I was halfway through this film when some business about a Yule log reminded me that I’d already seen this movie about a week ago. Clearly this numbing holiday romance made zero impression, and I can’t recommend it to anyone who has a Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas queue to press through. Too many films tell the same story but with at least a little humor and heart.
Wrapped Up in Christmas never convinces me that I should care about the characters, many of whom deserve sympathy. Mall manager Heather Nash (Tatyana Ali) is angling for a promotion, one conditioned on getting rid of underperforming tenants. She’s friendly with most of them so is loathe to cancel their contracts right before Christmas. One such shop owner is Patty, whose toy store has been losing ground to online business. During the holidays, she’s enlisted the help of her nephew, lawyer-turned-artist Ryan (Brendan Fehr).
Heather and Ryan have a couple of run-ins, but their relationship really gets a boost when Heather’s niece, Molly (Princess K. Mapp), tells a mall Santa that she wants a boyfriend for her aunt this Christmas. Ryan, masquerading as said Santa, suddenly has a way of getting closer to the pretty girl who’s about to ruin his aunt’s livelihood. Their attraction grows – he’s impressed by her work ethic and she by his hidden talents – but their secrets threaten to put an end to things before the year is even over.
One can see why Ryan would fall for Heather. Ali embodies the warm, approachable girl next door, a focused woman who does her best to control the buzz in her life. She bats away her sister and parents every time they intrude too much in her personal life, and she tries to mediate her boss’s heartless decision-making. Ryan, however, is about as lively as a cold fish. I’m hard pressed to find anything interesting to say about him outside the fact that he’s a decent guy and I like someone who’s arty. Fehr doesn’t help his character, and I’m not saying the actor is dialing in the part, but he just has very little charisma here.
That goes for most of the movie. The whole mall situation was oddly removed from the romance part of the story. I expected the tenants’ unease to be more at the forefront, but their larger purpose seemed to be bringing Heather and Ryan together. Little Molly is the one bit of light in this drab movie. A spunky pop whenever she appears, she nevertheless has too small a role to make a difference.
Dir: Peter Sullivan
Writer: Jennifer Notas Shapiro
Cast: Tatyana Ali, Brendan Fehr, Kim Fields, Cindy Pickett, Jacke Harry, Jasmin Guy, Brandon Ray Olive, Ash Santos, Princess K. Mapp
Time: 90 min
Country: United States