It’s always a bit bizarre to watch Christmas movies out of season. And Christmas at the Riviera, a Brit-TV All-Star seasonal extravaganza, set one snowy Christmas Eve in Eastbourne, was really quite strange to watch at 5am on a tropical Durban morning. But there you go: the wonder of movies.
It’s Carry On meets Basil Fawlty really, a basically silly plot that’s carried on the considerable strengths of a titanic acting troupe. One Christmas Eve, an over-eager assistant hotel manager left in charge for the very first time, determines to make it the best holiday ever. His plans are resoundingly ruined by a dysfunctional mob of guests that include a man-eating divorcee, a randy vicar and his alcoholic wife (remember Duckface from Four Weddings? – her), a dreadfully crass Mr. Grumpy, and a grieving widower and his really, really tall son. So chaos unfolds.
I won’t give away the plot (too much) but in the tradition of good old British slapstick, there’s vomit, falling down, mis-communication, heart attacks and ladies covering their suddenly-exposed chests. Thanks to the sterling cast though, it all holds together pretty well. There are even a few laugh-out-loud moments, which were pleasantly unexpected.
Christmas at the Riviera did infact film in Eastbourne, an area of Blighty that’s proudly (if somewhat hyperbolically) known as the English Riviera. However the credits also say Buckinghamshire; I have a sneaky suspicion the hotel itself is actually found there.