Review: ‘Genie’ has holiday hijinks but lacks Christmas spirit

In the realm of Christmas comedies where heartfelt wishes and magical transformations abound, Genie falls short of granting its own wish to be a memorable and rewatchable holiday flick. Despite its star-studded cast as shiny as Aladdin’s lamp, including the comedic prowess of Melissa McCarthy and the charm of Paapa Essiedu, and the combined expertise of screenwriter Richard Curtis and director Sam Boyd, Genie dissipates like a wisp of smoke, leaving behind a longing for a more magical experience. While Genie has many funny moments and attempts to conjure a heartwarming message, it ultimately fumbles the spell. There are no dreams of Genie here, only a wish for a better movie. 

Genie has an appealing premise that is never fully realized

The idea behind this film is appealing and chock full of fun tropes. An overworked dad named Bernard (Paapa Essiedu) misses his daughter Eve’s (Jordyn McIntosh) birthday because of his nasty boss Flaxman’s (Alan Cumming) demands. It’s the last straw for his wife Julie (Denée Benton), and his wife and daughter go to her mother’s house for a trial separation. 

After what is the worst day of his life, Dad is distraught and absent-mindedly awakens a flamboyant genie named Flora (Melissa McCarthy) from an antique box. Dad and Genie must work together using wish magic (with some rules!) to win back his family and understand the true spirit of Christmas. While this is a quick 30,000-foot summary of the movie, there’s so much potential for exciting comedy and drama there, and it’s only partially realized. It’s within grasp, but like a wisp of genie smoke, it disappears as quickly as it was there, leaving you very unsatisfied. 

Character development wanted

Where Genie falls apart are the characters in the story, and it’s no fault of Melissa McCarthy and Paapa Essiedu who give the story their all. They’re incredible actors and are paired well. McCarthy gives her all towards the fish out of water moments – but unlike Elf, they aren’t backed by character backstory and aren’t enough to carry the movie. There are funny moments for sure, the runners on pizza and Tom Cruise had me laughing out loud quite a bit, but it’s a bit hollow. Essiedu gives a subtle performance, and it plays excellent against McCarthy’s outlandishness. You believe he’s a guy who deals in antiquities, has lost his family, and wants them back.

GENIE — Pictured: (l-r) Paapa Essiedu as Bernard, Melissa McCarthy as Flora — (Photo by: Stephanie Mei-Ling/Universal Pictures/Peacock) Image courtesy of Peacock.


In Genie, things just happen, and we’re propelled forward through funny gags that linger too long at times. The moment with Nardo’s family is funny, especially with the brother-in-law being sent to hell. Still, it has no repercussions for the story and is there to put Nardo in an awkward, meaningless situation. It illustrates a more significant point about Genie that the movie is a series of funny skirts that are very loosely connected. This story has a lot of plot, but we don’t deeply understand the characters and what’s going on for them. In particular, Bernard (or Nardo, if you’re Flora) could use some more detail.

Bernard and Julie’s relationship troubles

 You want to get to the story as quickly as possible in storytelling. Still, Genie could have really benefitted from a few extra minutes covering the emotional situation between Bernard and Julie. Her drastic reaction gave shaky underpinnings for his emotional core going forward. Why was their relationship so bad? Furthermore, the tension with Johnny (Tate Ellington), who was just conveniently there and seemed to have stepped in to replace Bernard, was off-putting and highly unrealistic character-wise, even considering that this movie featured a magical being who could grant wishes. 

Final thoughts on Genie

Christmas movies hold a special place in my heart, and I wanted to love this one. I love Melissa McCarthy, and after his performance in Genie, I will keep an eye out for Paapa Essiedu because he’s so compelling. Genie is ultimately fun but forgettable – it’s not a Christmas classic and probably not worth a rewatch. Stream it once with the family and enjoy the jokes, but don’t think too deeply about the characters. 

How to watch Genie

Genie is now streaming on Peacock. Check out the film however you like to stream your entertainment.

Your thoughts on the movie

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You can read all of our reviews for Children’s and Family entertainment here.

Want more holiday movies? Read our review to find out why Disney+’s Dashing Through the Snow was lots of fun. Check out our review of Freevee’s EXmas with Robbie Amell and Leighton Meester. If you’re still in Turkey-day mode, check out our review of Eli Roth’s non-family friendly horror flick Thanksgiving.