Kate and Derek in the majestic Zambian plains.

Holiday in the Wild

Dept. of Disagreements


Netflix kicked off its holiday programming this year in a rather unconventional location for a Christmas romance. They sum up Holiday in the Wild on their page in just 18 words: “African sunsets. Majestic animals. A rugged stranger. And a newly single woman whose second act has just begun.” What’s not to love? Bahir certainly did. Uma wasn’t convinced.

Bahir Yeusuff: Okay. You told me that Holiday in the Wild wasn’t a great movie. I completely disagree.

Umapagan Ampikaipakan: Holiday in the Wild, or should I call it “Visit Zambia, Truly Africa”. I stand by my assessment of this being incredibly dumb, yet oddly charming. You, on the other hand, are so high on Christmas juice, that you’re unable to see this movie for what it is.

BY: Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! But more importantly, this movie has a secret weapon: Rob Lowe. Who I fell head-over-heels for when he first shows up at that bar on The West Wing. Calling it incredibly dumb but charming is completely underselling the movie. I had a wide smile on my face throughout, something my wife can attest doesn’t happen very often.

UA: This is a movie that started going downhill when the following lines were uttered. Rob Lowe’s Derek, looking ruggedly handsome with his five-o-clock shadow, is flying Kristen Davis’ Kate to her five-star holiday resort in Zambia when this exchange occurs…

BY: Here we go…


Derek: (making a sighting from the plane) Two o’clock, buffalo…
Kate: Wow!
Derek: Some people say it’s the most dangerous animal out here. But it’s not.
Kate: What IS?
Derek: We are!

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up!

BY: Yes seriously. We are the most dangerous animal out there. And the movie does a wonderful job of showing us. Immediately following that exchange, the dashing Rob Lowe spots an orphaned elephant from the sky and goes into full blown saviour mode. 

Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis facing off with an elephant in the movie Holiday in the Wild.

UA: Listen, I appreciate all of the real-world work that Kristin Davis does for elephant conservation. I love elephants. Some of my best friends are elephants. Even so, this movie tries so hard to sell its many, many messages – you’re never too old to discover yourself, follow your dreams, you can find love in the unlikeliest of places, don’t kill elephants, Zambians celebrate Christmas too – that it is completely without focus.

BY: I agree that is no Eat, Pray, Love or even Under the Tuscan Sun. But for me, it had just the right amount of cheese. It was sweet (maybe sickeningly so), but it wasn’t dramatic or over the top in its portrayals. Take Kate’s marriage. It ends just because it was time. Both parties had fallen out of love and that was that. There was no big blowout. There was no other woman. And I appreciated that. I also appreciated that the movie really takes off when she lands in Zambia for what she thought was going to be her second honeymoon. There was some meh-ness in New York with “the ladies who lunch” but they moved on from it pretty quickly.

UA: I think that was my favourite part of this movie. That depiction of the end of Kate’s marriage felt incredibly grown-up. Here were two individuals who once loved each other but eventually grew apart. Who stayed together for the sake of their son. But ultimately realised that they had to go their own way to find happiness. I liked that. But that’s a movie in itself. Heck, that could have been the plot to a third – and arguably much better – Sex and the City movie. Here, it’s shoehorned in between saving elephants and ogling Rob Lowe.

BY: WHICH WAS THE BEST PART OF THE MOVIE. This was a great dinner time watch. My wife and I really enjoyed ourselves. Yes a lot of the plotting is obvious (Christmas surprise!), but we didn’t care. The filmmakers knew what they were making and therefore didn’t take themselves too seriously. This isn’t an award contender so let’s not pretend it is. They sing Christmas songs (in the middle of an elephant sanctuary in Zambia where everyone knows the words) and that’s fine. Manu is cute. The elephants are cute. Rob Lowe is cute. There’s a WiFi spot out in the Zambian heartlands. Who cares. I loved it.

Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis looking after Manu, the elephant they save in the movie Holiday in the Wild.

UA: I’ll give you this much, it was slightly better scripted than Falling Inn Love. But so many of the lines were such clunkers, I was afraid my eyes would get stuck at the back of my head I was rolling them so hard. 

The one thing that this movie makes clear is what Netflix is trying to do. Which is to be something for everyone, and everything for everyone. HBO and Apple TV+ are focusing on premium, appointment television. Disney is selling nostalgia – with a side of Marvel and Star Wars. And Netflix wants all of it. You like HBO-style drama? We’ve got House of Cards. You want superheroes? We have Daredevil (for now). We have sci-fi, and reality-tv, and game shows, and Korean soap operas. You want Hallmark? Watch us out-Hallmark Hallmark!

BY: Yes this was very firmly in the Hallmark zone. From the slow-motion zoom as Rob Lowe says the line you quoted above, to the quick quips that, yes, make you roll your eyes. This movie does feel like a Hallmark movie. But with a bigger budget. Yes, Netflix is really trying to cash in on being the supermarket for home viewing. And their Christmastime fare and rom-coms are turning out to be their go to. Last year there was The Christmas Chronicles. The year before that we had A Christmas Prince. This year there’s this movie, there’s Klaus (which is absolutely amazing), there’s Let It Show, and The Knight Before Christmas. In some ways Netflix are taking a chance on these movies that most studios won’t touch due to its small snowball’s chance in hell at making any money at the box-office. There is always a place for light-hearted cheesy movies in my house. 

Speaking of cheese. Derek is also an artist.

UA: Oh. My. God. The painting. In case he wasn’t perfect enough, about halfway through the movie, we find out that Derek is also an amateur painter. He only paints landscapes though. At least until he meets Kate and he’s so inspired that he puts her into one of his paintings. Excuse me while I dry-heave.

BH: I’ve figured out the problem. It’s because you have no heart.

UA: Hold up. I like a good cheesefest as much as the next person. But this movie just felt to me like it didn’t quite deliver on what it was purporting to be. 

Is Holiday in the Wild a rom-com? I couldn’t find the comedy. As for the romance, there was an odd chasteness to Kate and Derek’s relationship that didn’t quite feel like a will-they/won’t-they but more like the writer wasn’t quite sure how to write sexual tension.

As for this year’s Christmas offerings, Netflix does have a few winners already. You mentioned Klaus, which has as much heart as the best of Disney. Let It Snow is trying to be Love Actually for a new generation and kind of makes it work. And I’ll admit that I’m oddly curious as to what they’re going to do with the sequel to The Christmas Prince. Are we going to get one every year? Now it’s the “The Royal Baby”, what’s next? “The Terrible Twos”, and after that, “The Princess Diaries”. Wait.

Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis at a Christmas party out in the wilds of Zambia.

BY: I will always have a place in my heart for the cheesy Netflix specials (have they surpassed Hallmark?). I was so looking forward to Falling Inn Love and it did not disappoint. We watch so much serious heavy stuff (The MandalorianThe IrishmanHandmaid’s TaleWestworld) that it really is nice to just watch something light-hearted and silly. I’m too old for those Adam Sandler/Kevin James bromedies so Holiday in the Wild works for me very nicely. Netflix if you’re reading this, keep ‘em coming.

UA: I’m just going to go watch Klaus again.

Holiday in the Wild
Netflix, 86 minutes
Director: Ernie Barbarash
Writers: Neal Dobrofsky and Tippi Dobrofsky
Cast: Rob Lowe, Kristin Davis, Fezile Mpela, John Owen Lowe, and Colin Moss

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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