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Genie review – new Richard Curtis comedy can’t save Christmas for anyone

This bafflingly bland offering wastes the talents of Melissa McCarthy and Paapa Essiedu – it’s as if they removed the laughs in case they offend Screenwriter Richard Curtis is a cinema colossus with nothing left to prove: he reinvented the romcom with transatlantic classics like Four Weddings, Notting Hill and The Tall Guy; he re-energised charitable giving with Comic Relief; and even those of us who never signed up to Love Actually concede the dark power of the Emma Thompson-crying scene. But we really do not need this new Christmas film from him (he writes, Sam Boyd directs), an unremittingly awful, bafflingly terrible and defanged bit of seasonal gibberish: a fantasy comedy which forgets to put in gags and which cheats its own narrative rules. Watching it is like trailing around a year-round Christmas market in March. Paapa Essiedu plays a chap with the quirky name of Bernard Bottle, employed in New York (cue Christmassy shots of people skating in Rockefeller Plaza) as an assistant in a very posh art auction house, run by a heartless meanie called Flaxman (Alan Cumming). Flaxman declines to let poor Bernard go home at knocking-off time to attend his daughter’s birthday – very close to Christmas incidentally – and loads more work on him. Bernard timidly submits. Continue reading...

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