Christmas in the Wild (2019)

Christmas in the Wild (aka Holiday in the Wild)
Director: Ernie Barbarash
Writer: Neal H. Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky
Cast: Rob Lowe, Kristin Davis, Fezile Mpela, John Owen Lowe, Colin Moss, Thandi Puren, Hayley Owen, Lynita Crofford, Waldemar Schultz, Tapiwa Musvosvi
Seen on: 10.11.2019

Content Note: racism/exoticism

Kate (Kristin Davis) used to be a vet, but then she gave it all up for her husband and her kid. Now their son is grown and Kate is looking forward to the first real holiday in many years, a safari in South Africa. But just before they are supposed to leave, her husband leaves Kate instead. Kate decides to go to South Africa by herself. There in the elephant sanctuary, she starts to find a new sense of identity apart from her family. And she finds the grumpy pilot Derek (Rob Lowe) who runs the sanctuary.

Christmas in the Wild was re-named Holiday in the Wild (or vice versa). In any case, Holiday is definitely the better title. The film does feature Christmas, but it isn’t a Christmas romance. Whether Christmas or not, it’s a sweet film for white people, especially in the (racist) way it uses Africa as an exotic backdrop for a white story.

The film poster showing two images - Derek (Rob Lowe) and Kate (Kristin Davis) standing next to each other and Kate stroking an elephant.

How far you can go along with Holiday in the Wild will probably depend a lot on how white you are. Because the film really doesn’t bother with any black people here. Yes, Derek has a black business partner, Jonathan (Fezile Mpela) who runs the elephant sanctuary with him, but Jonathan doesn’t really get much of a personality apart from “patiently listening to white people and their problems”. That it’s set in Africa was really only done for the beautiful scenery and the elephants. Two good reasons, to be sure, but ultimately, it’s a pretty generic white fantasy of the exotic. It doesn’t even matter to the film if this is South Africa or Tanzania, and it could have just as well been shot in India.

There is a hefty dose of white saviorism to the story, too, though to really push that angle, Derek and Kate would have needed to be a little less self-involved and a little more self-aggrandizing. So, I guess you could say we are spared the worst.

Kate (Kristin Daivs) feeding a baby elephant.

If you’re white and can stomach the exoticism in this one, what you get is a mildly interesting love story that treads familiar territory and familiar territory only. Davis and Lowe are beautiful people who are pleasant to watch and Barbarash manages to stretch the thin story to a point where it’s actually feature length.

I have seen worse romances in my life, but this one won’t be one I’ll be returning to in any case. Despite the absolutley cute and wonderful elephants.

Derek (Rob Lowe) and Kate (Kristin Davis) walking in the savannah.

Summarizing: oh well.

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