EXmas Lacks Love, Spirit, and Chemistry in This Holiday Movie

EXmas poster of Ali (Leighton Meester) and Graham (Robbie Amell).

EXmas is a typical holiday conflict hilarity or an attempt at one. The movie’s a mixed bag of treats. Some Christmas films bring the holiday warmth of laughter, while others make you check for a return policy, and EXmas falls predominantly into the latter. Leighton Meester and Robbie Amell try to make up for their lack of romantic chemistry with some comedic dislike. So, despite its tepid entertainment, holiday film fans might be interested in the mostly ‘meh’ and sometimes funny EXmas

Written by Dan Steele and directed by Jonah Feingold, the film follows exes, baker Ali (Leighton Meester) and workaholic Graham (Robbie Amell). As Christmas approaches, Graham surprises his family with his arrival, not realizing his ex-fiance Ali is with his family for the holidays. Since Graham’s the dumpee, his resentment soon leads to a bet between the pair. Get the family to kick one of them out by Christmas Eve. 

EXmas Leans Into Friendly Competition Without Stakes

Interestingly, the movie brings to mind the phrase, “the family that games together stays together.” Graham’s family loves to play a variety of board games, and that love shines in Graham’s profession. So, when Ali winds up invited to spend the holidays with his family, he decides to make it a competition. He wants his family upset with Ali to the point they throw her out and vice versa. Of course, why anyone would want to ruin their family’s holiday over pettiness is another matter.  

Ali and Graham’s back-and-forth does not have the fire of anger. The stakes never feel weighty. It’s the juvenile antics of full-blown adults that offer occasional laughs. Still, with their bet feeling ridiculous from the outset, it’s as though they’re going through the motions. It’s strangers behaving poorly around the holidays.

Not Enough Chemistry to Invest in Relationships

EXmas still of Ali (Leighton Meester) and Graham's family sitting at the table playing a game.
EXmas still. Photo Credit: Paulina Stevens/Exmas Film Inc.

While a fan of Leighton Meester and Robbie Amell in previous roles, EXmas doesn’t give them enough to sink into their roles. It’s too superficial. For Ali, audiences know she loves baking, and Graham promised to help her get a food truck. With Graham, viewers learn early on that work takes precedence over everything. It’s why the family became close with Ali, who spends more time connecting than he does. But the pair as a couple doesn’t feel legitimate. All audiences have is a brief scene depicting their argument on a grassy knoll before the breakup. 

Regarding Graham’s family, it feels less like a family and more like strangers playing house. Although some of the jokes from this group do provide laughter. Having a family member collapse on Christmas day was an unnecessary choice. While the familial antics are admirable, the dramatic scene and cast response stretch credulity. Not a single character could even demonstrate a tear. 

People who love the holidays so much that they adore every holiday film, regardless of quality, will enjoy EXmas. As for the rest of the viewers, there is too little aside from minute chuckles to warrant watching. It’s Christmas-decked doldrums despite its promising leads. The potential was present, but the lack of stakes, chemistry, and modicum of believability make EXmas a pass, not passable. 

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