Gettin’ Super High For Christmas

‘It’s A Wonderful Binge’ is the weirdest movie yet from the Purge universe

With December comes the new season of holiday movies, and It’s A Wonderful Binge is Hulu’s big offering for this year’s yuletide television. It’s A Wonderful Binge is a sequel to The Binge, a riff on The Purge. Where The Purge features a near dystopia landscape where all crime is legal for a single day, The Binge premised a lighter version of that world, where it’s just drugs that are legal for a single day. Ergo, they scheduled this year’s Binge  for Christmas, because dealing with relatives over the holidays is exactly when we need drugs the most.

I find the whole concept of purges or binges to be overly flawed, even as an obvious political metaphor. Purges and binges assume that people have an innate urge to just do generic crime or generic binges, and that their desire to do either of these things is universal, not related to specific causes. And It’s A Wonderful Binge is a prime example of this worldbuilding not making any real sense if you think about it, like, at all.

For a sense of perspective, the opening scene features mascots at a Chuck E. Cheese parody joint angering children, for a reason not totally clear to me. Then they attack the children. The movie intends this to be funny, I think, though my first thought was: this is just a fantasy, right? About escaping the drudgery of working a terrible job, and how the drugs promised by The Binge will make that happen?

Nope! Apparently that scuffle really happened. This gets to be a bit of a pattern. Every character in It’s a Holiday Binge acts as if they’re on drugs, long before any of them start to take any drugs. The mayor yells at people, constantly tells her security guards to shoot them, and really wants to make the Christmas Owl a thing. That is…all of her characterization actually, although It’s A Wonderful Binge does eventually pretend like she had an arc, when all she does is order her daughter to capture the Christmas Owl.

If this sounds like an important plot point it actually really isn’t. The Christmas Owl only makes very sporadic appearances, and the only important one is causing one of our mascot-suited leads to fall off a bridge and into an It’s A Wonderful Life parody. The joke, which you’ve almost certainly seen parodied more effectively somewhere else, is that the family actually does seem better off without him. Even though he seems nice, I guess.

Defining any character as “nice” is a very relative quantity here, since most of them are very loud and obnoxious, to no obvious purpose. There actually seem to be two Jordan Peterson parodies–the step-boyfriend of the It’s A Wonderful Life parody protagonist, and the brother of the mayor who escaped from prison and is dressing up as Santa, and might actually be Santa. The second one makes me sigh just to think about the wasted potential. This guy’s like halfway there to being a funny parody of Christmas Evil, but It’s A Wonderful Binge is too weirdly saccharine to do anything interesting with literal criminals. Characters just indifferently shrug at the revelation that someone apparently murdered 26 people.

You might have noticed that almost none of this has anything to do with the movie’s alleged premise, which is that people who’ve been sober for over a year suddenly start to binge on drugs. The trouble with It’s A Wonderful Binge is that there isn’t anywhere for the story to escalate to. When we open up with mascots punching kids and the Christmas Owl going on a rampage, there’s not really a more intense setting. We’re supposed to be invested in a romantic relationship leading to a proposal where the bride-to-be gives her boyfriend an unwanted…orgasm suit I think? Also she’s using complicated means to track and stalk him, and very quickly convinces herself he’s having an affair.

It’s a Wonderful Binge intends all of this to be funny. But it’s not. It’s just stupid, boring nonsense, like one character trying to will himself into doing a “Terminator 2”. Good luck figuring out what that’s supposed to mean in context if you haven’t seen Terminator 2. There is the occasional bright spot of actual nonsense, like a Love Actually tribute that goes wrong because of drugs. That joke works because it’s brief, gets to the point, and still works as nonsense even if you haven’t seen Love Actually, which is why the script doesn’t reference it like it references damn near every reference it references.

Did I really just use the word “reference” four times in that sentence? Well, imagine that the word “reference” is a joke, and that sentence is a typical scene in It’s A Wonderful Binge, and you’ve got a good grasp of the movie’s sense of humor. It’s a lot of wind-up to deliver a joke that’s not really that funny to begin with, and then the movie repeats the joke three times. Then it further explains the joke. Kind of like I’m doing right now. Yeah, I know, this might be a cute way to close out a film review. But believe me, you really don’t want to watch it for more than 90 minutes straight.

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William Schwartz

William Schwartz is a reporter and film critic based in Seoul, South Korea. He writes primarily for HanCinema, the world's largest and most popular English language database for South Korean television dramas and films.

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