I made the mistake of watching this video not long before watching A Cookie Cutter Christmas:
And it kind of ruined things because the all I heard during the viewing experience was “too many cooks!” over and over again, in my own head. It’s possible that there were too many cooks in A Cookie Cutter Christmas, I don’t know. There were more than a few, as the movie is about a baking competition. A very small-scale yet oddly multi-phased baking competition with a mumbling, seemingly confused Alan Thicke as the judge.
But I guess it’s really about two ladies – Christie and Penny – who have a rivalry that goes back to when they were kids and sang together in a Christmas recital and tried to upstage each other. The kind of thing you can really hold onto a grudge for. Now they are grown up and work as teachers in the same school, teaching what I think is the same grade. Right before some Christmas Festival put on by the school, something that lasts even longer than Hanukkah, a new girl enters Christie’s class. Kind of a weird time to start up in a brand, new school but the important thing is that her dad is supposed to be hunky and her mom, like far too many unfortunate characters in these films, is not alive. Both Christie and Penny are clearly into the dad and sort of pounce on him inappropriately. I say inappropriately because he is a widower and they don’t know where he is with that quite yet, because Christie is his daughter’s teacher and while I don’t think it’s never okay for a teacher to date a student’s dad, at least wait a little bit before jumping right in, and also because that in general, they just don’t know the guy period. Again, take your time here, ladies. At least find out something about him other than that his previous wife is dead.
First night of the festival turns into an impromptu cooking competition where you have to bake cookies in 12 minutes. Christie has never baked a cookie in her life but enters hastily. Why? Because Penny is doing it and she can’t take a chance that Penny being awesome at 12-minute cookie baking will impress James, the widower Dad, and give her an insurmountable lead in the race for his affections. And Alan Thicke really is the judge. He is a famous chef, I guess, because they call him Chef Krueger, which I’m pretty sure is the only way you are allowed to refer to the real Alan Thicke during sex. Anyway, Christie doesn’t do very well in the competition. Besides having never baked before, I don’t believe it’s technically possible bake cookies from scratch in that amount of time. But don’t worry, this is only Phase 1. And no one gets eliminated in Phase 1. So why is there a Phase 1?
At this point, I am okay with the movie. Kind of like how I kind of laugh at that Too Many Cooks video after the first few minutes. I get the premise, it’s an okay premise, and I want to see where things go. For Too Many Cooks, they just keep introducing characters on this fictitious show, including a cat creature named Smarf. No such luck with A Cookie Cutter Christmas. Jackie cozies up to James’ daughter by tutoring her in all subjects and literally cozy-ing up with her. They also bake cookies. James turns out to be an amazing cook too, with this incredible Necronomicon cook book he’s been compiling. So he ends up tutoring Christie and teaching her how to make better cookies. There is another phase to the cooking competition. One or two people get eliminated but Christie hangs in there. Then another phase and it’s down to just Christie and Penny. Wouldn’t you know it would come down to these long-time rivals in the final bake-off? And each one of these phases takes place on different nights. Everybody shows up at the school again, just to watch more cookies get made and Alan Thicke eat them and occasionally mumble stuff. Too many cooks? Too many phases!
I hate to grab the obvious, lowest-hanging fruit here but I feel like Hallmark took the name, “A Cookie Cutter Christmas” too much to heart for this particular film.We’re now 3 movies in and each one has felt a little less inspired than its predecessor. You can’t just make a movie involving cookies, put a guy and girl in it, have at least one person be dead, then add a pinch of Alan Thicke and put it in the oven for an hour, expecting a fine piece of holiday entertainment to come out any more than I can combine some flour and sugar and egg in a bowl and expect to make great cookies that Alan Thicke can mumble over. It’s not that I mind sticking to all the classic Christmas movie tropes either. The tropes are just fine, it’s just that there needs to be a little more magic holding everything together. I’ve been accused, on this very blog no less, of not understanding romance but to me, the 2nd most un-romantic thing is to just assume that if a movie tells us a guy and girl like each other, that automatically equals romance (1st most un-romantic thing is a screen door factory in Delaware, in case you were wondering). At least in the Nine Lives of Christmas the other night, I actually bought the romance. I had a sense of the two characters and understood how they could like each other. So much so that it got depressing when they weren’t actually getting together but A Cookie Cutter Christmas doesn’t even give us that much.
They also kind of skimp on the whole rivalry thing between Christie and Penny. It’s certainly there but there’s no real one-upsmanship that a good rivalry needs to have (see “Battle of the Bulbs” for a much better Christmas movie example of how this dynamic can work). Penny is never really in the picture when it comes to competing for James’ emotions. She kind of helps kick the whole thing off but then goes dark for a while. Even when she does resurface and tries to sabotage Christie, it’s not even like it’s going to give her the final leg up in James race. It’s just kind of to be a bitch. And if you’re hoping that at some point, Penny is going to slip poison into Christie’s cookies and give Alan Thicke uncontrollable diarrhea, forget it. Because it never happens. Or if you’re thinking that such an idea is totally juvenile and stupid and I’m juvenile and stupid for wanting to see it come to pass, I argue that at least it would have been something. This movie really needed something. Something to make it stand out and be memorable in any way. Whether that’s Alan Thicke having uncontrollable diarrhea or Smarf the cat creature blasting Penny with his rainbow beams, or even just a better, more-nuanced focus on both the cooking competition as well as the escalating rivalry between Christie and Penny, I don’t care. Actually, I do care but would have been happy with any of the three. When it comes to what they actually gave us, I’m afraid I can only give A Cookie Cutter Christmas….