Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Because of my impeccable taste, for 353 days I watch only the most sophisticated and enriching of entertainments. But during the holiday season, I have made a tradition of finding the worst possible Christmas-centric TV movies (usually from the powerhouse film factory at the ABC FAMILY network), getting loaded on bourbon, and watching third-rate basic cable actors teach us all about the meaning of the holiday. These are the reviews of those movies.



Here's a true story; I liked this movie. Quite a bit. I may have been choking back a few tears while my bride shouted "Why are we watching this??!? This is terrible!!"

So I took an extra day to digest it. And I had a few glasses of Tennessee sour mash whiskey to process everything. It helped!

Let's review. These stupid movies have a formula, rarely tweaked.  A fox has to choose between two men, one is usually wealthy, one is a hunk. She is either a successful workaholic who learns to blow off steam, or a walking disaster who pulls her shit together. And somewhere in the middle the "christmas spirit" gets name-checked, like HASTUR when you're playing CALL OF CTHULU. It's a concept always hanging in the aether, waiting to fuck up your world.

The key to these terrible movies being tolerable is charisma. You have to like either the fox or the hunk. They have to be able to turn dumdum scripts into affable conversation. It's a specific skill that a certain type of actor has. They usually are stars of shows on TBS, or some other channel where likable people go to fade away in front of the elderly, or the basic.

This brings us to 12 DATES OF CHRISTMAS. It stars Amy Smart, who is a ferocious fox, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who has been hunking around TV for a lifetime. Both are charming, good-looking people, who can convincingly portray attractive singles who desperately want to get down on each other. Amy Smart, in particular, takes this stupid movie and just walks away with it and all like "suck it, network TV". She's great! What the hell? We are through the looking glass here, people. She is a Fox with an ex she can't get over, and a job she is too devoted to, and a hunk on the horizon she completely misses. It's straight-up bizness as usual at ABC Family. But goddamn if this fucker didn't win me over. 

Look, Amy Smart is hell of good at being a romantic lead. Mark-Paul Gosselaar is formerly Zach Morris. That show was awful, but he is a dude was raised inside a TV set; chances are he will learn how to behave in from of a camera and other actors. Although I suppose plenty of kid actors grow up to be terrible. That's a bummer, right? At some point, we, as a culture, have to reconcile how we put children through a ringer just so they can deliver a few yuks on a sitcom. My guess is that it's probably not worth it, but what do I know? Zack Morris spent his teen years getting handys from Tiffany-Amber Theissen (CONJECTURE ON MY PART) while I spent my adolescence watching SAVED BY THE BELL even though I hated it. (To be fair, I watched a lot of television. SAVED BY THE BELL was not required viewing, it was just one more thing that was being broadcast while the TV set was on, and I was planted in front of it. There's no way to account for the hours I spent watching shit of that nature. I watched too much TV. I have regrets on this subject.)

12 DATES OF CHRISTMAS has problems. This is not actually a "good" movie, I guess. It's a rip-off of GROUNDHOG'S DAY, No doubt about it. And there's no clear arc for the characters, particularly the Fox. She starts to relive the same day over and over again, and immediately starts fixing the world, in pieces and small doses. Her learning curve makes no sense at all. There's too many threads in the plot, and even though the Fox wraps them all up in pretty clever ways, it takes a long time to get there. My wife was bored as the dickens you guys. She was not entertained.

I liked it. I liked it without shame. It has problems! I admit this. The pacing was bonkers and you never quite get what is motivating the Fox. But I'll be damned if it didn't get to me! She learns to love and respect her step-mom, she bonds with random elderly people, she plays matchmaker for a couple of attractive supporting actors, and she falls for Zack Morris. Oh, yeah, she also finds a way for an orphaned teen to keep a puppy. I dare you cynical fucks to get a little drunk, watch this movie, and not get a little weepy. 

It's not a bad way to spend 86 minutes. I am as surprised as anyone. Leave me alone.

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