Holiday Movie Reviews 2017: Family for Christmas

I’m here, you’re here, Lacey Chabert, star of one of my favourites, Matchmaker Santa, is here. It must be time for another Christmas film! This one is going to throw us all a curveball – it’s Family for Christmas.

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Please note: awards and mirror lights

So Lacey, aka Hanna, is in what I can only assume is meant to be an airport, but which looks more like a wooden wardrobe. She’s clearly off somewhere! Ben is here! He’s bought her loads of magazines and newspapers FOR HER INTERNSHIP (so we know she’s flying off to do an internship, guys, keep up)

And he’s got her a present too! “It’s a key… to my heart”. I actually paused and looked up in shock that something so bad had been said within the first two minutes of the film. Luckily he realises how stupid he sounded. But she’s going away for SIX MONTHS! How will he cope? Lacey-Hanna says it’ll give him time to finish his novel.

CUT TO TEN YEARS LATER!

We’re in San Francisco, and there’s Hanna’s face in an advert on a bench, so I think we can safely say Ben had plenty of time to finish that novel, cos she clearly never went back to the wooden wardrobe.

She’s on a stake-out. She’s a high-powered journalist on the trail of some Christmas scammer. She’s badass. Ratings are through the roof. Every story she touches is gold. Her director says, “people are calling, texting, tweeting”, which makes me LOL because I think it is meant to show to us how down with the kids the filmmakers are. Her junior colleague Carrie has a story she wants to pitch & Hanna’s all, “yes of course, share your idea with me budding journo”, then says she’s too busy to hear it & could she put it in an email, which sounded really rude to me, but her colleague is thrilled. Putting it simply, we’re knee-deep in Christmas Movie Career Lady Cliche hell.

Just to lay that on a little bit thicker, our friend Hanna is also a bit of a Scrooge. “I’ve got nothing against Christmas, as long as it looks good on camera”, she says. OH CHRIST. THIS FILM. GIVE ME A BREAK.

BREAK GRANTED:

This song has nothing to do with the film, but there aren’t any pictures online of Career Lady Hanna, so it breaks things up a bit.

BACK TO HANNA! She’s getting promoted! She’s going to be Special News Correspondent for the New York Bureau. Real job title, folks. There’s a bloke in a Santa costume outside her news channel building collecting for charity, and Hanna, all heart as she is, stops to pop a few coins in the bucket. Santa asks her how she knows which stories are real, and she says, “you have to trust your instincts”, to which Santa nods sagely.

Now we’re back in Hanna’s swanky apartment with a wonderful view, which is what all Christmas-hating Career Ladies have.

Meeting at work! Hanna’s director (he’s called Grant) is telling everyone how great Hanna is, but by this point I’d realised she and he were also, ahem, spending some quality time together, which seems a bit conflict of interest. Anyway Hanna is going to do her assistant’s story, but she’s trampled all over Carrie’s good bits and is patronising her, and we are meant to be going boo, hiss, to this heartless crone lady who thinks a career is somehow a good thing.

And I forgot: no snow.

(Things are about to go a bit batshit but I urge you to keep up, because there was actually quite a surprising outcome, for me at least)

Ding! Friend request! Fake Facebook or other fake film social networks always make me chortle, but it’s old boyf Ben! That’s thrown things! #TeamBen already. Hanna just ignores it, because she’s off to the office Christmas party. Uh oh. “Tell me Grant, if someone from your past contacts you on the internet, what do you do?”, asks Hanna. Is she stupid? (In case you’re wondering what to do, Grant says block, cos ulterior motives)

SPEECH TIME! The big boss wants to tell everyone Hanna is going to New York. The entire Christmas party seems to have been thrown to tell people this. Is literally everything about her? Grant didn’t know she was going, anyway, but he’s happy for her – and celebrates by delivering THE LINE OF THE FILM SO FAR: “let’s face it Hanna, people like you and me, we’re only in love with our careers”…

So there’s Hanna wistfully looking at Ben’s profile, when Charity Collector Santa pops in and says some weird shit and winks. I dunno. Hanna has a box in her wardrobe & in it is the key! Santa’s words echo in her mind & I think we are meant to infer she is making a wish…

OK SIT UP, because this is where this film gets good.

Because Hanna goes to sleep toute seule in the swanky flat – but wakes up with a dog in her face and two kids bouncing on the bed saying “wake up mummy”. She’s mortified. She has woken up in an alternative reality where she married Ben and lives with him in the suburbs. He seems quite annoying, but that’s a nice house, albeit one with terrible ornaments in the garden. She tries to get back into her old building but the concierge won’t let her in; it’s the same scenario at her office. In this parallel universe, assistant Carrie is now the hot-shot reporter. Same Santa though! Hanna berates him. But he can’t help her, he says it’s just her wish that came true. It’s just her thinking “what if?” about Ben, and now it’s 4real.

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Ben + kids = new/old family

She accepts all of this with a lot more grace than I would have.

Her “friend” Tammy shows up and Hanna’s trying to get info out of her about her life, and in doing so learns that she doesn’t have a job and is meant to be hosting a party that night. SOUNDS LIKE ME! Ben is trying to work out why his wife of 10 years appears to have had some kind of breakdown. He too is handling this with a lot more grace than I would.

It’s nearly time for the party, so she’s had a shower but apparently in full make-up which doesn’t smudge or run, which is another thing I love in films. The kids look at their mother like she’s bats, then she emotionally blackmails them into cooking for the party so she doesn’t have to, and I’m pretty sure she wore this dress in Matchmaker Santa. Her friends think she’s bats too.

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Party time!

This party looks fun! Genuinely. Great Christmas lights on the house as well. (Side note: why do people in films always go to bed with the lights on?) We learn basically nothing from this party. Another excellent plot cul-de-sac.

But it’s the next day – and how is she going to get the kids to school if she doesn’t know where the school is? She has cleverly convinced the girls that it’s because of CHRISTMAS. She’s lost her mind due to Christmas! And she gets the girls to agree to help her – reminding her about after-school clubs and snacks and so on.

Now it’s time for a section of the film I will call “Dog Lols”. Hanna has to navigate looking after the family pet, a mega hound called Toby. She also finds a load of photos, conveniently of key moments in her life, on her phone.

(This film is like a low-rent Sliding Doors, but it actually did make me think, as we sometimes end up doing, about what if my life had taken a different route? And this is not what I was expecting – that this crap Christmas movie would actually make me think…)

But what’s this, in all my/Hanna’s thinking, she’s late to collect the girls from school. The children are fiendishly disappointed, because she hasn’t baked cookies for their Christmas pageant; Ben is fiendishly disappointed because she got pizza, and “we only have pizza on birthdays and holidays”. Po-faced twit.

Uh oh. Today is the Christmas pageant at school. Hanna can’t handle it, she is going to need help but the girls are on strike, they’ve decided they hate the woman who can’t remember being their mother. BEST BIT! COOKIE BAKING MONTAGE! Lacey was a baker in her other film so I’m surprised she can’t remember how, but she can’t, because she burns them.

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What, you’re not enjoying the pageant?

Ben is worried about her, but she’s knuckling down and starting to get better at her new/old life, she helps decorate the school for Christmas and gets better at making the bed. She preps her husband’s coffee and picks what look like goji berries out of her daughter’s cereal for her.

The kids go to see Santa and yep, it’s the same one who got Hanna into this mess. He winks at her, which does throw Ben a bit, as I’d imagine it would if an old man dressed as Santa winked at your mad wife. But uh oh, because Carrie the assistant-turned-big-shot-news-reporter IS HERE AT THE SCHOOL DOING A NEWS REPORT.  Would you credit it, a decoration falls on Carrie, and Hanna for some reason picks up the microphone and does the report, flawlessly, to the utter bafflement of everyone.

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News reporting like an absolute boss

Somehow this ends up on fake YouTube & the girls are watching it…

Can we all guess what is going to happen here? Then Hanna’s phone goes. It’s Grant! Old news director boyf man. And he wants to interview her, because she was so great in that viral video, and maybe she could come and work with them. Seems highly plausible, doesn’t it? It’s a slightly weird interview because of course, Hanna kind of knows everything about the station and the news. But she’s got a good idea about putting real people on the news (yawn) and about how important family is, and it looks like she’s back in!

So we’re back to where Hanna started? She’s in the news! Ben is less sure because she can’t possibly have a job when she has children to look after. I’m not sure what century we’re in. She suggests moving closer to the city but Ben is really not down with this.

Except he spies on Hanna and the girls looking at old photos and then it’s all fine – he realises it might be OK for a woman to have a job. Great. Or is it? Because she needs to go to another interview, but it has to be tonight, but tonight is the school pageant! What will Hanna choose? Somehow she does both but then she doesn’t take the job, so I have no idea why we just wasted the last 20 minutes on that plot arc.

And then she wakes up and she’s back in her old life! Bitchy news reporter life! And asleep in what looks like a bridesmaid’s dress. She’s very upset. She tries to drive to their house but it’s just some cranky man there now, not Ben and the kids. No one knows her in the area. She’s going to get arrested for sitting outside her kids’ school if this carries on. She doesn’t want her old swanky job.

Santa rocks up again and perhaps he can help. I don’t think he can, because he can’t change the choices she’s made in the past. But of COURSE, she can change her future! Silly us! Hanna is nice now! Key in hand, she’s going to accept Ben’s friend request and meet him, and if this was the real world, he’d bring his wife. (I’m not bitter)

They meet up and they’ve been thinking about each other a lot, so yay. And would you believe, they take each other’s arms and off they trot into the snow.

In summary: this film has some (a lot) of issues. But for some reason, I can’t stop thinking about it, and the “what if I’d gone through that door, not this one?”-type issues it raised. Makes me long for the days of Dean Cain, Kristy Swanson and a massive dog – which, as luck would have it, is very close to the next subject for this review…

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About gnidrah

Television, books, music, sports, cooking. I only get paid for one of them.
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17 Responses to Holiday Movie Reviews 2017: Family for Christmas

  1. I just want one of these movies to be about a super ambitious career woman who remains super ambitious and ends up the CEO of a huge company, which the guy she falls in love with thinks is awesome because he’s not a tool.

    (Also, isn’t there a Nicholas Cage movie with this exact same plot??)

    • welcometocostcoiloveyou says:

      You are right! I just looked it up, and it’s called Family Man. Here is the IMDB plot description:

      A fast-lane investment broker, offered the opportunity to see how the other half lives, wakes up to find that his sports car and girlfriend have become a mini-van and wife.

      • Now I want Hallmark retellings of every Nic Cage movie.

        • hotspur says:

          Best New Party Game!

          Wicker Man: Nicolas Cage is a kind policeman who moves to a remote island to pursue the girl he crushed on in high school. But she has become the powerful leader of a beekeeping cult, and swears she has no time for him. As the island’s big May Day party approaches, will he warm her heart and become her honey?

        • Ghost Rider: just Ghost Rider, but Lacey Chabert is Ghost Rider.

        • hotspur says:

          It is like I have learned nothing from gnid’s writeups — I’m realizing only now that in the Hallmark version, our female lead would not head a cult. She would be founder and CEO of an important honey company. I APOLOGIZE, GNID.

          National Treasure: Career woman Lacey Chabert rekindles romance and bonds anew with her family by joining them on a holiday treasure hunt.

        • collin0truckasaurus says:

          Face/Off: Some plastic surgery nonsense where best frienemies swap faces at their magazine job or something. They learn about the other’s perspective. V. good.

      • gnidrah says:

        Honey company is spot on. Is there money in these films? Should we be making them ourselves?

    • gnidrah says:

      I still believe that this movie is out there and I will eventually chance upon it. As the late great George once said, “you gotta have faith”.

  2. welcometocostcoiloveyou says:

    OMG – the Photoshop in that top photo. It barely looks like Lacey Chabert. I also assumed from that picture that she was a realtor.

    Waking up in an alternate life where I have to bake cookies and take care of two kids sounds like a horror movie, but I too appreciate stories that explore the different paths we end up on.

    • gnidrah says:

      I didn’t even pass comment on the airbrushing in that photo, cos I couldn’t find the words. She could be anyone in that pic, truly.

      And yeah, I would not particularly want her alternative life (though I’ll take the cookies) but it’s always that thing of, “what if I had said yes instead of no…” or, “what if I had said no instead of yes…” I guess this one appealed because no Gwyneth…

  3. hotspur says:

    Wow. I feel like this movie is very close to how I will experience dementia in 40 years. “Are you my wife? I married my childhood sweetheart, you know, and we have a large family in Yonkers. Otherwise, I would have invented the internet. I decided never to marry, you know, so that I could work on my invention, the internet. Maybe you’ve seen it? The internet? I made a YouTube once. Shhh, the lightbulb is telling me what to eat. It whispers.”

    • gnidrah says:

      It certainly struck me as being close to some very heartrending stories I’ve read of people who’ve suffered horrendous memory loss due to stroke, etc. I really do wonder if they pull the various characters/dilemmas/scenarios out of a hat and just arrange them in a different order each time.

  4. collin0truckasaurus says:

    This line is the most accurate: “Key in hand, she’s going to accept Ben’s friend request and meet him, and if this was the real world, he’d bring his wife. (I’m not bitter)”

    It’s this total movie cliche where the first person you meet/date/kiss/whatever is the person you’re meant to be with. Fun fact: it’s not! There’s always a reason it didn’t work out and usually it’s because you grow up and find out you’re different people and also that’s just not how it goes.

    Anyway, I get annoyed with these “you can’t have a family AND a career” movies. Most people do. Most women over a certain age at my company have kids and it’s not even a thing. And those who don’t, don’t. It’s not a thing at ALL. And if you have a career, it’s not because you missed out on your one chance at love.

    Also I feel like I’m taking this movie WAY too seriously.

    • gnidrah says:

      I’m just happy you’re taking it as seriously as I do! It annoys me as well about the first/true love thing, because even though I know it’s “romantic” and that it can and does work out for some people, for the vast majority of us it doesn’t – and that’s no bad thing!

      I also know that people do have discussions about going back to work after a baby – but everyone I know, that discussion is, who is going to earn enough so that we can keep a roof over our heads and afford to care for us and our child?!

      Next film is a corker – hopefully due next week with the review!!

    • gnidrah says:

      And thank you for “if you have a career it’s not because you missed out on your one chance at love”. I needed that right now!

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