'Last Christmas' defies critics to be a festive hit

Tom ButlerSenior Editor
(From left) Kate (Emilia Clarke) and Tom (Henry Golding) in Last Christmas, directed by Paul Feig.
(From left) Kate (Emilia Clarke) and Tom (Henry Golding) in Last Christmas, directed by Paul Feig.

After opening to lukewarm critic notices, Paul Feig’s Last Christmas has become a Christmas cracker for Universal Pictures, taking another £1.7 million in the UK over the last seven days.

This is down just 26.5% from last week and after three weeks in cinemas the festive film has now taken £10 million at the UK box office, contributing to a worldwide gross of £52.5 million.

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This means the film inspired by the music of George Michael and Wham! and written by Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings – is already in the black if its reported budget of around £23 million is to be believed.

With 23 sleeps still to go until Christmas and no other heart-warmingly festive releases on the horizon, it’s likely Last Christmas will continue to draw crowds thanks to solid word of mouth reactions in the face of the largely bad reviews from Scrooge-like critics.

Read more: Hit movies that critics hated

The Guardian review called the Emilia Clarke-starring romcom “a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift that’s filled with rotten turkey leftovers”, while the BBC’s review described it as “nauseatingly sweet and sour simultaneously” but the critic conceded “its visuals are so twinkly and its sentiments are so mushy that some people will see it as a holiday treat.” 

The box office results seem to agree, as do our colleagues at HuffPost who wrote in defence of the film this weekend, calling it “colourful, and camp, and perfectly British”.

Its audience score on Rotten Tomatoes sits at an impressive 81% approval rating from 5,626 moviegoers, versus a “rotten” 47% from 176 critical reviews, pointing at a wide divide between the opinions of professionals and the paying public.

“I think we’ve become very cynical these days,” Feig said to Yahoo Movies UK about the critical response to the film.

“There’s something about when a movie comes along that is aggressively positive, it just throws critics off. I have no problem with critics, they’ve been very kind to me during my career and very supportive.”

The film knocked Joker off the top of the UK charts in its opening week, ending the Joaquin Phoenix film’s record-breaking box office streak, and now it looks like it could be one of Universal’s best performing films of the year.

Last Christmas’ haul is dwarfed by the box office gross of the studio’s biggest 2019 film, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (out on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital now), which took £583 million, but Feig’s film may have the last laugh when it comes to profitability.

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