Brief Synopsis: When high school science teacher, Brooke, hits a man whilst driving through a snowstorm, she feels compelled to look after the man, Sir Cole, because she thinks the accident has caused a brain trauma that has him believing he is a medieval knight from the fourteenth century.
Is It Any Good?: The Knight Before Christmas, scoring a paltry 5.6 on IMDB, is on first glance a pretty weak effort if one goes by the trailer. In truth, the film is elevated by the performances and a quirky premise.
Spoiler territory: In fourteenth-century Norwich, England, Sir Cole Lyons (Josh Whitehouse) and his brother, Sir Geoffrey (Harry Jarvis), are preparing for the annual Christmas hawking trial. The brothers hatch a plan to capture the hawk, one going west and the other heading east, their plan to flank the bird and meet in the middle.
In modern-day Ohio, high school science teacher, Brooke Winters (Vanessa Hudgens), is talking to Paige (Shanice Johnson) about her disappointing grades. Paige tells her that her boyfriend broke up with her. Brooke tells her that the fairytale of a shiny knight is exactly that, a fairytale. She tells Paige not to let this break-up mess up her grades. Brooke gets a call from her sister, Madison (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who needs her to pick up her daughter as she is busy at work. Brooke tells her it will be no problem.
Back in Norwich, Sir Cole has ventured into the woods. He meets an old woman, an Old Crone (Ella Kenion), who he goes to help. She asks about his brother, saying he is to be knighted the coming Christmas. Sir Cole acknowledges this fact. The Old Crone tells him that he has a different quest, one that will take him to a faraway land.
Sir Cole thinks that the Old Crone is confused by the cold weather. She gives him a shimmering amulet telling him that he has to complete his quest by Christmas Eve or he will not become a knight. The Old Crone disappears. Shortly afterwards, Sir Cole disappears also. His horse returns to the castle where Sir Geoffrey wonders why his brother has not returned.
Sir Cole appears in a Christmas fair in present-day Ohio. He looks around in wonder at the modern fair. Elsewhere, Brooke is with her niece, Claire (Isabelle Franca), enjoying the fair. As Sir Cole walks about the fair and is surprised to be accosted by a group of young women who want to take a selfie with him. Brooke takes Claire to visit Santa.
She is perturbed to see her ex-boyfriend, James (Neil Babcock) walking around the fair with his new girlfriend, Kaelynn (Olivia Gudaniec). A wandering Sir Cole mistakes Ms Santa for the Old Crone. He apologises and walks away. As he is distracted by an aeroplane, Brooke walks into him, spilling hot chocolate on his armour. Brooke is mortified, apologising profusely. Sir Cole, having tasted the hot chocolate, wants to know what it is.
Claire’s mother turns up at the fair and her and Brooke go to meet her. The weather is getting worse, a snow storm coming. Brooke drives in the storm, her visibility vastly impaired. She does not see Sir Cole wander into the path of her car and hits him.
She gets out of the car to see if he is alright. Sir Cole, clad in armour, is unharmed. He asks Brooke where he is. She tells him that he is in Ohio. The local policeman, Officer Stevens (Arnold Pinnock), comes and sees Brooke with Sir Cole. Brooke tells him what happened and says she thinks he might have hit his head.
Officer Stevens takes Sir Cole to the hospital, Brooke follows them. At the hospital, Sir Cole is physically fine, completely unharmed. Officer Stevens tells Brooke that he believes he is a fourteenth-century knight. Brooke insists on taking Sir Cole with her until he regains his memory, even as Officer Stevens protest.
Back at Brooke’s house, she suggests he change into more modern attire, giving him clothing left by her ex. As Brooke speaks to her sister on the phone, Sir Cole lights a fire outside, looking to kill an animal for his dinner. Brooke intervenes and takes him to a diner.
After eating and returning home, Sir Cole continues to be wowed by modern technology. Sir Cole stay up all night, watching television and studying modern language. He invites Brooke to watch television with him. They fall asleep watching television. Sir Cole sees the Old Crone in a dream and asks about his quest, still unsure as to what it is. The Old Crone tells him to open his heart.
The next day they prepare to decorate the house for Christmas. Brooke tells Sir Cole about the passing of her mother. She talks to him about his time, saying that time travel is not possible. He says that because she cannot comprehend it does not mean it does not exist.
Sir Cole takes Brooke’s car and goes in search of his quest. Having abandoned the vehicle, Brooke finds a slightly despondent Sir Cole later in the day. He is no closer to discovering his quest. Brooke shows Sir Cole England on a live stream. Madison and Claire come to visit. Claire wants to become a knight and asks Sir Cole to teach her how to fight. Madison does not think it is a good idea. Sir Cole assures her that any swordplay would only be with sticks.
Madison tells Brooke that Sir Cole seems to be the perfect mate except for the fact that he believes he is from the fourteenth century. Madison and Claire go home. Brooke’s neighbour, Allyson (Mimi Gianopulos), having seen Sir Cole a few days before, comes to invite him to come Christmas carolling with her and her friends. Sir Cole, seeing how uncomfortable it makes Brooke, politely declines.
Madison is looking after hard working dad-of-four children, David’s (Jean-Michel Le Gal) offspring. David is off to help with the charity preparations. Brooke tells Sir Cole about the annual Christmas dinner charity that her parents used to run and how she has carried on the tradition since her mother’s death.
They go to help with the preparations and Brooke tells Sir Cole about David’s situation, how his wife died and he has four young children that he supports by doing two jobs. He insists on volunteering for the Christmas feast to set a good example to his children.
It is one day before Christmas Eve and Brooke takes Sir Cole to the supermarket to pick some bits for the Christmas dinner. Sir Cole, who takes it upon himself to sample the bread, is not impressed by its taste and tells Brooke he will bake the bread.
Claire asks her mum if she and Lily, one of David’s children and her best friend, can go and play in the snow. Madison, though a little worried about the snowstorm, is swayed by the girls pleading. Brooke and Sir Cole get closer as he bakes bread. Their baking is interrupted by a phone call from Madison. She cannot find Claire and Lily.
Brooke and Sir Cole go to help her look for them. Sir Cole, used to tracking in the fourteenth century, tracks the girls to a nearby lake. He rescues Claire from the surface of a frozen lake. With the girls safely home, Officer Stevens thanks Sir Cole for his assistance. In a private conversation, he tells Brooke that he is not sure that supporting Sir Cole’s delusion is the best course of action.
Later, Brooke tells Sir Cole that after his heroic act, surely he is worthy of becoming a knight. Sir Cole is not so sure. Sir Cole and Brooke are about to kiss but are interrupted once again when Madison’s husband, Evan (Scott Yamamura), returns from his business trip. Brooke and Sir Cole go to the Christmas market.
Whilst at the market, they see Eileen (Jayne Eastwood). As they converse with her, a pickpocket (Ryan Clarke) steals her purse but is quickly apprehended by Sir Cole. Officer Stevens comes and takes the pickpocket away, once again indebted to Sir Cole. Sir Cole is not sure he has the wherewithal to be a knight. Brooke gives him a pep talk.
It is Christmas Eve and Brooke and Sir Cole are getting ready to go to the Christmas charity dinner. They go to the dinner. At the dinner, the town has gotten together and had a whip-round for David and his family. David is overwhelmed by the support. Sir Cole puts on his knights’ garb and poses for pictures at the party.
Allyson approaches Sir Cole with mistletoe but realising he obviously has feelings for Brooke, says he should save the mistletoe for somebody he cares about. Sir Cole kisses Brooke. His amulet begins to glow. He and Brooke go back to the spot that he appeared. He bids Brooke farewell and disappears.
A heartbroken Brooke walks back home, encountering Paige on the way. Paige tells her that her ex wants to get back together but because of what Brooke told her, about true love not being real, she is focusing on her career. Brooke tells Paige she was wrong to tell her that. A melancholy Brooke returns home missing Sir Cole.
Back in the fourteenth century, Sir Cole returns to the castle. He tells his brother that he is in love but wishes to be present for his knighting ceremony. Geoffrey tells him he must go to his love. Back in the present, it is Christmas Day and Madison and Evan are surprised when Claire excitedly reveals a puppy under the tree.
Brooke comes over to the house. Madison asks about Sir Cole but Brooke tells her she does not think she will see him again. Back in Norwich, Sir Cole is searching in the forest for the Old Crone. She appears and he begs her to send him back to the future. She grants his wish. Back in Ohio, Claire is asking where Sir Cole is. As the adults try to awkwardly explain his absence, he appears with his horse. Sir Cole tells Brooke that she was his quest. They kiss. They get on his horse and ride off. The end.
The Knight Before Christmas is an enjoyable piece of festive fluff. Written by Cara J. Russell and directed by Monika Mitchell, it bumps along nicely, with the performances allowing for the suspension of belief. Josh Whitehouse is especially good as the displaced Sir Cole.
Vanessa Hudgens has become a modern-day Meg Ryan, working well opposite multiple leading men in Christmas or anytime rom-coms and somehow, like the erstwhile Ryan, managing to generate chemistry with all of them. The supporting players are able enough helping the central story and showing enough incredulity to stop the watching audience from scoffing.
At ninety-two minutes long The Knight Before Christmas is the perfect length for a rom-com. The story is quirky and original enough to be engaging even if the script is a bit heavy-handed in places.
Unlike the best Christmas films, there is no true antagonist in The Knight Before Christmas making the central premise of finding love across the centuries the main focus, not that it matters much but it might have made the film a little more challenging.
The Knight Before Christmas is an inoffensive and pleasant viewing experience and no worse than any of the many festive, made-for-television efforts that seem to be available at this time of year. Worth a look.