Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bayside Cheese In Your Stocking: Holiday In Handcuffs

As I cycle through the ABC Family Channel and Lifetime's Christmas themed offerings, I'm noticing a few repetitve themes about, apparently,  the extreme difficulty attractive women face around the holidays. Among them:

-Overbearring families

-Seemingly perfect siblings
-Job trouble
-Randomly available and readily employed suitors

-Slow-motion stress buildups that show just how noisy life really is
-Living in huge apartments despite aforementioned job trouble

Holiday In Handcuffs--not a porn, although the title and premise scream for one--features all these threads, but beats the likes of Snowglobe and Golden Christmas (about a magical golden retriever who reunites childhood sweethearts and has puppies who she then abandons, natch) because it also includes a climax that involves figure skating.

Hence, best Christmas movie since Silent Night Deadly Night 2.

Quick Plot: Poor Trudie (Clarissa, giving a slightly better performance than in Nine Dead) lives in a sprawling but messy loft apartment and works as a diner waitress while trying to get a sales job set up by her dad (the increasingly eerily George Bush Jr. resembling Tim Bottoms). At about the 3/4 mark of the film, we also learn that she's a frustrated painter because just like V.C. Andrews novels, no Lifetime heroine can be relatable without a hidden artistic talent.

Most importantly, she's single, which means (to the target audience) her life is worthless.

AND she has terrible hair.

Thankfully, A.C. Slater has come to town to slip on ice, play hockey, dangle around an engagement ring and take his shirt off. A catch like this, why WOULDN'T you kidnap him with a 19th century musket, tie him up with a wool scarf, secure his hands with fuzzy cuffs provided by the kindly & kinky gas station attendent, and tell  your folks that your new boyfriend gets off on pretending to be held hostage?

Admittedly, the initial introduction of Mario Lopez to Trudie's clueless family is not without chuckles, as their daftness about their daughter's crime comes close to rivaling the Dodos' empty headedness of Follow That Bird. Once the humor gets broader--i.e., let's meet the dirty talking grandma who uses the word 'tatas'--and Lopez has to turn genuine, Holiday In Handcuffs loses most of its charms.

I don't know about you, but I don't particularly want to live in a world where Melissa Joan Hart reproduces with Mario Lopez. Heck, I don't want to believe Mario Lopez has sex with anyone other than himself, and even that makes me feel bad for him because I'm sorry but WHO WANTS TO HAVE SEX WITH MARIO LOPEZ?
Oh right, Mario Lopez does.

But just like the token love interest in Snowglobe, he studied architecture and is somewhat available (a pesky fiancee is easily discarded). Lopez gets the edge by having an orphan sob story, so with a little nudging to Trudie's artistic talent and, you know, a how-can-I-not-fall-in-love-with-the-cute-blond-who-can-do-double-axels sequence, everyone has a merry Christmas.

Even Grams' tatas.
Lessons Learned
Sooner or later, guys overpower girls

The word ‘crap’ is quite tacky
Little known fact: nervous breakdowns come in sizes

As do awkward publicity photos
The Winning Line
“I’m just dating a few guys. I didn’t say I slept with them. I’m not a slut.”

Nope Clarissa' little sister, you're just a tease.

Stray SVU Connection
Just before queuing up Holiday In Handcuffs, I set the tone by watching the episode of Law & Order: SVU titled "Svengali," wherein Mad Men's Jarred Harris plays a sadistic artist whose charisma inspires young women to murder for him. At one point, the camera lingers over Harris' portraits and I would bet a pair of Chris Meloni eyebrows that they were crafted by the same painter who made Trudie's sketches. Should I find that as rewarding as I do?

Open Xmas Question
Does any family consisting solely of grown adults spend Christmas Eve gathered around while one member reads Twas the Night Before Christmas out loud? Admittedly, my folks were never big on holiday traditions, but SERIOUSLY?

Token Slapstick Alert
Someone read a book about funny things that happen on ice, and hence, Holiday In Handcuffs gives us several "Ow, that's gonna hurt!" sequences on a frozen pond

Montage Mania
Two by my count, as we follow Slater's gradual glee at being kidnapped by insane Christmas geeks and later, his sadness at an impending unhappy marriage

Sass Factor
Trudie's man-hating, man-sleeping-with best friend who gets to dress like a Christmas hooker while telling police officers how terrible their penises are

Stocking Stuffer or Stuffed With Coal
Holiday in Handcuffs is a horror film, just for different reasons than Don't Open Til Christmas or good-spirited director Ron Underwood's more amazing Tremors. Being part of a family that still insists on writing letters to Santa when the kids are in their 30s, having to listen to Mom talk about her annual and unfulfilling birthday sex, and worst of all, being trapped in a secluded cabin with Mario Lopez is far more terrifying than anything Billy OR Ricky Caldwell did through bloodied Santa suits. All this being said, the movie--streaming on Netflix--is cute for people that think things like this are cute.

Or I could just look at puppy pictures and enjoy something that's actually cuter.


  1. Guess they all can't be winners. Melissa Joan Hart annoys me, for some reason.

    Cute puppy, tho. ;)

  2. This one's better than most of the other made-for-fluffy-TV xmas movies I've watched so far, but it still strains. There's some good humor, but Clarissa IS annoying (though not as bad as Slater), and I think part of that comes from knowing that MJH grew up into something of a crazed Republican so the 'cuteness' doesn't work for me. She's actually a mild local star for me, as she grew up a town away from mine. My brother claims he got directions from her once.

    Cute puppy pictures for the win!

  3. Well, it's nice to hear from a female that doesn't find the lead guy attractive - I was really wondering what the ladies were seeing in the guy, since to me he looked airbrushed and seemed to have permanent Lee Press-On lips. And yes, her father IS GW Bush.

    I couldn't stand MJH, though. Duck mouth. BAD duck mouth. It did not help that when I saw the title, I was hoping this was a sequel to "Secretary", so I had the delicious Maggie Gyllenhaal in my head for comparisons throughout.

  4. Mario Lopez just rubs me the wrong way. I remember hearing how when he did A Chorus Line on Broadway, he insisted on adjusting his costume--which you DO NOT DO, especially when you're a replacement--because he wanted to show off his biceps more. I appreciate a good body on a fella--Hugh Jackman can strip for me any day--but it's Lopez's smugness and overly artificial persona. I get the feeling he spends a good hour+ a day moisturizing which just turns me off. I also imagine he pictures himself as his partner when having sex.

    And Tim Bottoms is a fine fine actor (chilling in Johnny Got His Gun) but my GOD does he look like Dubya! It's FREAKY!

    MJH has aged weird. I guess she's one of those 'cute' girls and the film tries to capitalize on her quirkiness, but I just find her annoying. I'd have also MUCH prefered Maggie Gyllenhaal!

  5. Mario Lopez gave me the smug frat boy vibe of, "Hey there, groovy chick. I see you checking out how hot I am - If you blow me now, maybe I'll give you a ride in my Porsche." I knew hundreds of wankers like that in college.

    Re: Maggie Gyllenhaal. She can play every part in every movie and that would be fine with me. It's possible I have a mild crush. Don't tell my wife.

  6. Your secret is safe with me, providing you don't tell my boyfriend that I'd say the same for Viggo Mortenson and Clive Owen. I see no reason to choose.

  7. I am super behind and have not yet read this, until now, of course (sorry... ). Anyway, it's funny that you reviewed this as I started a review for Holiday in Handcuffs almost two weeks ago, and due to having absolutely no time to myself in the past few weeks, have not even gotten half way through writing it. And by now, I kind of forgot what happened (except the Oreo scene, 'cause oh boy is that one a doozy!)! Either way, when I watched it, I immediately thought of you and knew that you would maybe be one of like three people that would appreciate a movie such as this. Well, appreciate might not be the right word... how about watch a movie such as this?!

    It's middle of the road bad, mainstream ABC Family holiday entertainment, but that's good enough for me to feed my need for awful Christmas trash.

    Lastly, I agree about Mario Lopez. For me, the dude cannot be taken seriously at all. He's a better joke than he is a stud, and he will never, and I mean never, be as cool as Zach.

  8. Never apologize Matt! I got a great speed jump on watching and writing but now have also fallen behind in reading everybody's posts. Busy time of year this is.

    The Oreos! "Ugh, you WOULD be a twister" or whatever it was. I'm surprised Oreos didn't sue MJH.

    Don't you love how many ABC Family movies are on Instant Watch? PLEASE give CHristmas With a Capital C a go. It would be true holiday cheer for me to read.