How the Gringo Stole Christmas (2023) – Review

“How the Gringo Stole Christmas” is a prime example of how not to shoot a comedy.


Community Rating: 75% (1 votes)

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“How the Gringo Stole Christmas” General Information

Director(s) Angel Garcia
Screenplay By Ezequiel Martinez, Jr.
Based On N/A
Date Released (Video On Demand) December 1, 2023
Genre(s) Comedy

Romance

Holiday

Film Length 1 Hour, 21  Minutes
Content Rating Rated PG-13
Noted Characters and Cast
Claudia Emily Tosta
Leif Jack Kilmer
Bennie George Lopez

“How the Gringo Stole Christmas” Film Summary

“How the Gringo Stole Christmas” is a punny title that might make you chuckle, but that’s the most you’ll get out of this holiday movie. The meet-the-Mexican-parents story has a committed cast, but a predictable script and questionable camera choices make this potential Christmas treasure feel like a hastily-made cheap toy. 

how the gringo stole christmas 3
George Lopez and Jack Kilmer star in “How the Gringo Stole Christmas” (Lionsgate, 2023)

Set in East LA, “How the Gringo Stole Christmas” begins with Claudia (Emily Tosta) explaining how Christmas looks a little different where she grew up, but that her Mexican family made the most of it. Her dad, Bennie (George Lopez), wants to have a large, traditional Mexican-American Christmas with his family, but what exactly this tradition entails is left a mystery. Bennie is excited to have his daughter come home for the holiday. Unfortunately for Bennie, his daughter is a full-grown woman with her own career, relationship, and life in New York. Claudia’s boyfriend, Leif (Jack Kilmer), is a successful game developer who sees how much her family means to her, so he buys her a trip home for Christmas. The only problem is that Leif is coming too, and Claudia’s family doesn’t know he exists.

Leif is white. I say this because, as the title implies, this is 99% of where the movie’s conflicts and humor are supposed to come from. The fish-out-of-water premise is a classic comedy trope, but once Leif meets Claudia’s family, the movie starts to fall apart when its comedy should start to strengthen. I can see the jokes and comedy set pieces, but the execution of the set pieces (Leif giving the mom a massage, Bennie choking on Christmas lights, a live chicken in the kitchen) feels sluggish and more off-putting than funny. How does someone choke on Christmas lights? Why would a live chicken be in the oven? Worse yet, the repetition of Bennie’s control over Claudia’s life feels more creepy and selfish than funny. 

“How the Gringo Stole Christmas” should be a movie for Mexican families to enjoy, and maybe they will, but Mexican families deserve better than this. From confusing editing cuts to odd choices in camera placements, the movie feels like it wasn’t fully planned out before production started. 

Content Rating Explanation

“How the Gringo Stole Christmas” is rated PG-13 due to discussions of sex, drugs, and some violence. 

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member.

Claudia

Claudia is a young woman in New York who’s thriving in her career and romantic relationship, but when her dad asks her to come home for Christmas, she feels obligated to return. She’s torn between what her boyfriend and her father want for her.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Mayans M.C..”

Leif

Leif is a successful game developer who is eager to prove his love and devotion to his girlfriend, Claudia. While he plans to propose to her and earn the approval of her family, a big hurdle he has to overcome is Claudia’s father. 

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Palo Alto.”

Bennie

Bennie is Claudia’s excited and overprotective father. He may love Christmas and his family, but he loathes change and sees any suggestion that opposes his wants as a threat to him and his family. The primary threat is Leif.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “The George Lopez Show.”
how the gringo stole christmas 2
Emily Tosta, Mariana Treviño, chihuahua, and George Lopez in “How the Gringo Stole Christmas” (Lionsgate, 2023)

Discussion Items

Let us know your thoughts in the comments:

  1. What did you think of “How the Gringo Stole Christmas?” Were the continuity errors and film goofs distracting, or did you enjoy the movie? 

“How the Gringo Stole Christmas” Review


Community Rating: 75% (1 votes)


Our Rating: Negative (Acquired Taste)

Low Points

Poor Execution of Comedy

The new-boyfriend-meets-parents is a common but always intriguing premise in comedy and holiday movies because it happens every year. “How the Gringo Stole Christmas” repeatedly trips over its own jokes and set pieces by trying to rush to the punchline. There’s no proper buildup to Bennie choking himself with his own Christmas lights or a live chicken being kept in the oven. Is Leif being good at landscaping supposed to be funny? “How the Gringo Stole Christmas” would have benefited from more reactions and patience in building its jokes. 

Rushed Pre-Production, Filming, and Post-Production?

Making a movie is hard. Making a good movie is even harder. “How the Gringo Stole Christmas” reminds us of this when the camera awkwardly moves mid-scene, when using B-roll footage instead of close-ups of characters, or when the audio isn’t syncing with people’s mouths. While the handheld camerawork can sometimes add to the chaos of the scene, the repeated dance montages feel like lazy inclusions to pad the movie’s running time. The editing, camerawork, and direction all make the movie feel like a confusing rush instead of a funny story. 

On The Fence

Dad’s Obsession with Daughter

how the gringo stole christmas 1

In this genre of comedy, most parents are overprotective. But in “How in the Gringo Stole Christmas,” Bennie is so insufferable and naive that he thinks his 23-year-old daughter hasn’t had sex with her boyfriend yet. While George Lopez does what he can with the character (his monologue about Christmas with his dad is genuinely touching), Bennie’s obsession with being right comes off as insufferable rather than funny. 

Who Is This For?

Fans of George Lopez, Mexican-American comedies, and family holiday movies might enjoy “How the Gringo Stole Christmas.”

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. About My Father
  2. Blue Beetle
  3. Primo

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

how the gringo stole christmas 3
How the Gringo Stole Christmas (2023) – Review
Overall
“How the Gringo Stole Christmas” should be a movie for Mexican families to enjoy, and maybe they will, but Mexican families deserve better than this. From confusing editing cuts to odd choices in camera placements, the movie feels like it wasn’t fully planned out before production started. 
Highlights
Disputable
Poor Execution of Comedy
Rushed Pre-Production, Filming, and Post-Production?
Dad’s Obsession with Daughter
67

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