(director: Sam Boyd; screenwriter: Richard Curtis; cinematographer: John Guleserian; editor: Heather Persons; music: Dan Romer; cast: Melissa McCarthy (Flora), Paapa Essiedu (Bernard Bottle), Denée Benton (Julie Bottle), Marc Maron (Lenny), Alan Cumming (Oliver Flaxman), Luis Guzmán (Detective Perez), Jordyn McIntosh (Eve Bottle); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Riva Marker, Richard Curtis; Peacock/Universal; 2023-USA/UK)

“I wish I didn’t see it.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

I wish I didn’t see it. The predictable toothless fairy tale film is hardly a holiday classic. It’s a blatant money grab, as directed by Sam Boyd (“In a Relationship”) and disappointingly written by the celebrated Notting Hill rom/com Brit writer Richard Curtis. The bland “Genie” is a remake of his 1991 BBC comedy “Bernard and the Genie,” which he directed and scripted. He was also the filmmaker for “Love Actually,” which actually became a holiday classic.

Watching such a spiritless holiday movie is as sad as spending the holiday at the North Pole and never meeting Santa.

Bernard Bottle (Paapa Essiedu, Brit actor) is the workaholic assistant at the posh NYC art auction house, under the tight grip of his despotic boss Oliver Flaxman (Allen Cummings, who played Bernard in the original).

The dumb plot revolves around Bernard missing his daughter Eve’s (Jordyn McIntosh) ice skating 8th birthday bash because the boss wouldn’t let him off from work. This ticks off his already upset neglected wife Julie (Denée Benton), who threatens to take the kid for the upcoming Christmas holiday to her parents’ house. 

Bernard is an ardent antique collector, who intends giving Eve a genie antique for a birthday gift that he keeps hidden in the apartment, in a jewelry box. When he mistakenly rubs against it, the genie, who was trapped in it for 2,000 years appears and says her name is Flora (Melissa McCarthy) and has the ability to grant him unlimited wishes if he utters “Your wish is my command.”

Bernard is intent on saving his fractured marriage and tells Flora he wishes to reconnect with his family.

Acting as a tour guide around the city, Bernard takes her to Rockefeller Center and they see the giant tree from a coffee shop window. Meanwhile the manic genie acts jokey, and Bernard is on his way to getting back in the good graces of his family.

Since I didn’t give a damn about Bernard’s problem, I didn’t care a sugar cane lick about the film. I was also troubled that with an unlimited amount of wishes, Bernard’s so stunted that he didn’t have it in him to wish for something momentous like world peace or to cure cancer. But the bigger problem was in how thoughtless was the Christmas film and how weak was the genie’s jokes.

REVIEWED ON 11/28/2023  GRADE: C-