Alex: This one came out last year but we didn’t get around to watching it. I don’t remember why exactly but I would guess it’s because we were just too busy with our careers and thus, had to completely sacrificed caring about Christmas or family or this movie. Isn’t that always the way? If only Santa himself had sent one of his elves down to help fix everything and rekindle our Christmas spirit.
Coincidentally enough, that is kind of the premise behind Help For the Holidays. It all starts off at the North Pole when an elf named Christine, played by Summer Glau, is wondering about what lies beyond Santa’s Workshop and kind of wants to go check out the rest of the world. I believe this is at least somewhat autobiographical, as Summer Glau actually is an elf in real life and is on some kind of North Pole furlough program currently. The only problem with that theory is that while so many of these Hallmark/Lifetime films operate under the premise that Santa is real, it’s not possible. Even in their movie worlds. You wanna know how I know? You wanna know who told me? Well once again, the great Jim F-ing Morrison told me, that’s who. In some kind of vision or something. Either that or it was my wife but the point is, if Santa WAS real, the adults would know. There would be presents under the tree that they didn’t buy. So if you want to make a movie where Santa exists, it wouldn’t be like it is now where most people don’t believe except for kids and the whimsical, idiot protagonists. Everyone would believe because there would be some proof for some of us, every year.
But anyway, in Help for the Holidays, Santa does exist and he’s played by a guy who doesn’t seem right for the role. He’s too small and is just kind of a guy. This is a fairly common problem in these films too. Santa seems like he’d be easy enough to cast but so many of them get weird ones. What they need to do is just find a guy who works and then use that same guy for all the movies, kind of like they do for movie trailer narration. Might even make him seem more like Santa too if it’s always the same guy.
Turns out Santa has a job for Christine on Earth (or whatever you call the real world that exists outside of Santa’s North Pole fortress). There is a family who has lost their Christmas spirit. You know how I always talk about the trope where money and career success equals a lack of true happiness and even humanity? I’ve said that in some form once or twice here, right? Well this movie not only backs my statement up but comes right out and reiterates it as directly as one can. To paraphrase the big man himself, in talking about this family, “As the amount of money they made went up, their Christmas spirit went down by that same amount.” So see, I am not just tossing around wild theories here. These things are inversely proportional. It’s science.
So Christine has got to go down and help get this family excited about Christmas again. But quick little sidebar here: If Santa has all kinds of magical power at his disposal and can do all the impossible things he does in these movies, why does he only intervene when it comes to people losing Christmas spirit or not believing in him or something? Aren’t there much larger problems he could get involved with fixing? And come to think, while it’s a very wonderful thing to give children of the world toys every year, he could probably do a lot more with those resources. Or focus them in different ways. Like maybe give the kids who are starving food first, then if there’s time left, you can hook the rest of us up with Xboxes. But maybe what these movies are really saying to us is that Santa is a total narcissist. He doesn’t give us toys out of the kindness of his heart, he just wants us to depend on him. Even, in a sense, pray to him. Make our wishes come true but only if we are good enough. And if we should lose our Christmas spirit, he sends an elf down to come straighten us out.
Although once again, I bet there are families who have a lot less Christmas spirt than the ones Christine visits. They even own a very successful Christmas store down in Southern California. Like it’s one of those places that sells Christmas stuff all year long. It started innocently enough, with the mom making ornaments with her daughter that people really liked and thinking, hey, I could probably make more and sell them. But to paraphrase myself paraphrasing Santa, as they started to get more and more successful, both the mom and the dad became consumed with money and just saw Christmas as both a cash cow and kind of a nuisance too, since it represents their busiest time of year. I really can’t imagine how they could possibly make a profit during any other time of year but I guess these places get by somehow. This totally sucks for their kids, as they hardly get to see the mom and dad over the holidays and Christmas has been robbed of its magic.
That’s when Christine enters the picture. The parents have no time nor emotions for their kids so they need a nanny. They hire Christine because she seems pretty perky and makes the son a hot chocolate, even though there isn’t any hot chocolate in the house. She just kind of turns her back for a minute and then turns back around with that cup of hot chocolate. That is how you ace a nanny interview. Turn your back, pull strange powders out of purse, mix them into a mug, and give it to the 9 year-old son you just met. Not only is that okay with his mom but drop the mic, Christine, because that just got you the job. Another thing the mom should have been concerned about is that Christine is an elf. I mean, the mom doesn’t know she’s one of Santa’s elves nor even believe in all that but clearly, to look at Christine, she is an elf regardless. Her elf ears have magically disappeared but she still has an elf’s face. Santa forgot to give her a human one for this assignment.
This does not put off the kids too much and they end up falling for their new nanny. So does the mom’s brother, who is the love interest of the film. Does he make furniture though? That’s the million dollar question. Unfortunately, no, BUT he does own a nursery, which is kind of in the ball park. Plus at one point he mentions the building of a stage for some kind of Christmas pageant, and I think we are to assume (hope!) he will build some of that stage with his own bare hands. He’s also an old-fashioned guy who believes in Christmas and even real Christmas trees for that matter. The movie makes mention of what an abomination fake trees are, especially those pink and blue ones. Here’s a question though, do you really see a lot of pink, fake, Christmas trees? Ever since Charlie Brown, we have been scolded for our rampant commercialization of Christmas and nothing embodies that more than some crazy, unnatural color for a fake tree. The ones in Charlie Brown were even made of aluminum or something. I have never seen such things. I believe this is a fake problem. In any case, the uncle is a perfect match for Christine, provided she is willing to give up her entire elf life and lifestyle to move to LA and be his girlfriend.
Winning over the parents won’t be so easy though. They don’t seem to be in any hurry to get back their Christmas spirit or spend time with their children. There are scenes where they are inside the house, lamenting about this very thing and their kids are literally right upstairs and awake. Instead of sitting around whining, why no go upstairs and hang with them for at least a few minutes? Christine eventually oversteps her boundaries and gets fired and sent back to the North Pole, failing her assignment. And that’s the end of the movie. What a bringdown, huh? Okay, okay, something does happen to change things for the better, I’ll admit it. As a matter of fact, remember when I was talking about the Thanksgiving House and I said that it ended too abruptly and with many loose ends, almost as if they didn’t manage their time properly when making it? Well, Help for the Holidays has the opposite problem. They wrap things up too quickly and it seems as if they were like, uh oh, we’ve still got another 15 minutes to fill, what do we do?
The answer is, drag it out too long. Despite all these many flaws though, I still enjoyed this movie on some level. It was good to see both Santa and Eva La Rue (she plays the mother) again. I’d probably give it 2.5 Eggnogs. Can I give it a .5? Let’s see:
Hmm, there isn’t an easy way to crop that image on this blog UI. I could do it in some other way but I’m not sure Help For the Holidays is worth the effort. You’ll just have to take my word on it for now.