When it comes to movie adaptations of Charles Dickens’ iconic yuletide tale, the cream of the crop is (of course) The Muppet Christmas Carol, a feature crafted with such humour and heart that you barely notice how surreal it is. Inspired by the same text, Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square invites us into a world so bizarre it makes plush talking puppets seem positively run of the mill.

At the centre of the film is the Dickens story we know and love: a rich and embittered businessperson (Christine Baranski) has no regard for the goodwill of the season or the wellbeing of, well, anyone, until a series of ethereal encounters start to show them the error of their ways. The rest? That kind of has to be seen to be believed. Christmas on the Square is an all-singing, all-dancing, all-worshipping venture into love, faith, and festivity that can’t help but feel perplexing in its peculiarity.

The songs are unshakeably earnest. The dance routines are distinctively larger than life. It’s the juxtaposition of heartfelt sentiment and explosive energy, and the transition (or lack of) between the two, that leaves the film feeling entirely jarring. A married couple sing about fertility treatments. A little later they guide a church congregation who are singing and dancing about the various ways they might commit murder. To save the characters from themselves, there’s Dolly Parton, whose role as a rhinestone-clad angel on a mission to forge chaos into catharsis is one of the film’s few emotional consistencies.

Christmas on the Square is extravagant to an extreme. Flooded with clichés yet never knowingly predictable, it’s certainly unlike anything else you’ll see this festive season, a rollercoaster ride ricocheting towards sentiments of goodwill. 



CAST: Dolly Parton, Christine Baranski, Treat Williams

DIRECTOR: Debbie Allen

WRITERS: Maria S. Schlatter, Dolly Parton

SYNOPSIS: An embittered “Scrooge” of a woman plans to sell her small town, regardless of the consequences to the people who live there.