Alex: Did you guess it was singer/songwriter/actor/producer/television personality Nick Lachey’s brother, Drew, who was coming to Christmas? Because if you did, that would be amazing. Pretty much irrefutable proof that you were indeed psychic. I mean, Drew Lachey himself probably didn’t even guess that he was coming to Christmas. And stranger still, we didn’t see this movie on the Hallmark Channel. Nor did we see it on Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, Ion Television, ABC Family, or a peyote-induced Indian vision quest. So how did we see it then? In Christmas Movie Heaven? Close! I have discovered a new world called the Up Network, which was formerly the Gospel Music Channel and has their own stable of faith-friendly Christmas movies. Boo-yah!
But it’s not just the faith-friendliness of Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas that sets it apart from the other films I’ve reviewed so far. It has a tone and a feel all its own. Some of this might be intentional, as we learn right from the get-go that the director (or at least, the DP) has got some serious aspirations. Like Stanley Kubrick level aspirations. Things are shot from far away, from odd angles, with an oddly-following steady cam, and framed by things in the foreground that make no sense. Here’s a brief example:
Like why shoot him through the truck’s back windshield? And why at a different angle than her when they’re cutting between two people on opposite sides of something? But those questions pale in comparison to the mind boggling pan to the side view mirror for that final bomb he drops on us. (Also, did you check off the Canadian Accent box on your Christmas Movie Bingo card when she said, “What about your last album?” She tried to cover it, I will give her credit there but still, that word continues to be the ultimate roadblock for these Canuck actors.)
The editing of this film is crazy too. We open up on Thanksgiving Day and they cut between this normal, mid-western American (Canadian) family and this rock star who lives in New York City (also Canada). The idea is to show how different each of their lives are but its filmed in such a way that it really does feel like you are just randomly flipping between two channels. Maybe even more than two.
Drew of course, plays the rock star and after watching Haylie Duff recently as well, it makes me wonder how siblings of stars we didn’t want in the first place manage to get this exposure, even long after we’ve stopped caring about their sibling we never wanted. BUT just like Duff, I actually ended up liking Drew Lachey here. The acting and schnoz are a little rough, sure, but I am rooting for him right away. Especially as a wealthy and famous rock star because as we all know from watching these films and observing universal truths in life, it’s that wealth and fame come at the expense of everything that’s good in life. Things get worse for him this Thanksgiving as he ends up going to the market to buy a turkey, not realizing that it would take about 8 hours to cook that bird. But this store also sells whiskey, which he can drink right away. Then I thought we went to a flashback of him boozing it up, to show us that he might have some demons here. But no, it’s actually a flash forward. Drew apparently bought that whiskey, got instantly drunk on the way back to the car, and passed out inside, only to be woken up hours later by the tabloids snapping photographs. Oh yeah, and his name in the movie is Dax and I am going to start calling him that, since it’s awesome.
He takes a pretty major PR hit for this passing-out-drunk-on-Thanksgiving episode and so his publicist has to come up with a plan to get him back into the world’s good graces again. That plan becomes a contest for his fans where the “winner” gets Dax to spend a week with them at Christmas. At first I thought that was a terrible contest because even if you really loved the guy’s music and thought he was cool and everything, a whole week at Christmas sounds like quite an imposition. It might be worse if you really were a fan too. Like it would be really awkward for me to spend any significant time with musicians I really love and respect but if it were someone like, say, Brett Michaels, staying in the guest room for a week, I’d actually find it pretty hilarious. Somehow though, that mid-western family I mentioned earlier wins. The 12 year-old brother secretly puts their name in the hat and nothing is ever set up or arranged with the parents so they are all pretty surprised when Dax shows up with the media one day. But why did the brother even apply for this in the first place? That’s a good question. His sister, who is 26, used to have a major crush on Dax when she was in middle school but we don’t get the sense she’s still that into him. Nor does the brother seem particularly concerned with doing something nice for his big sis. There is a church fundraiser on the horizon, maybe he hopes that having Dax out there will mean that he could put on a free concert, but the real answer is, it doesn’t matter. Dax, a rock star, is going to stay with this very old-fashioned, mid-western family where the dad is a reverend and it’s a million miles from his glamorous lifestyle.
Just like any good romance, at first, everybody hates each other. Dax and the sister bicker, the Rev is just downright rude, and Dax doesn’t understand why he can’t get booze and sushi. I don’t fully understand either but I guess as part of this contest, he must stay at this family’s house, never be able to leave until the week is over, and abide by all their rules, no exceptions. And of course that’s not too easy for Dax at first. He is obsessed with breaking into the Rev’s liquor cabinet and when he finally does, he gets insta-drunk again but instead of passing out in his car, he makes it all the way to church before stumbling into the Rev’s sermon and collapsing onto some sort of manger display. It’s a great moment for all of us, even Dax because its where he hits rock bottom and realizes that he has to change his ways. No more drinking, no more hitting on the Rev’s daughter, and for God’s sake (literally), dump the Asian girlfriend!
I do find that this a rather glib glossing over of a very significant problem though. Dax’s ability to go from 0 to 60 drunken miles per hour is truly epic, in a non-cool way that even my high school drinking coach would be concerned about and hints that there is more going on than just a simple semi-intervention or playing the harmonica again would fix. Dax needs some serious help and I believe the Harding’s blessing may actually be their curse here. That oversimplified, down-home approach is neither going to be help Dax needs nor effectively promote his fundraiser concert. And by now, I care too much about Dax to watch his redemption get botched so badly. Luckily, the movie ends before we can take a deeper dive and I can only hope that the man who was once my own Indian, animal spirit guide can learn from his pupil. Perhaps this rating will help him to see the light.