Take a few holiday comedies of recent years — “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and especially “Jingle All The Way” — mix them together in the eggnog bowl, and you have “Click and Collect.”
The hour-long British comedy special premieres on Christmas Eve on BritBox, the streaming service for the BBC and ITV. And even though the premise is as familiar as those threadbare stockings hauled out of the closet every year, it’s an amiable and witty dose of Christmas cheer.
Much of the credit goes to the casting of Stephen Merchant and Asim Chaudhury as neighbors who are thrown together in a Christmas Eve quest to find the perfect gift.
Merchant plays Andrew, an uptight accountant and father. He has the holiday's prized toy (a plastic unicorn named Sparklehoof) his daughter covets in his hands at the toy store, but balks at the inflated price tag and storms off. When he realizes his error, it’s too late — all the stores are sold out.
Except for one store about 200 miles away. Andrew’s neighbor, the enthusiastic busybody Dev, orders a Sparklehoof on his behalf. Now all the two neighbors have to do is drive out and get it.
Which, of course, is a journey that turns out to be full of obstacles, from car trouble to credit card theft to a homeless man with a strong resemblance to Jolly Saint Nick.
Merchant and Chaudhury are an appealing mismatched pair, looking like a whooping crane and a teddy bear next to each other on screen. Merchant, who co-created "The Office" and "Extras" with Ricky Gervais, brings a dose of dry, tight-smiled exasperation to Andrew, who barely endures his neighbor’s attempts at camaraderie. Dev, meanwhile, is like a big exuberant kid, and the way Chaudhury reveals the loneliness beneath his extroversion will remind many viewers of the late John Candy in "Planes, Trains."
The filmmakers know they aren’t plowing new ground here. There’s even a reference to “Jingle All The Way.” But it’s executed well enough to put a smile on the face of even the most hardened Grinch.
Also on streaming: The Wisconsin-made indie film “Aquarians” has played in some festivals around the state, including the Beloit International Film Festival and the Driftless Film Festival. It also got a small theatrical run elsewhere in the state, but not in Madison.
Now the film is streaming on Amazon Prime. Michael W. McGuire, a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, based the film on his experiences growing up. “Aquarians” stars Chandler Massey as Danny, a 20-something priest who returns to his Wisconsin hometown (the film was shot in Marinette) to fill in for the ailing local priest (Richard Riehle). While there, he reconnects with old friends and family, including his ne’er-do-well brother Jake (Shane Coffey), from whom Danny has been estranged since a family tragedy.
Comedian Brian Regan is one of the reigning masters of stand-up comedy, one that others like Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan look up to for his abilities. Now Regan makes the leap to Netflix with “Stand Up and Away,” a new four-episode series premiering on Christmas Eve. Like “Seinfeld,” the show mixes stand-up and narrative scenes inspired by the jokes.