I probably shouldn’t have come out of Netflix’s A Castle for Christmas with the strongest emotion in my soul being resentment for Shakespeare in Love, but the heart despises what it despises. It’s not like Shakespeare in Love is even a bad movie, I just feel it’s responsible for films about authors coming up with their best fiction by just writing down exactly what happens to them and changing the names. Like, wouldn’t it be more of a credit to Jane Austen that she came up with Pride and Prejudice out of her genius brain rather than meeting her own Mr. Darcy and copying down those experiences? Also, Shakespeare in Love posits that Romeo and Juliet happened to Mr. William S. himself, blatantly ignoring his queer romantic past and the fact that he didn’t even come up with the story in the first place - it’s based on an Italian poem! But I should wrest myself away from this digression lest I find myself just writing my Love Hard review again word for word.

Anyway, apropos of absolutely nothing, A Castle for Christmas stars Brooke Shields as Sophie, a bestselling romance author who cannot conceive of anything other than killing off her leading man after her husband divorces her, causing her fans to turn against her. In an attempt to shake herself out of her funk, she travels to a small Scottish town to visit a castle that her grandfather’s family used to be the caretakers of before emigrating to the United States. This castle is called Dun Dunbar. Say it with me, folks: Dun Dunbar. This is the most mystifying Netflix holiday screenplay choice since Vanessa Hudgens’ The Knight Before Christmas named its time-displaced romantic lead “Sir Cole,” meaning that all the mealy-mouthed actors just called him “Circle” the entire time.

Anyway, Dun Dun Dunbar is owned by Myles (Cary Elwes), who is a grumpy misanthrope. The castle has fallen on hard times, and he is being forced to sell his home. However, when Sophie falls in love with the place and makes an offer, he sees the chance to How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days her and get her to change her mind after she drops a hefty non-refundable deposit. For some reason, this involves them living together in the castle. I wouldn’t call myself an expert on how escrow for Scottish castles works, but the new tenant living with the old one seems like it’s probably not the usual method. Of course he tries to push her away and of course (SPOILER ALERT but come on) they fall in love anyway and then she writes a new bestselling book about two people fucking in a castle in Scotland because the woman’s imagination is an empty Dixie cup.

A Castle for Christmas

Essentially, this is a rom-com for those people whose 23 and Me profiles informed them they're 15% Scottish, causing them to instantly look up their family crest and slap it all over their Facebook. Well, to be completely honest, it's more of a "rom-" because comedy is practicing proper social distancing and staying six feet away from the screenplay at all times (except for the moments in which the dog Hamish has a reaction to any of the goings-on of the film, in which case comedy can be spotted fleeing off into the sunset). It's not a slog to watch, it's just too broad and edge-free to be considered funny by anyone's metric, like if someone tried to tickle you with the toe of a boot. It's just not built to do the trick.

Of the straight people romance films that have come out on the platform this season, A Castle for Christmas is easily the most competent, though that also has the result of it being the blandest as well. The occupants of Dun Dun Dun Dunbar are played by actors who know they don't have to bring their A-game but have enough skill to be completely functional every step of the way, even almost selling the jagged romantic arc that the script is trying to play off as natural. That said, it does still contain some of the mysterious misfires that any self-respecting Netflix holiday film should boast.

A Castle for Christmas

For instance, Brooke Shields' decision to move to Dun Dun Dun Dun Dunbar is delivered via ADR voiceover ("The castle! I'll go to Scotland!") because apparently they forgot to include the plot of the first act while they filmed it. Also, the film includes an expositional clip of her promoting her book on The Drew Barrymore Show (I honestly wouldn't mind if she becomes the "get your fictional celebrity on a real talk show" go-to over Jimmy Fallon), presented as only the blooper footage that was cut from the broadcast. It's an inexplicable choice for such a stylistically mundane film, and without warning, it suddenly plunges you into a frame of existential dread that reminds you that this film was directed by the woman who made Pet Sematary (true story, look it up).

A Castle for Christmas is as bland as bland can get, which is the exact flavor it's aiming to be. That doesn't fly with me, but it will do well for the people who want to put it on so they can ignore the whirling chaos of the world outside while knitting Christmas stockings or something. No judgment, we all need a buffer sometimes.

Brennan Klein is a millennial who knows way more about 80's slasher movies than he has any right to. He's a former host of the Attack of the Queerwolf podcast and a current senior movie/TV news writer at Screen Rant. You can find his other reviews on his blog Popcorn Culture. Follow him on Twitter or Letterboxd, if you feel like it.