Not content with co-funding a vaccine in the middle of a pandemicâno, really, thatâs a thing she just didâDolly Parton just finally put out a seasonal television event that she appears in for longer than five minutes. (Itâs a Christmas miracle!)
Naturally, I felt compelled to watch Christmas on the Square and report back, minute-by-schmaltzy-minute, for all those (like me) who love Dolly Parton but passionately hate musicals. Now at least youâll know exactly what youâre dealing with. (And yes, that means spoilers…)
0:01: The movie opens with our hero, Dolly Parton, dressed like sheâs down on her luck and asking for âChangeâ in the town square. She remains nonchalant despite being under attack from what looks like a rogue team of fireflies.
0:02: The opening musical number is like an over-zealous Old Navy commercialâfull of colorful sweaters, a spectrum of ages, and what can only be described as multicultural scissor kicking.
Here, the Old Navy Dancers stop and openly gawk at a passing woman, like it’s the 1950s and casual street objectification is still in style.
0:03: One man just sang to his daughter about thermal underwear and I have questions.
0:04: A silver fox with âMartin Sheen in Grace and Frankieâ energyÂ just showed up. Someone at Netflix is pushing this particular old man aesthetic hard.
(L) Real Martin Sheen, in ‘Grace and Frankie’; (R) Fake Martin Sheen in ‘Christmas on the Square.’
0:05: âTo the best Christmas gift weâve ever given each other,â toasts a man named Pastor Christian whoâs giving off distinctly gay vibes. Is the gift Dior? Tiffany? Cartier? Nope! âGetting fertility treatments is better than anything that comes with paper!â grins his wife. Did not see that coming. On account of the gayness, you see.
Is this, or is this not, the face of a gay man trying to pretend to be in love with a woman?
0:06: Town villain Regina (Christine Baranski) just rhymed âpastorâ with âdisasterâ and I didnât hate it.
0:06: Regina is selling the town to a conglomerate named (say it out loud so I know you get it) âCheetah Mall.â (Oh dear God.)
0:07: Jenifer Lewis just showed up as local hairdresser, Margeline, and for the first time I have hope that I might get through this movie, sanity intact.
Sing it, Jen.
0:07: âThe higher the hair, the closer to the North Pole!â yells one of Margelineâs dancing boy-stylists. Dolly Parton definitely produced this musical.
0:09: Normal banking business is occurring while three randos casually tap dance in front of the tellers. (You donât get this at the Civic Center Chase branch…)
0:10: Everyone demonstrates that theyâve been served eviction papers by walking with purpose and also singing while frowning. In all fairness to Regina, it would be exhausting to live in the same town as any of these people.
0:12: Gay Pastor and his wife are singing a love song (to each other, surprisingly) in the square. Even while holding hands, singing âI love you,â and wrinkling their noses at each other, they have all the sexual chemistry of a tortoise trying to hump a rock.
0:21: Margeline gives Regina bad hair in a fit of revenge for what sheâs doing to the town. Dolly Parton definitely produced this musical.
0:22: Turns out that Fake Martin Sheen is Reginaâs childhood sweetheart, Carl. Regina tells him to âjust sign the deal,â and he replies, âWhy didnât you return my calls?â Probably because of your inability to stay on topic, Carl?
0:23: Okay, so this is also totally off-topic, but thereâs a guy who keeps showing up in the background that I like to call The Extra Extra. He chews the scenery like he hasnât eaten for months and Christmas on the Square is an all-you-can-eat buffet. Hereâs what he looks like literally all of the time.
A collection of the Extra Extra’s finest moments.
0:24: Regina says Fake Martin Sheenâs shop âisnât even a general store anymore,â but rather a place filled with âbroken dolls and broken dreams.â This prompts Fake Martin Sheen to start singing about random items in his store. Itâs hard to focus on what heâs saying though because his hair looks amazing. Dolly Parton definitely produced this musical.
0:29: Panhandler Dolly Parton tells Regina, âIâm gonna get change out of you, one way or the other!â If youâve ever wanted to see a human woman flog to death the double meaning of the word âchange,â Christmas on the Square is definitely the movie for you.
0:31: Regina canât get her lights to turn on at home. Naturally, this prompts shimmering, dressed-in-all-white Dolly Parton to magically appear in her living room sitting on a cloud and singing. Becauseâsurprise!âsheâs not really a panhandler, sheâs an angel. (Way to steal the entire plot line of Episode 15 of My So-Called Life, guys.)
[Also: Dear PG&E, if you could just figure out how to create floating cloud Dolly Parton holograms and stick them in the homes of everyone dealing with a mandatory power outage, Californians would hate you much less. Just a thought.]
0:33: Dolly is singing a moving ballad about lighting lamps. She does this while circling the room on her cloud. It is as brilliant and unintentionally hilarious as it sounds.
0:37: During a church meeting, the entire town fantasizes about torturing and killing Regina. Lyrics include: âMaybe weâll trip her / Maybe weâll strip her (Oh Lord, donât do that!) / Maybe weâll just throw her on the griddle!â Yes, yes. Letâs get our church group together and cook this woman alive shall we?!
These people are plotting the death of a human being. Including that l’il Fred Savage/Ralph Macchio hybrid in the middle there.
0:43: Random townspeople keep getting up in church and sing-speaking their thoughts. It turns out that when this guy in the middle (â) isnât singing about thermal underwear and premeditated murder, he foin.
0:46: Everything happening in this church suddenly reminds me of the âWe Are The Worldâ video from 1985. Partially because everyone on screen just started holding hands and swaying awkwardly. And partially because I now know how Bob Dylan was feeling when he was caught on camera doing this:
0:48: Regina pays a visit to the local tavern, the Jolly Lamplighter. Eight-year-old daughter of Sexy Singing Guy offers Regina a whiskey. Regina says, âAren’t you a little young to be a bartender?â The child replies, âIâm an old soul.â Seems legit. Nothing to see here.
0:50: Kid Bartender has a minor existential crisis in song form over her dead mom, before breaking the news to Regina that Reginaâs cruelty is, in a roundabout way, responsible for her momâs death. Regina goes home and has a flashback about her own dad. There are lamps involved. It is hard to care about any of it.
0:56: Iâve just noticed that Reginaâs personal assistant is played by So You Think You Can Dance Season 5 winner, Jeanine Mason. We come to find out that Jeanineâs character is also an angel in training. Which conveniently makes space for a gratuitous ballet practice scene in which Angel (did I mention Dolly Partonâs character is literally named Angel?) makes her dance. The ballet is, like, totally a metaphor, you guys, and not at all just an excuse to give Jeanine a dance solo.
1:04: Time for a fairly insufferable 1970s high school dance flashback where Young Regina dances with a dude wearing the worst shirt in history and somehow gets pregnant from doing so. Reginaâs dad, fearful of the judgment of the townspeople, forces her to give up the baby. Thatâs why, all these years later, Regina is dead inside and mad at the whole town. This guyâs shirt.
I just asked my mother and she told me that at no point, even during the 1970s, was this shirt acceptable.
1:08: Kid Bartender has been in an accident so half the town goes and stands in the hospital parking lot looking sad. Regina finds herself inspired to pray and offers to give up her life in exchange for Kid Bartenderâs. (Holy crap, that must have been a good drink.)
1:14: Regina goes to see Fake Martin Sheen and asks for a lantern that belonged to her father that heâs been hoarding. Heâs like, âSure, whatever, one less thing to pack, ya bish.â
1:18: Dolly Parton sings a heartfelt ballad about how magic (and psychic!) angels are, and runs around doing good deeds. She wakes Kid Bartender up in the hospital! And then she impregnates Gay Pastorâs wife! (Which is handy since he probably wasnât up to the task of DIYing that whole sitch.)
This is how you get pregnant in Dolly Parton Christmas movies.
1:22: Regina finds a bible hidden in her dadâs lantern and it tells her that the child he forced her to give up for adoption is, in fact, Gay Pastor.
1:27: Regina breaks the news to Gay Pastor that he is her son. She says: âItâs written in a bible so it must be true.â What super-fun logic to still be carrying around in 2020!
1:30: Gay Pastor breaks the news about his long-lost mom to the church congregation. As he leads Regina up the aisle, Dolly Parton sprouts wings and sings high above the altar. This movie is completely out of control.
1:34: Regina announces that sheâs not selling the town after all and she promises to keep everyoneâs rents low. This prompts the Old Navy dancers to strike up the scissor kicks once again and backflip their way back to the square.
1:36: Jeanine from So You Think You Can Dance becomes an angel and hangs out with Dolly at the top of a clock tower.
âDolly Partonâs Christmas on the Squareâ is streaming right now on Netflix. Those of you who like Jesus and/or weed will like it better than the rest of us.