains a perspective beyond herself with the help of her own guardian angel. To the tune of 14 original songs by the one and only Dolly Parton, Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square is about as warm and fuzzy a film as you could imagine!

In true Dolly fashion, Christmas on the Square immediately worms its way into even the frostiest heart by hearkening to something simple and familiar. There is an instant nostalgia to the presentation and familiarity. Watching Christmas on the Square feels like watching a traditional holiday TV special or sitting for the local elementary school’s holiday pageant. It’s not necessarily trying to do anything new. In fact, it replays the hits.

The narrative is simplified and lifts the best out of classic holiday stories like A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. The characters and smalltown dramas fall in step with the army of holiday films that the Hallmark Channel parades out. Every character is a well-trodden archetype, every twist an expected turn in the story, and every song is jovial enough to bop along to without being so distinct that it sticks. Honestly, as we enter a holiday season that will be a little different from the years before, that kind of passive familiarity is a relief to the viewer.

Dolly Partons Christmas on the Square

I’ll be frank — Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square is not a secular film. From the presence of an actual angel to one of the main characters being a pastor named Christian (yes, really), this film has a strong Christian presence. Being a secular viewer myself, however, Christmas on the Square was still accessible. Are Christian themes present? Sure. But the whole of the story is like any well-worn holiday proverb. All the same themes are present and the religious tones of the film never feel seek to exclude.

As with Dolly herself, the “down-home” spirituality is tempered with LGBTQ+ representation and a finger to the pulse. Christmas on the Square is far from being tone-deaf and shows an understanding of some of the challenging issues being discussed. To put it plainly, this film will placate your conservative uncle and your liberal cousin. Of course, this all comes down to the personal creeds and preferences of a given viewer, but there is plenty here for a wide audience to connect to.

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square is a film that has a very distinct flavor. Primarily that it is absolutely saccharine and equally as cheesy! Dolly has never shied away from a campy good time and she’s doing it up big and with extra rhinestones. What can I say? It’s a holiday film. It’s a holiday film created by Dolly frickin’ Parton. Yes, the songs are sugary-sweet. Yes, the plot makes up for its lack of depth with sincerity and heart. Christmas on the Square is a cheesy holiday special in every sense of the word and that’s just fine!

Families that are looking for a little bit of normal are going to have something warm to cling to. Those of us that will continue our isolation into the winter, will find a little bit of light. Go into the film unburdened and Dolly Parton will reach out with something steady, familiar, and friendly. Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square isn’t flipping the script on sappy Christmas movies. That’s exactly why it’s needed.

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square releases globally on Netflix on November 22, 2020.

Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square
  • 5/10
    Rating - 5/10
5/10

TL;DR

Families that are looking for a little bit of normal are going to have something warm to cling to. Those of us that will continue our isolation into the winter, will find a little bit of light. Go into the film unburdened and Dolly Parton will reach out with something steady, familiar, and friendly. Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square isn’t flipping the script on sappy Christmas movies. That’s exactly why it’s needed.