After last season's dull vintage, Netflix has gotten back on track and improved its batting average this year. Light spoilers ahead.
1. 'Single All the Way'
Michael Urie stars as the serially single Peter, who has dragged his roommate and best friend, Nick (Philemon Chambers), home for the holidays. Once settled in cozy New Hampshire, Peter is torn between two lovely suitors — there are no baddies in this movie. One is his mother's trainer, James (Luke Macfarlane), and the other is friend-zoned Nick, who had been hiding his true feelings.
Directed by Michael Mayer, "Single All the Way" is fast-paced, funny and sweet without being cloying. Kathy Najimy and Jennifer Coolidge, as Peter's mother and aunt, deliver particularly delicious turns.
2. 'A Boy Called Christmas'
A poor Finnish boy, Nikolas (Henry Lawfull), sets off to find his father (Michiel Huisman), who has left him behind to find the village where elves live. Of course, that place could merely be the stuff of legends, but since Nikolas has a talking pet mouse (voiced by Stephen Merchant), we know early on that anything is possible.
Based on a book by Matt Haig, "A Boy Called Christmas" knows that the best fairy tales have dark undertones, and it drops satisfyingly ominous touches. Regrettably, the film never goes full Roald Dahl on us. But kids should enjoy the story while their parents will eat up the sneakier jokes and appreciate Sally Hawkins' stunning performance as the elf leader.
3. 'Love Hard'
This rom-com has such a sketchy premise that its spectacular recovery should count as an Olympics-worthy gymnastics feat.
The biggest test is that viewers are asked to not hate Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) after he catfishes Natalie (Nina Dobrev) by using a photo of his hunky friend Tag (Darren Barnet) on a dating app. Not only does Natalie quickly get over the switcheroo, she agrees to pretend to be Josh's girlfriend. The film's main asset is Yang (Jian Yang on "Silicon Valley"), whose Josh miraculously comes across as sweet rather than creepy.
Once that battle is won, "Love Hard" can convincingly sell its central relationship.
4. 'The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star'
Netflix's holiday all-star Vanessa Hudgens is back for the third installment of her trademark franchise, and this time everybody seems to have an eye on the clock, waiting for the ordeal to end.
As in the second film, Hudgens plays three parts, with bad-girl Fiona stepping to the fore in a feeble, nonsensical heist plot while Queen Margaret and Princess Stacy lurk in some castle or other, twiddling their thumbs. No matter whom she plays, though, Hudgens appears disengaged for the first time in the "Princess Switch" saga.
5. 'The Claus Family'
A mom who works in a cookie factory; a grandpa who is the true Santa Claus and has elf helpers: What a fun, sweet holiday treat this Belgian film must be! Sorry to pop your Christmas bauble, but "The Claus Family" is as leaden as a Liège waffle left on the counter overnight.
Young Jules (Mo Bakker) hates Christmas, and the young boy's downcast disposition contaminates the entire movie, which is flaccidly paced and fails to pull off its more festive scenes. When a "cookie revolution" at the factory makes for dull viewing, you have to wonder how a director could possibly muck up such a gimme scene.