Holiday in Handcuffs (2007) — Class A felonies are so romantic!

“I hope you aren’t expecting a lot from Santa. A federal offense probably puts you on the naughty list this year.”

Justin’s rating: Would’ve loved to been a fly on the wall of the writer’s room for this one

Justin’s review: So far in my Mutant Reviewing history, I have (as far as I recall) ignored the Yultide-industrial complex known as “Hallmark movies.” My wife? My wife gobbles these up at the rate of two, three a day. Which is, ironically, about as fast as the Hallmark channel churns out these sappy romantic seasonal tales (41 original new Christmas movies in 2021 alone, people). It’s a lot of predictable comfort food that melds together the romcom and Christmas movies into a product that’s as bad for you — and as irresistible — as drinking moonshine.

But it’s not like Hallmark has a monopoly on making people smooch at Christmas. I heard promising things about ABC’s Holiday in Handcuffs, so this is where I’m going to start my great romcom Christmas movie reviewing career. Probably where I’m going to stop it, too.

The primary rule of all romcoms, as I understand it, is that you have to take two wildly different people and somehow smoosh them together through a bizarre setup. As the title implies here, this movie will be dealing with kidnapping, a subject which would be downright disturbing if it was a guy doing it to a girl or Kathy Bates doing it to James Caan. Here, it’s socially acceptable because it’s Melissa Joan Hart doing it to Mario Lopez.

So Hart is Trudie, a waitress who’s in the process of a psychotic breakdown. She accidentally gives herself a perm, misses an interview, gets dumped by her boyfriend, and has her mother pressuring her to show up for Christmas Eve cocktails with said ex-boyfriend. Naturally, Trudie calmly goes to the 7-11, buys a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, and declares that December 24th will be her, a couch, and a really good book.

Ahaha I’m kidding. No, what Trudie actually does is swipe an antique Revolutionary War pistol from her boss and force a customer to get into her car so that he will pose as her boyfriend for said cocktails. FOOLPROOF.

Our victim is David, played by Mario Lopez, who doesn’t really seem to struggle as hard as a human being would if abducted by someone with this bad of a perm. He’s got to know he’s about six hours from his skin being used as a pair of slippers, but David’s like, “Oh, these pantyhose I’m tied up with, I can’t break free! This is my kryptonite!” He deserves everything that’s coming to him, I say.

As David is busy not getting free, Trudie obtains a pair of love handcuffs from a very creepy gas station attendant to latch him to her side, and now we’re at the title of the movie. She also convinces her parents that “Nick” will say anything under awkward situations and that they’re to ignore his raspy pleas for help. They go along with this, because the writers backed themselves into a logical corner and HEY LOOK OUT, IT’S SANTA!

Seriously, the most amusing facet of this film is watching the scriptwriters come up with increasingly implausible ways to keep this premise going. David tries to run for help? The cabin is incredibly isolated in the woods. David tries to call for help? The whole family eschews phones for “bonding time.” David tries to drive for help? Trudie volunteers to be the “key master” (Ghostbusters help us) and hides all of the keys. And Trudie will say anything like the sociopath she is to keep David in his place.

David doesn’t outright physically overpower Trudie as a last resort, so, again, he deserves everything that’s coming to him.

I’m not exactly sure why we’re supposed to be rooting for these two wackos to get together, but I started to dread the inevitable moment when David would succumb to Stockholm Syndrome and decide that this future felon was his dream girl:

Holiday in Handcuffs obviously hoped to strike up a quirky, against-all-odds-they-fall-in-love tone, but I can’t get over how stupid all of this is. It’s so weird and uncomfortable, with Trudie’s family coming across as just as deranged as she is. I guess falling in love with Trudie is marginally better than becoming a human puppet in the soundproof cellar, but only just.

I should also mention that this family movie decides to throw in a lot of random references to sex, and each and every one of them is as uncomfortable as your grandma mentioning how handsy her new boyfriend is.

At least all of this insanity wasn’t boring, and since it probably gave at least two TV writers aneurysms, I figure that someone learned their lesson about making a plot so convoluted that it ends up ruining Christmas forever.

Didja notice?

  • Mario Lopez called me a devil once. I never got over it.
  • That is a very unfortunate hat she’s wearing
  • Yeah, throwing yourself against a window is a great way to get a job
  • The whole restaurant thing is next-level cringe
  • Spin-kicking your way to unconsciousness
  • Guess that super-ancient gun was loaded and still capable of being fired?
  • Thanks for the love handcuffs, creepy gas station guy!
  • Sleepin’ in bunk beds
  • “You can’t keep him, he’s not a puppy”
  • “She spanks you and does naughty things ohhooOOHhh!”
  • The maid pulling back the drink from the woman to make her fall down was legitimately funny
  • You, um, can’t flush a cellphone
  • Bo-Bo Bonkers
  • This family is really into mistletoe
  • Mom has underwear dreams and lusts after Clint Eastwood
  • The word “boink” was used in this movie
  • And now a second “boink”
  • These are terrible gifts
  • Cranky drunk grandma is best grandma
  • Aaaaand Mario Lopez without his shirt. Someone at ABC was fulfilling a childhood dream, methinks.
  • Uh, when did he have time to put up that many lights outside?
  • All of the camera tricks to hide the fact it’s not Hart skating
  • The mom is so drunk at dinner
  • “Is she having a Civil War flashback?” bwahaha

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