Hats Off to Christmas! plays up the holiday tropes in order to force warm feelings into a neatly packaged gift box. Some of it works but the overall effect is clunky storytelling with characters to match. The movie’s title comes from the name of a year-round Christmas store specializing in holiday hats. They’ve got a topper for every size and style, and apparently it’s good business. But not so good that the family-owned company doesn’t need restructuring. The owner’s reluctance to expand and modernize means they’re increasingly in the red.
That prompts him to bring in Nick (Antonio Cupo), his Yale and Columbia educated son, so that he can put his MBA to good use. Meanwhile, longtime employee Mia (Haylie Duff) thinks she’s in for a promotion but instead finds herself babysitting Nick as he learns the ins and outs of the family business. The two butt heads at once. He’s an arrogant prick who feels he’s too good for the store and the close knit hometown he fled years ago, and she’s a widowed mother with a paralyzed son (able-bodied actor Sean Michael Kyer) desperate for a father figure. It’s easy to see where this relationship is headed.
However, the road to love is paved with pride, misplaced accusations, and lots of side-eye. And a seductive mini-skirted banker named Valerie (Kendra Anderson). She’s in town to reassess the store’s loan but shares Nick’s distaste for small town life, lobbing pot shots at everyone and everything she can. Nick, her old classmate and lover, sympathizes but also begins to thaw to his new coworkers. It’s no wonder given their sob stories, which include death, illness, and financial difficulties.
Cupo is more convincing of the pair as he transitions from jocky GQ model (per Mia) to perfect man and father figure. However, Duff’s performance suffers with the script, which has her character growing hot and cold in the relationship. Mia’s varied acceptance and rejection of Nick are no more than giant signposts signalling the next act in the story, one you can happily drive past if there’s something better to watch.
Prod: Dan Paulson, Shawn Williamson
Dir: Terry Ingram
Writer: Deanna Talcott, Deborah Majinska, Jennifer Notas
Cast: Haylie Duff, Antonio Cupo, Jay Brazeau, Sean Michael Kyer, Melanie Papalia, Kendra Anderson, Lori Triolo, Michael Adamthwaite
Time: 84 min
Country: United States