I feel like the proverbial fiddler on the roof when I am asked about what I think of the recently released Netflix romantic comedy, "Operation Christmas Drop," filmed in Guam. For those of you who may be interested, let me share some random reviews and my own thoughts.
The romantic comedy movie is about a congressional aide, Erica Miller, played by Kat Graham, who is sent from Washington, D.C., to Guam, as part of congressional oversight on whether an Air Force base should be defunded, The Guam Daily Post reported on Oct. 10. Upon landing on the base, she clashes with her guide, pilot Capt. Andrew Jantz, played by Alexander Ludwig, who knows her assignment is finding reasons to defund the facility.
“'Operation Christmas Drop' is a 2020 American Christmas romantic comedy film ... loosely based on the real-life U.S. Air Force Operation Christmas Drop humanitarian mission,” according to Wikipedia. Key words to remember: American Christmas romantic comedy.
There have been some mixed reviews.
“'Operation Christmas Drop' debuted recently on Nov. 5 and has already hit Netflix’s top ten … considering that 'Operation Christmas Drop' is likely pulling in a number of viewers equal to or greater than 'The Crown,' we can reasonably expect Hallmark-style Christmas films on Netflix for years to come,” wrote Caroline Fox, on “Why Netflix is making Christmas Movies,” Screenrant.com. Key words to remember: Netflix top ten.
“Even if the goal of 'Operation Christmas Drop' is to highlight humanitarian efforts made by the military while being a commercial for the U.S. Air Force, its forced yet halfhearted merriment makes the whole enterprise fatiguing and unconvincing. The one thing this movie most manages to drop is the ball on enjoyable holiday entertainment,” wrote Kyle Turner, “'Operation Christmas Drop’ Review: Heavy Military Presents,” in The New York Times. Key words to remember: commercial for the U.S. Air Force.
“There’s nothing especially wrong with 'Operation Christmas Drop,' an anodyne, friction-free romantic comedy that faintly distinguishes itself from its snow-sprayed genre brethren with enticingly balmy South Pacific scenery. If nothing else, it gives viewers something to daydream about while they keep half an eye on its story,” wrote Guy Lodge, “'Operation Christmas Drop’ Review: A Warm, Mild Serving of Netflix Holiday Stuffing,” in Variety. Key words to remember: enticing balmy South Pacific scenery and anodyne.
I had to look up anodyne – used as an adjective it means “not likely to provoke dissent or offense; inoffensive, often deliberately. Synonyms are bland, innocuous, neutral and unobjectionable. Used as a noun it means “a painkilling drug or medicine.” Hmmm, very interesting.
On the one hand, I have to confess: I watch Hallmark Christmas romantic comedies just to refresh my mood after watching the political news, or COVID-19 updates – especially. I enjoy the music, decorations, winter scenes (so long as I don’t have to deal with chilly weather and icy roads) and unrealistic love stories. I am not embarrassed to admit that I like "chick flicks," cathartic tears and all. From that angle, "Operation Christmas Drop" qualifies as a Christmas romantic comedy without snow.
On the other hand, I am not a film critic or filmmaker so I haven’t taken a deep dive into how this low-budget production ranks as a film. I have, however, heard from some in my family who are in the film industry. The general consensus is that the quality of this movie is anything but high. It has nonetheless made it to the Top 10 list on Netflix. So, it’s likely that Netflix will become Hallmark’s Christmas movies competitor as a result.
On the one hand, the movie was filmed in Guam. The main story is about the real air drops that have occurred since 1953 from Andersen Air Force Base to atolls throughout Micronesia. The enticing, balmy "South Pacific" scenery can be credited to the spectacular natural beauty that characterizes our island, if we dispense with the technicality that it is enticing, balmy Western Pacific scenery.
On the other hand, as much as we on Guam had hoped it would be, Guam is definitely not the main character, it is only a backdrop. The portrayal of CHamoru Village as the island’s only market was disappointing. Grouchy mayor Samson, really?! – our mayors are local and helpful. No smoky barbecue pits, no dancing cha-cha or jitterbug.
The scene with islanders in Tomhom smacked of cultural insensitivity. The beautiful cliff side drive, which I have never seen because it is inside the military base fence, brought tears to my eyes. The fabricated legend about the lucky spotted gecko tested my patience.
Plain and simply put, it doesn’t feel good to be a prop to someone else’s story. "Operation Christmas Drop" is NOT anodyne. Even this seemingly innocuous film is a haunting reminder of our indigenous reality.