L to R: Paapa Essiedu and Melissa McCarthy in GENIE, from Universal Pictures

Melissa McCarthy’s ‘Genie’ Grants Our Wish for a Strong Female Lead in a Christmas Movie

The holidays are rapidly approaching, so we’re on the hunt for cozy movies to watch while wrapping presents, spiking the eggnog, and generally overlooking the rampant consumerism and cheesy entertainment options that usually symbolize the season.

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This year, boring Hallmark heroines are getting nudged aside in favor of Melissa McCarthy in Genie, a new movie coming to Peacock just in time for Thanksgiving. Our wish has finally been granted!

What’s Genie all about?

Everything is going wrong for the aptly-named main character, Bernard Bottle (Paapa Essiedu). After forgetting his daughter’s birthday just 12 days before Christmas, Bernard’s wife (Denée Benton) decides she wants to separate. As if that wasn’t bad enough, his terrible boss (Alan Cumming—squee!) fires him.

In despair, Bernard happens upon an antique jewelry box and gives it a little rub. Presto majesto! Out pops McCarthy’s Flora, who’s been locked inside the trinket for so long, she has no idea how anything modern works. (You tick off one sorcerer in 77 B.C., am I right?)

When we say Flora doesn’t understand modern times, we mean it. In true Elf fashion, Flora washes her hair in Bernard’s toilet, uses ladies’ underwear as a slingshot, and doesn’t understand what Christmas is even about. When Bernard tells her it’s about Jesus, she asks incredulously, “Jesus? You mean Mary’s kid? What did he do to get so famous?”

The best part of their burgeoning friendship is that Flora grants Bernard wishes, and not just a couple. Nope, this genie has the power to grant “unlimited wishes,” which is about how many it’s going to take to help Bernard win back his family, job, and life.

A new Christmas classic in the making

Melissa McCarthy as Flora in 'Genie'
(Universal Pictures)

Richard Curtis is one of the major creative minds behind Genie. He wrote and produced the film, which is based on his 1991 screenplay Bernard and the Genie. Curtis is famous for his romantic movies, which are often set around the holiday season, including Notting Hill, Love Actually, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and About Time.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Curtis explained why he tends to set his films during the holidays, and why it felt right for Genie, specifically.

“It’s the most fun time of year for someone to be miserable,” Curtis said. “It’s the most fun time of year for someone to help someone stop being miserable. But the genie thing, I’ve just always been intrigued by magic, and there’s a limit to how many magical things Father Christmas can do. He only works that one night a year. If I wanted magic at Christmas, a genie was a fun, new way of doing it.”

A magical setting befitting of the plot

Many of Curtis’ Christmas movies are set in England, but Genie takes place entirely in New York City. Director Sam Boyd says the location is because New York is “the ultimate Christmas city.”

“To me, New York instantly heightens every movie or show that takes place there,” said Boyd. “Imbuing every story with all the dreams and fantasies we bring to it—whether we’ve been lucky enough to spend time there or not.”

Indeed, the trailer is filled with iconic NYC shots, from the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center to midtown skylines and glittering holiday displays at Bloomingdale’s flagship store. The city definitely adds a certain magic to an already magical concept.

Curtis may have written the movie, but he credits “Mrs. Melissa McCarthy” for adding a lot of jokes and improvisation to the script. Once the actress officially signed on, he started tinkering with the character of Flora to give the famously funny leading lady some leeway. Boyd says at the end of the day, he was in charge of merging several comedic geniuses and themes into one big, hopefully fun, celebration of holiday films.

“The whole thing was really this huge collaboration, where we were working within a few different traditions, running parallel—the tradition of the Christmas movie, of the Richard Curtis movie, of the Melissa McCarthy movie—and the hope is that the final product is a glorious mash-up of them all,” he told EW.

Everyone likes a happy ending

By the end of the movie, we assume that Bernard gets his family back. This isn’t a spoiler; it’s just obvious. It’s a Christmas movie … it’s not going to end in tragedy! What we don’t know yet is how he and Flora will go about doing so, and how many belly laughs we’re going to have in the process. Knowing this writer/producer and star, we’re guessing there will be plenty. Let’s face it, anything’s better than another milquetoast Hallmark character!

Genie lands on Peacock on November 22, just in time to give us a much-needed break from all those family members visiting for Turkey Day.

(featured image: Universal Pictures)


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Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She writes about pop culture, entertainment, and web memes, and has published a book or a funny day-to-day desk calendar about web humor every year for a decade. When not writing, she's listening to audiobooks or watching streaming movies under a pile of her very loved (spoiled) pets.