Alex: I neglected to mention that in addition to the bounty provided by the Hallmark and Lifetime channels, Ion Television has also joined the fray this Christmas, with made-for-TV movies showing every night. They even kicked out 5 brand new ones for us this year. What the hell is Ion Television, you ask? I’m not sure anyone knows for sure but they did used to be the PAX Network and still make a large part of their revenue from infomercials so it seems like we’re off to a positive start, here. Get it? Positive? Ion Television? C’mon, I know it’s funny because I stole that joke from their very own slogan – “Positively Entertaining.” So without further adieu, I would like to hereby welcome them to this blog, officially. Glad to have you on the team, Ion.
We watched one of their new movies, Holiday Road Trip, the other night, mainly because we weren’t ready to look at Nicolette Sheridan’s carved grill for 2 hours in Hallmark’s Sunday premiere, The Christmas Spirit. We’ll get there, give us time, we just kind of need to build up to it. And Holiday Road Trip seemed like a fun way to do so. Who doesn’t want to go on a Holiday Road Trip? With that cast? Did you check out those names in the picture above? Bet you didn’t know that Shelley Long turned into a dog at some point? That, my friends, is commitment to the Craft. Just because there weren’t any roles for her as a human doesn’t mean she can’t find acting work as a dog. The consummate professional. And the best part of that cast is that this isn’t even the whole group. There are even more awesome people in the movie, including such luminaries as Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) and the chick who played Natalie on the Facts of Life, although it’s very possible she wasn’t actually cast in the film. She “plays” a diner waitress and I have a feeling they just showed up to film at that diner and found her working there and figured, “Sure, why not?” But cheer up, Mindy Cohn, because you actually look a lot better than Cindy Brady does these days and who saw that coming?
Let’s get back to the leads here for a minute though. The main girl is named Maya and even though she probably didn’t get as much plastic surgery as Nicolette Sheridan, she still looks kind of freakish. Like her features are way too big for her head and face. Those eyebrows might even be too big for anything. Head/face or otherwise. Combined with her hair and sickly, bony frame, she kind of reminds me of Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby when they had that party and being pregnant with the spawn of Satan was really taking its toll on her and she looked super unhealthy. Except that Mia was still infinitely better looking, even in that state. You might think it’s pathetically shallow of me to be so critical of someone’s appearance but hey, this isn’t a radio play I’ve reviewing here. It’s a movie and there is a visual component. Plus if this lady did get a bunch of plastic surgery and you’re out there considering a similar path, maybe my hateful words will help steer you away from such a mistake. And if not my words, take a good look at George Hamilton as well. He’s always been more of an old shoe than man but in Holiday Road Trip, he takes things to a whole new level of leathery footwear. Guess that’s why he and Imelda Marcos were good friends. There’s another quality joke for you. Would have killed in 1986, which was probably the last time George had any human cells left in his body – HEY-O!!
George owns a pet supply company, one which Maya seems to work for although I’m not 100% sure what her job is there. Actually, I’m 0% sure. I don’t think they ever tell us but George’s son, Patrick Muldoon, also works for the company and we know that his title is something like, “Head of Non-Human Relations.” It really is. I’m not making this up. Because they have a mascot dog named Scoots and I think Muldoon is required to watch over Scoots and take him for walks and such. He’s a slacker, fun-loving, underachieving playboy type and I feel like his character was actually supposed to be about 19 or 20, even though Muldoon’s working hard to keep it under 45. Turns out the company is losing money and George gets the idea that Scoot needs to go on a cross-country public relations tour over Christmas to set things right again, financially. He picks his son for the task because this might finally be an opportunity for him to show how he can one day be a great business man like his father. Driving a dog across the country. That’s his opportunity. Someone else has to go with him because…I don’t know…and it turns out Maya is that someone because A) she has nothing else to do over the holidays since she just got dumped by her classically lame boyfriend and B) because she is the polar opposite of Muldoon’s character and that is the universal law of both movie road trips and romantic comedies. But despite how hackneyed and played out this dynamic is, I give Holiday Road Trip some credit for taking things to a new level, like in this scene below, where Maya not only sets up some ground rules before the roady but also makes Muldoon sign a contract.
Of course I’m not a lawyer but would that contract really hold up in court? How binding can a “No burping” clause really be? Unfortunately, we never get to find out because, surprise surprise, Maya loosens up over time. But why? What leads to this change? I guess it’s just slowly falling for Muldoon but we never really get an epiphany moment from her. We do get a couple of stops in some really backwater burgs that have nothing to do with promoting their company or Scoots the dog. Just run-ins with random wackos. At one point, Muldoon has to dress up as Santa and strip (full frontal) for some old ladies and both Muldoon and Maya get locked up in jail for literally no reason, which they later escape from with Scoots’ help. Somehow, these details are “going viral” and achieving the publicity that I guess the company was hoping for, despite the fact that it doesn’t necessarily seem like the right kind of publicity for a pet supply manufacturer, even if you don’t believe there is such a thing as bad publicity.
All this viral PR results in them getting a very coveted slot on the Wink Martindale Show, in LA on Christmas Eve. And yes, it is THE Wink Martindale, the same guy who used to host Tic-Tac-Dough. They act like he’s a really big deal, which would be fine if he weren’t playing himself, someone we know NOT to be a big deal. At the same time though, I see their conundrum here. They could create a fake talk show host and say he’s a big deal but if Wink Martindale is on board to play this character, they aren’t going to be able to come up with a better, fake name than “Wink Martindale” so they might as well just go with it. Side note here – I have long believed that most actors should just be called by their real name in movies. Even if their so-called character is meant to be someone different. Like for instance, it is ridiculous to cast Nicholas Cage in a film and give him a name like, “Rick Bolton.” Because we totally know it’s Nicholas Cage and if we actually paid money to see this thing, we’re not going to give a damn about Rick Bolton. The worst was when Arnold Schwarzenegger used to act (could have ended the sentence right there) and they gave his character names like “Harry Tasker” or “Howard Langston.” Because that’s totally who he is. Just your average, run-of-the-mill, Joe Americana.
As you might expect, there are some hi-jinx associated with getting Scoots to LA in time for the Wink Martindale Show on Christmas Eve but probably not as many hi-jinx as you might, might be expecting. I have a strong feeling the filmmakers either eventually ran out of ideas or got distracted by something else. Maya’s ex-boyfriend, the one who dumped her before the holidays, ends up following her and Muldoon, hoping to propose. Not because he really loves her, of course, but because he thinks it will get him a junior partnership at his law firm. They are looking for a family man to promote. But this is taken to mean specifically marrying Maya, a decrepit monkey skeleton who works for a failing pet supply company. I mean, no offense (none taken, right?) but it’s not like the other lawyers would really care if he just picked some other gal to get hitched with. I’m sure the movie will take any story they can get at this point, and this little side plot will perhaps pleasantly remind you of those Twisted Sister videos where they jerk teacher guy (“What are you gonna do with your life?!?!”) keeps getting blown up. Maya’s ex-boyfriend even kind of looks like that jerk teacher guy, now that I think about it.
Then they try to do a little something with Muldoon and his dad, George Hamilton. Like put their relationship back together, which was originally severed by that’s right, you guessed it, the untimely death of the mother/wife. Ruins Christmases and father-son dynamics. Now God only knows how people truly react to such unthinkably sad tragedies in their lives but I hope that for the most part, a father would actually get closer to his children after the loss of their mother. But both George Hamilton and Alan Thicke have bailed on this responsibility two nights in a row here. The movie kind of bails on the plot point too. My guess is they were just throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what would stick. Or just wanted to make sure they had all the boxes checked on their Christmas Movie form.
But the important thing is that the two main characters end up together. And they do. Muldoon himself even proposes marriage at the end. I could accept that they were going to give this relationship a go but never would I imagine they’d go straight to holy matrimony. Not only is it too soon but sparks didn’t exactly fly between the two, even after they had gotten over their original confrontational attitudes. In fact, they hadn’t even kissed until after he puts the ring on her finger. But such is the case with Holiday Road Trip and I think that applies to Ion Christmas films in general. If you were going to try to distill what makes them different than something from the mighty Lifetime/Hallmark fleet, it might be that they are a little bit zanier and possibly even cartoonish at times. Not that this is a bad thing. I enjoyed my Holiday Road Trip and if anything, could have used more wacky hi-jinx. I also could have used someone to tell me that I should either be spelling “hi-jinx” as “high jinx” or “hijinx.” Were you just gong to let me go on hyphenating that word? I have to say that it looks weird all together, without the hyphen. 3 dotted letters in a row? Hijinx, indeed! So let us drink to that, with one Eggnog for each dotted letter!