Staging Christmas is here to remind you that any fool can be a writer. Literally anyone who knows words should be able to secure that book deal or forward that screenplay. There’s no other reason why drivel like this would be made into an actual movie and then shown on prime time. A triple punch of lousy writing, acting, and directing, it’s easily the worst Christmas movie of this or possibly any year, and we won’t be missing out if disappears forever.
To begin with, the story is moronic, dumber than your average Lifetime or Hallmark plot. Everett (George Stults) and Maddie (Mia Clark) find it difficult to get back into the Christmas spirit since losing his wife and her mother three years ago. A recent move hasn’t helped, especially since they’re still living out of boxes and eating take out. Maddie wants the house decked out like it was before they bought the place, but Everett has little time or energy for boughs of holly and such. He’s busy coming up with new coffee flavors for his coffee chain and debating expansion plans with his sister (Karli Hall).
On the other side of town, Lori (Soleil Moon Frye), hopes the holidays will bring news of a promotion to her company’s New York office. She works at a staging company – the home variety and not the theatre kind – run by Lexington (Jaleel White) and sees a chance to impress him after their Christmas party gets double booked. Her bright idea is to use Everett’s palatial home, which has both the elegance and tradition that her boss demands. In exchange, she’ll give Maddie a festive Christmas to remember.
I have so many questions about this arrangement, the first being who’s paying because this is some expensive shit. Maddie gets a blank check to buy all the decorations she wants, Everett somehow ends up with a whole ass dining table, and Lexington slides in with a last minute request for a real hundred foot tree. Meanwhile, I’m over here enjoying my company Christmas parties that’s just a roast turkey served on a wheelie cart and a fun size packet of M&Ms. Perhaps the more pressing question though is who hires a staging company for Christmas. Is this an actual thing? Am I doing Christmas wrong? Everett gives a stranger full run of his house in exchange for garland and baubles. Dude, you live in a mansion; put your boxes in the basement, take the day off, and drive your daughter to Hobby Lobby.
What the story sorely needs is tension, and without it, the film’s other deficiencies come to the fore. Winter Storm Meghan poses a brief threat and Everett almost signs off on some nasty tasting coffee, but nothing feels quite as problematic as the acting. I don’t know how Stults and Frye get it so wrong because they’re not bad actors, but this is painful stuff. They have Stults, an actual handsome guy, looking like a cross between an aged ventriloquist doll and staid Jim Jordan, which I can only hope is the reason for his stiff, hokey delivery. You’d think this is his first acting gig ever. Then again, maybe he’s afraid of Punky Brewster. Frye’s smiley demeanor and whispery voice can come across as menacing in another setting. If the two had better chemistry, or really any at all, they could force some genuine feelings from the corny dialogue. They can’t, so instead the film depends on embarrassing shots of the couple chopping carrots and brewing coffee for the requisite romance.
Dir: Amy Barrett
Writer: Anna White
Cast: Soleil Moon Frye, George Stults, Jaleel White, Mia Clark, Karli Hall, Malinda Money, Kelsie Elena
Time: 85 min
Country: United States