With Christmas coming, we look back at the much-maligned Bond girl with the silly seasonal name played by Denise Richards in 1999's 'The World is Not Enough.'
Look up any poll or column from recent years on the worst Bond girls ever, and Dr Christmas Jones comes up every time. It's not hard to see why. As much as Bond girls generally demand a little suspension of disbelief (in common with pretty much everything else in Bond world), this one is really pushing it.
And how does she push it? Let us count the ways. Casting Denise Richards, fresh from her turn as a high school cheerleader seductress in 'Wild Things', as a seasoned doctor of nuclear physics? Check. Proceeding to dress her in Lara Croft-esque short-shorts and midriff-riding tank top, followed by a succession of unnaturally tight T-shirts? Check. Then of course there's that name, which doesn't seem to exist for any other reason than to facilitate the Roger Moore-esque lines in the final minutes: "I've always wanted to have Christmas in Turkey," and the closing zinger: "I thought Christmas only comes once a year…"
So, is Christmas Jones' reputation as one of the worst Bond girls deserved? I wish I could say otherwise, but there really are no two ways about it; she's a terrible character, horrendously miscast, thrown into completely the wrong film - and, in a sense, she's emblematic of the split personality that impeded the Pierce Brosnan movies.
The success of 'Goldeneye' and 'Tomorrow Never Dies' meant audiences had accepted Brosnan as Bond in a way they sadly never had Timothy Dalton, and Brosnan had been quote vocal about his desire to go a bit deeper with the series; to make the movies more complex and character-based. 'The World is Not Enough' was intended as a first step in this slightly different direction, presenting us with a more volatile Bond on a mission with greater ramifications for himself and those close to him.
However, Brosnan was also considerably more at ease with the innuendo-ridden humour which didn't come so naturally to Dalton, or subsequently Daniel Craig (by his own admission). This being the 1990s, Bond was now a 'new lad' icon; smut and lechery were very much back on the agenda - from which perspective casting Denise Richards made perfect sense, as no one can deny she certainly looks good.
As an actress, though, Richards was utterly lost at sea; it's almost impossible to hear her discuss disarming nuclear bombs without smirking. We can't pin the blame entirely on her, though; she is underserved by the script, writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (who went on to pen the next four Bonds) seemingly too busy giving Sophie Marceau's Elektra King an interesting character arc to come up with anything so substantial for Christmas.
We might also note that other actresses to test for Christmas reportedly include Geri Halliwell (fresh from quitting the Spice Girls) and Tiffany-Amber Thiessen (formerly of TV's 'Saved By the Bell'), so to be quite frank, it's clear that Eon were never aiming especially high with this character.
None of this means that 'The World is Not Enough' is necessarily one of the worst Bond films ever (although we might ponder that of Brosnan's swansong 'Die Another Day'); just that it tries to achieve a tricky balance between honouring series tradition and breaking new ground dramatically, but fails, and Christmas Jones is a key part of that failure. 'Skyfall' finally managed it in 2012 - notably without a feeble Christmas Jones-alike in sight.
Are we right to call Christmas Jones one of the worst Bond girls? If not, who's worse? We expect you to talk in the comments section below.
Ben Bussey is a freelance writer, comic book movie and sci-fi/fantasy/horror enthusiast, and a huge Bond fan. At a push, his favourite Bond girl is probably Famke Janssen's Xenia Onatopp from 'Goldeneye.'
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