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Genie 2023


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Paul Asay

Movie Review

All that’s missing from Bernard Bottle’s Christmas season is a sock full of coal.

It’s not that he’s landed on Santa’s naughty list. But his wife’s? Yeah, that’s another story. But it’s not his fault. Well, not really.

Is it Bernard’s fault that his boss, Mr. Waxman, makes Ebenezer Scrooge look like Santa Claus’ friendlier cousin? Is it Bernard’s fault that, just when he was about to leave to celebrate his 8-year-old daughter’s birthday, Waxman came in with a well-heeled client who had to see Bernard’s latest work right now? Is it Bernard’s fault that he didn’t know what his daughter, Eve, wanted for her birthday, so he got her a stuffed bear so ugly that even the Island of Misfit Toys wouldn’t accept it?

Well, OK, maybe the last part is kind of Bernard’s fault. But Waxman! How is he supposed to spend time with his family when the guy’s so demanding?

Bernard’s wife, Denée, has heard it all before. “Of course,” she says with a scowl as Eve sleeps on the couch next to her. But (sigh) Bernard is here now. At least they can wake Eve up so that Bernard can give her that birthday present.

But wait! The bear! It’s still at the office! Bernard has already messed up enough tonight. He can’t tell Denée that he messed this up as well, can he? So he dives into the study, pulls out a ratty, bejeweled box, throws it in a plastic bag and gives it to his still sleepy daughter.

“It’s a jewelry box!” Bernard says. “Your first antique!”

Eve is a very polite 8-year-old. She dutifully says, “Thank you,” then staggers off to bed without even taking the thing.

“What she really wanted was a dollhouse,” Denée hisses, “But I’m sure an hour of Dad’s undivided attention would be just as good.”

For Denée, this late evening—the latest in a series of far too late evenings—was the last straw. She tells Bernard that she and Eve are going to spend a few days with Denée’s mom. Or maybe a few weeks.

“We’re moving out for a bit,” she says.

Lump of coal number one.

The next morning, Bernard announces to Waxman that he’ll need some time off—just a couple of weeks to “fight for my marriage.”

Waxman thinks he’ll need more time. Perhaps a few months. Perhaps a few years. “It sort of sounds like you’re firing me,” Bernard says, and sure enough, Waxman is.

Lump of coal number two.

Bernard drags himself back to his empty house. He sees the dingy old box still sitting where Eve left it. With plenty of time on his hands, he picks it up. He rubs it. And—

Well, what do you know, a genie.

Maybe this Christmas season is looking up.

Positive Elements

It’s often said that money can’t buy happiness. Turns out, wishes can’t either. While Flora the genie conjures plenty of things many of us would love to see under our own Christmas trees (including a nifty little Lamborghini), Genie tells us that the greatest gift of all is family—and the only way to preserve it is through time, thoughtfulness and love.

Bernard really is a good guy. It’s just his priorities are out of whack. He needs a little help—a little magical help—who whack them right again.

Flora warms to the task. She’s willing to use just about everything in her bag of wishes (unlimited here; the whole three-wish limit is a myth, Flora says) to patch this fractured family back together.

But while the material wishes that Flora whips up are great and all (and they do indeed help—at least when it comes to Eve), it’s pretty obvious from the get-go that no dollhouse, no matter how big, will instantly fix the deeper relational fractures here. No, for that, Bernard needs to spend time with Eve. And so he does.

Denée is a more difficult mark. She’s not going to be charmed by extravagant gifts or a little extra time. She needs more from Bernard. And Bernard and Flora work hard to figure out what that “more” might look like.

As the film goes on, Flora notices something rather interesting about Bernard: All of his wishes (well, most of them, at any rate), are centered on other people. Bernard is no Scrooge-like character in need of a character overhaul; instead, he’s almost always thinking of others. And by the end of the film, he’s thinking of what he can do for Flora, too—leading to a predictable but heartwarming decision.

Spiritual Elements

As Bernard and Flora sit at a table surrounded by Manhattan bedecked for Christmas, Flora asks Bernard what Christmas is all about.

“It’s become really commercial, but originally it was meant to celebrate the birth of this guy—He’s called Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus?” Flora says. “Are you talking about Mary’s kid?” Apparently, Flora knew Him back in the day—the last time she was out of the box—and she’s curious what He did to become such a big deal.

“He turned out to be the Son of God,” Bernard tells her.

“Oh,” Flora says. “I thought He was kidding.”

She goes on to talk about how financially “under-ambitious” Jesus was back in the day. She’d apparently witnessed a few of His miracles, including Peter’s nets being filled with fish. So she suggested that they open a restaurant, one perhaps named “Oh My Cod.” But alas, Flora says, “Goody two-shoes didn’t want anything to do with that.”

Flora brings up her “old pal JC” again. She tells Bernard that when he’s reading about Jesus in the “bibble” (Bernard corrects her pronunciation) and comes to the part of the multitude gathered before Him, he can think of her … for some reason that I’m not quite sure about.

When Bernard hosts his family for a holiday dinner, Bernard kindly offers his guests (courtesy Flora’s abilities, of course) three wishes of their own. One guest derisively wishes that her husband would “go to hell” during the festivities, and he promptly does. The wife reluctantly wishes him back, and he returns, smoking and a bit charred. He reports that the place is quite hot and that the devil looks like Ricky Gervais.

We see a Nativity scene as part of New York’s decorations. We learn that an evil wizard actually zapped Flora into the box in the first place, and she mulls going back in time to settle the score. A doorman fiddles with the bulb on an electric menorah.

Oh, and yes, there’s the genie in Genie—one who performs all sorts of magic. Her initial appearance involves smoke and the like, and she mentions ghosts and dragons and unicorns. The source for all this magic is never mentioned.

Sexual Content

Flora tries to work her magic in bringing Bernard and Denée back together. Alas, Denée leaves before seeing the rose petals in the bedroom and the bearskin rug on the floor.

Flora and Lennie, the doorman for Bernard’s Manhattan apartment complex, hit it off. “I love a man in uniform,” she tells him. They flirt a bit and call each other “handsome” and “gorgeous,” respectively. Then again, Flora also goes to the movies and crushes on Tom Cruise.

Thinking that the movies depict people as their actual size, Flora frets about whether Cruise might step on her—but then thinks about his big, juicy lips that might kiss her. Throughout the rest of the film, we see various evidences of Flora’s ongoing crush.

Flora dances to a rap song that repeatedly uses the word “booty.” She initially asks Bernard if his wishes will include “girls,” as most wishes apparently do. (There’s a passing reference to one of Flora’s previous clients who had five wives.) She suggests that Bernard perform a mating dance to renew Denée’s interest in him.

Violent Content

When Flora’s first let out of her box, she whips out a knife at a very surprised Bernard brandishes a fireplace poker. (Later, she explains that it was just force of habit.) Flora suggests the knife has gotten quite a bit of use in her previous gigs.

Flora initially offers to kill Flaxman, saying murder is a specialty of hers. “I’m sort of a sword-and-slay gal,” she says. She offers to kill somebody else, too (alleging that it’d be easier to do so than to not do so). And when she sees a bunch of people working out in a gym, she mistakes the place for a torture chamber and shouts that she “will avenge thee.” Flora also trips someone on a sidewalk, sending them sprawling.

In the movie that Flora and Bernard go to, we see Cruise (as Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt) jump off a building ledge and smack into the side of another building.

An apartment catches on fire, predictably drawing firemen to the locale. A police officer says that French prisons are like the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” A boy asking Santa for gifts asks for a rocket launcher. There’s a reference to castration. Someone mistakes Flora as Bernard’s new girlfriend.

Crude or Profane Language

We hear two uses of the word “b–tard” (both by an 8-year-old), one of “d–n” and five misuses of God’s name.

Drug and Alcohol Content

When Flora first appears in Bernard’s living room, a worried Bernard tells her that he will not judge her for “whatever recreational, prescription drug of choice you’ve taken.” Later, when Flora’s questioned by authorities and answers questions truthfully, someone asks her what “prescription drugs” she’s using. “I don’t know,” Flora asks. “What are you offering?”

Several characters drink wine with dinner, and Denée and her mother drink wine during an important conversation. Bernard makes martinis for she and Denée, which they naturally drink.

Eve lets it be known that she knows her father smoked at Denée’s high school reunion without Denée’s knowledge. We see a police poster referencing drugs.

Other Negative Elements

Flora walks in on Bernard when he’s using the restroom. Nothing critical is seen—even by Flora. “Nice chair!” she says as she walks out. Flora washes her hair in a toilet. She blows her nose in one of Bernard’s blankets.

[Spoiler Warning] Bernard’s wishes, and Flora’s ability to grant them instantly, accidentally causes an international incident when the Mona Lisa vanishes from the Louvre. The mix-up is eventually resolved.


It’s probably impossible to say how many Christmas movies are out there. IMDb lists more than 1,000, but my guess is that far more lurk behind the tinsel.

Now we can add one more to the list. But like Santa, plan on checking it twice before watching this one.

Genie feels a little like a nice Christmas sweater wrapped in a refrigerator box, with the empty space filled by all those packing peanuts. The story, such as it is, could be pretty sweet and, ultimately, wholesome.

But it’s worth about 30 minutes of your time, and the movie itself is more than 90. The rest of it is stuffed with dead-end jokes paired with nonsensical decisions and plot turns that make you go, “Huh?” And as likable as stars Melissa McCarthy and Paapa Essiedu are here, they’re hardly enough to warrant too much consideration for regular holiday viewing.

That said, kids, and even families, might enjoy this lightweight Christmas confection—if they can navigate the movie’s PG-level toilet humor, a surprising number of drug references and some rather odd allusions to Jesus. But hey, at least they mentioned Christ in a Christmas movie, right?

That feels pretty apropos for a movie like this. It has some problems, but at least it’s kinda clean. It doesn’t make sense, but at least it winds up in a good place. It could’ve been better, but at least it doesn’t make you want to flush your eyes out with bleach.

This film isn’t a prime present underneath the cinematic tree. But if you can navigate its problems, it makes for an OK stocking stuffer.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.