The “Achy Breaky Heart” guy is in a mellow mood for the new movie “Christmas in Paradise.”
And now for something completely different: Billy Ray Cyrus in pigtails.
It’s all in a good cause: Cyrus is playing, in a bold stroke of casting, a country music star in Christmas in Paradise, a new comedy set to premiere Nov. 11 in theaters, and Nov. 15 on digital platforms and DVD/Blu-Ray. The big difference between art and life is, Jimmy Love, the character Cyrus portrays, is a mellow fellow sporting hair with a hippie flair — even when he croons “Achy Breaky Heart.”
The movie is a follow-up to the well-received 2021 comedy Father Christmas is Back, with Kelsey Grammer returning as James Christmas, a freewheeling rolling stone who seldom, if ever, feels bound by family ties.
As the sequel begins, it’s just a few days before the Yuletide holiday in London when James’ three daughters — Joanna (Elizabeth Hurley), Caroline (Nathalie Cox) and Paulina (Naomi Frederick) — discover their father has broken up with his fiancée and, according to the credit card bill, has disappeared to the small Caribbean island of Nevis.
Worried that James is in a fragile state, and all alone in the middle of nowhere, the three siblings sisters travel to Nevis to “save” their dad and bring him home for Christmas. But after they arrive — are you ready for this? are you sitting down? — they discover James is pretty damn happy about where life has taken him. Indeed, he’s having the time of his life as he hangs out at beach bars, strumming guitars, singing Christmas songs with his buddy, the wise country star Jimmy Love — and doing yoga on the beach with the beautiful instructor Megan (Victoria Ekanoye).
Director and co-scriptwriter Philippe Martinez says that with the original Father Christmas Is Back having such a uniquely British sensibility, he wanted Christmas in Paradise to have more of an authentically American feel — even with it set in the Caribbean. And, well, you don’t get more American than Billy Ray Cyrus.
Martinez wanted to ratchet up the energy of the film with music, dancing, and laughter, and had already envisioned that James Christmas would have a musician buddy to sing with in beach bars. And with Cyrus on board, he could enhance his movie with a spirited 30th anniversary Caribbean/rock version of Cyrus’ platinum-selling hit “Achy Breaky Heart,” with the island’s local population and visitors dancing and singing along on the beach as Jimmy Love and James Christmas rock out to the new version of the song. Michael Plowman, the film’s music composer, worked with local musicians to create the updated feel to the classic party singalong song.
“We are shooting on an island,” Martinez. “I wanted someone, who just by his presence, by his music, by his look, was real America. That was very important to this film. Billy Ray brings that by just being there. I wanted the whole ‘American vibe’ to it. What I loved about working with him is how passionate and committed he was.”
Also: Cyrus wrote and performed several original songs for the film.
“I knew when I put my hands on this script that it was written with love,” Cyrus says, adding that, “When I started reading it, I said, ‘My God, I am Jimmy Love!’”
Here is a trailer for Christmas in Paradise.