Movie Review: Holly Star (2018)

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Broke puppeteer Sloan (Katlyn Carlson) goes from controlling Santa's movements in a TV ad to searching for his buried treasure in Maine after a blow to the head shakes loose a childhood memory of a man dressed as Santa Claus burying a bag full of money in Holly Star.

Though initially unsure whether or not it was just a hallucination – recently fired and demoralized from struggling to monetize her very particular set of skills – once Sloan begins to find more evidence corroborating the memory, she enlists her best friend Kay K (Taya Patt) to join her on the adventure.

A paintball obsessed wannabe guerrilla who lives off-the-grid in the suburbs with walkie talkies instead of cell phones, Kay K is all too eager to take part, not only because she misses the childhood friend she hasn't seen in a year but also because she's up for anything, even if it means trying to create another near-death experience to inspire another memory.

Essentially the role that would have been given to Melissa McCarthy in a studio backed venture, although initially entertaining, unfortunately Kay K amuses as much as she annoys as the film continues and she's contrasted with a largely bland main character.

A similar problem to the one in The Spy Who Dumped Me, Holly Star suffers from inconsistent plotting and characterization which makes Sloan hard to identify with or root for, largely because, aside from her plight and people who continue to value her puppetry talent passed down from her beloved grandfather (which all but vanishes onscreen), we know so little about her.

And perhaps it's because of this that Sloan comes across as greedy, which is a charge actually leveled at her by her childhood crush Andy (Brian Muller), who hires Sloan to sell Christmas trees on his family's seasonal lot.

While writer-director Michael A. Nickles tries to better balance out his protagonist as she visits her tango dancing grandmother (Pamela Chabora) in the senior home where she's a resident, all in all, the film has so much going on that in spite of the filmmaker's best intentions, everything – from the plot to the people – is shortchanged.

Segueing uneasily from holiday treasure hunt turned family mystery to romance, although Nickles is clearly not hurting for ideas, he's unable to combine them in such a way to adequately pay off on them all in one film alone as Star differs from scene to scene.

Still, quite a promising voice with a lot to say, even though this overly quirky Bottle Rocket meets Garden State style holiday comedy didn't quite work, I look forward to any future Nickles family treasure hunts...maybe next time with more puppet strings and fewer dangling plot strands.

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