“If there’s one thing I know, it’s the corrosive nature of silence leads to regret. And it’ll eat away at you bit by bit.” — Someone in this movie.
After discovering the Citizen Kane of bad holiday movies last weekend, I can’t stay silent any longer. If there’s one holiday movie I would handcuff people to a couch to watch with me, it’s the ABC Family classic from 2007: Holiday in Handcuffs, the most 2020 holiday movie there is.
Here’s the perfect logline: Fresh off an embarrassing breakup, Melissa Joan Hart kidnaps Mario Lopez at gunpoint to attend her overbearing family’s Christmas get-together in the woods.
Melissa Joan Hart’s character should be in jail. She’s certifiably insane with one of the worst hairstyles ever seen on camera (this is purposeful; no frame in this movie is without glistening, blinding purpose). She steals Mario Lopez from the cafe where she’s somehow gainfully employed just before he’s about to propose to his girlfriend, who obviously has to be a pretty terrible person to allow the viewers to buy into what we all know is about to happen.
Mario Lopez spends the next 45 minutes begging Melissa Joan Hart and her oblivious family to let him go. He’s been kidnapped, his life is in danger. He needs help! But nobody listens. For someone who’s spent 15 years holding a one-sided grudge against Mario Lopez for no reason other than his bewildering ubiquity, this was practically arousing. And soberingly realistic. It’s terrifying, but it’s not surprising in the least that no one would believe a POC claiming to have been kidnapped.
Approximating the original TV experience by watching this film on the Freeform app with much too frequent commercial breaks is the only way to watch this heartwarming disaster. Having the same ad for antidepressants play over and over truly gets you into holiday mindset and by the fifth go-round feel like proverbial handcuffs on you the viewer, putting you in the same position as Mario Lopez.
And just like Mario Lopez, you begin to fall in love, helpless against such powerful movie magic.
Most relationships in romantic comedies are toxic and unbelievable without felonies laced in the Christmas punch, but it turns out that felonies are what this genre needs. There’s something refreshing about a movie actively trying to make a genuine romance impossible just so it can ignore all the blaring alarms and… make a romance happen anyway. Sometimes the only way to save Christmas is to ruin Christmas.
The most insane part of a whole lot of insanity? By the end, I believe in the budding romance between Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez far more than most rom-coms, likely due to the Stockholm Syndrome that slowly seeps through Mario Lopez’s perfect pores.
Melissa Joan Hart makes Mackenzie Davis’s character in Happiest Season seem like Paddington, yet I found myself rooting for the impossible because the sheer terror of that scenario was irresistible. Any movie that genuinely advocates kidnapping as a solution for lovesickness and self-improvement is a Christmas treat for all to share.