You want Christmas movies and specials, Netflix has Christmas movies and specials! Aisles and aisles of shiny new Christmas fare every year as the streaming behemoth cheerfully opts for quantity over quality, filling your home page with row after row of fluffy, silly, mostly upbeat and easily digestible holiday fare. Why, just this season alone, there’s “Holidate” and “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” and “Alien Xmas” and “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” and “The Christmas Chronicles Part 2” and “Angela’s Christmas Wish” and “Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” and let’s not forget the reason we’re here today: “Operation Christmas Drop.”
This is a film so sweet it might give you a contact sugar rush, but it features two inherently likable, great-looking romantic leads, a fine supporting performance by the always reliable Virginia Madsen, a timeless true-meaning-of-Christmas message — and a genuinely cinematic style, mostly because the movie was actually filmed on Andrews Air Force base in Guam and the surrounding beaches and jungles and islands. This gives “Operation Christmas Drop” a feature-film look on a relatively restrained budget.
Although the storyline is pure fiction, the film is inspired by the real Operation Christmas Drop, the longest running humanitarian airlift in the world. Every year since 1952, U.S. Air Force personnel at Anderson deliver toys, food, medicine and much-needed supplies to residents of dozens of tiny islands in Micronesia. It’s a wonderful but also essential mission, and it also serves as a training exercise. But in the world of “Operation Christmas Drop” the movie, the tradition and the base itself might become history, as Virginia Madsen’s hard-ass congresswoman Angie Bradford is under enormous pressure to slash military spending and has Anderson circled on her map. “If we’re looking to close down bases, this one’s flashing red and green,” says Bradford, who sees the mission as nothing more than “using military equipment to drop Christmas presents.”
Bradford sends her eager and ambitious aide Erica Miller (Kat Graham) to Guam and tells her to write up a report on all the seemingly frivolous spending on the base. Next thing you know, Erica is on the beach (in business attire and heels, of course) when she meets-cute with one Capt. Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig), the handsome and charming officer who has been assigned to show Erica around and try to dissuade her from writing up a negative report.
The two of them immediately click and become great friends — ah, just kidding, you know what happens. They instantly clash and there’s a lot of bickering and bantering and mild double-crossing in the early going, but there’s a chance, just a Christmas miracle kind of a chance, these two might learn they have more in common than they could possibly have imagined, and how knows, we might even see a magical romance in the making!
“Operation Christmas Drop” piles on the clichés, from the obligatory FaceTime conversations in which tech-challenged oldsters can’t get the computer thingy to work right, to a romantic interlude of Andrew and Erica snorkeling in crystal blue waters, to Erica having to choose between career and caring, to the advent of a major storm that could sideline the mission before a single plane takes off. The comedy is light and the drama is predictable and the romance is inevitable, but Erica and Andrew deserve their happily ever after, as does the Operation Christmas Drop endeavor. Mission accomplished.