Holiday Harmony review – subpar acting doesn’t help an unoriginal Christmas film

By Nicole Ackman
Published: November 25, 2022 (Last updated: January 30, 2024)


Holiday Harmony is your average low-budget Christmas film, only elevated by Annelise Cepero’s beautiful singing voice.

We review the HBO Max film Holiday Harmony, which does not contain spoilers.

Low-budget Christmas films abound this time of the year, mostly from the Hallmark Channel and Netflix. But HBO Max has thrown their hat in the ring as well with films like Holiday Harmony. Directed by Shaun Paul Piccinino, this film is the kind that no one will likely remember two weeks after watching it, but it’s not the worst way to spend two hours.

Gail (Annelise Cepero) is an aspiring musician who has been living in her van for a year, traveling around to small gigs and open mic nights. She’s thrilled to win a contest her friend convinced her to enter to perform on the Christmas Eve special for iHeart Radio and begins her trek to Los Angeles. However, when her van breaks down in Oklahoma, she’s forced to reconsider what she wants in life with the help of local mechanic Van (Brooke Shields) and her son Jeremy (Jeremy Sumpter).

It has all the usual trappings of a Christmas film of this type – the jealous ex-girlfriend, the small-town vibes, the “you’re too obsessed with your smartphone” attitude. It has less Christmassy vibes than many films of its type, but there is some Christmas music to make up for that. In fact, the best thing about the film is its original Christmas song that Gail writes.

Cepero has a lovely voice that is the highlight of the entire film. Unfortunately, Shields and Sumpter can’t match her acting abilities, giving the whole film a cheesy vibe – if it didn’t already have it from the script.

The iHeart Radio involvement is some of the most open product placement I’ve observed in a film lately, and the story is careful to maintain its positivity towards iHeart Radio, even as it trashes the fictional music label involved in the competition. It’s almost strangely grounding in a film that otherwise feels somewhat un-anchored.

The film ends pretty much exactly as you would expect it to, though a little bit vague instead of tying everything up with a bow like these films usually do. The entire plot is fairly predictable and feels like it could have been cut down to a neat 90-minute runtime instead of its almost two-hour length. It does have some cute moments, particularly in the latter half of the story. Unfortunately, the way in which the beginning drags might keep you from ever getting to those parts.

If you’re looking for a basic Christmas rom-com to watch, then Holiday Harmony isn’t a terrible choice. It’s not egregiously bad, nor is it particularly good; it sits sort of in the middle of its genre. Cepero elevates the film, and it’s fun to see Shields in a movie, even if she’s not doing anything particularly impressive. It’s the sort of film that you could put on while you’re decorating for the holidays or wrapping presents.

What did you think of the HBO Max film Holiday Harmony? Comment below.

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