Comedy Central gets in on the holiday TV movie game with A Clüsterfünke Christmas—which is exactly as serious as the silly title implies. The parody comes from Saturday Night Live legends Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch and puts a bizarre, joke-heavy twist on the format you know and love/hate. But does A Clüsterfünke Christmas give the gift of legitimate LOLs, or is it impossible to make fun of a film genre that’s already bonkers?
The Gist: Vella Lovell (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) plays Holly, an up-and-comer in the hotel and resort industry who’s tasked with convincing the owners of the rustic AF Clüsterfünke Inn to vacate their property so her bosses can swoop in and turn the land into a mega resort. There’s just one problem: she kinda likes these old Clüsterfünke ladies (played by Gasteyer and Dratch) and she likes their hunky nephew Frank (Cheynne Jackson) even more. But all of these new relationships are jeopardized when her old BF waltzes into town and blows up her spot!
The plot sounds like a legitimate Hallmark Christmas movie—but this parody has a lot more Philadelphia Cream Cheese and frostbite.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: The entire film feels like an elaborate SNL parody of the Hallmark formula, starting right away with the ad spot for the “Bellhark” holiday movie lineup (sponsored by Philadelphia Cream Cheese). On top of that, the commitment to this much genre-accurate nuttiness feels right in line with Wet Hot American Summer.
Performance Worth Watching: I know the point of A Clüsterfünke Christmas is to make fun of Hallmark movies but… uh, I think Vella Lovell and Cheyenne Jackson could actually knock a sincerely saccharine Hallmark movie outta the park. They just make so much sense within this genre.
Memorable Dialogue: There are a lot of spot-on digs at the Hallmark format throughout the film, my favorites being “Without our traditions we’d lose our will to live!” and “But the hotel and resort industry is all that I care about!”
A Holiday Tradition: The hamlet of Yuletown loves annual Christmas events. There’s the Ginger People Festival, the Santa Claus Bonfire Festival, the Yuletown Wood Chopping Contest, and the Clüsterfünke sisters have to prepare for the annual post-Christmas strudel rush.
Does the Title Make Any Sense?: It’s named after the inn at the center of the plot and a bunch of main characters so, yeah. If you come up with a ridiculous surname like Clüsterfünke, you use it as much as you can.
Our Take: There’s a key component to making a successful parody that I think is easy to overlook: it really helps if you love the thing you’re lampooning. That’s especially important when trying to parody something like Hallmark Christmas movies, which are already preposterously close to parody. That’s why A Clüsterfünke Christmas had a deceptively high bar to clear in order to not just be a one-note grinch of a movie. Would this be just 90 minutes of hateration or would it be a celebration of all the silliness intrinsic to this genre? It is, without a doubt, the latter.
It’s so clear that Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch have watched dozens of Hallmark Christmas movies because their script takes aim at some incredibly specific tropes. There’s an all-jargon business phone call where no one says anything and there’s a bestie who FaceTimes and asks if Holly will join her for “a little holiday exposition.” The film is accurately a step or twenty behind modern technology (Holly is a “wiz with webpages”) and there’s product placement that makes Hallmark’s Balsam Hill shoutouts seem subdued. Everything in this film, from the background music to the wardrobe to the cozy cinematography, is incredibly accurate. You could put this on in the background during a holiday party and people would probably think it’s a legit Hallmark movie.
And because all of the specifics are so well done, all of the jokes totally pop. The film gets weirder as Holly becomes more embedded in Yuletown’s way of life, to the point where something truly horrific happens and it’s swept aside by a holiday broom (which is not a thing, but you know has to be a thing in Yuletown). Both sides of this movie, the painstakingly accurate recreation of the vibe and the satirical skewering of all the tropes, work together to create a film that’s a lot of fun.
A Clüsterfünke Christmas is big and broad and weird enough to win over people who hate Hallmark movies, and Clüsterfünke’s surprising reverence to the Hallmark aesthetic lets Hallmarkies know that the movie’s laughing with Hallmark movies rather than at them.
Our Call: STREAM IT. And since Gasteyer and Dratch love Hallmark movies this much, they need to start writing more of these kinds of films!
A Clüsterfünke Christmas premieres on Comedy Central on Saturday, December 4 at 7 p.m. ET
Where to watch A Clüsterfünke Christmas