After watching Merry ExMas, I couldn’t wait for Ion Television’s next offering for this year’s holiday potluck. Then I watched A Christmas Mystery, which technically came out before Merry ExMas but I hadn’t seen it yet. Then I turned off A Christmas Mystery because it was totally boring, then I thought I recorded A Christmas Kiss II but saw no sign of it on my DVR, then I looked for another showing and didn’t find anything in the next few days, then I noticed that Ion sure likes re-runs of Blue Bloods, Cold Case, and Flashpoint (maybe because they’re all fun to say?), then I realized I was lucky enough to have caught their Sunday premiere of A Perfect Christmas List and we watched it the other night. After all this effort and jibber jabber, did the movie mark a return to prominence for Ion Television?
Indeed it did. Of course it wasn’t going to top Merry ExMas but few things really could. It’s about a girl named Sara who is the author of a popular children’s book series. Like for pretty young kids. Considerably younger than the kids they actually show her reading to. She’s very close to her grandma, probably because she was Mrs. Cunningham from Happy Days. Unfortunately though, Grandma takes a bad fall down some stairs and injures her leg. Not as bad as being run over by a reindeer (the song, I mean) but still, Granny needs to stay off her feet for a while and might have some blood pressure issues. Sara’s dad tells her this bad news and kind of guilts her into coming home for the holidays. I say “guilts”, even though it’s not a word, because Sara would ordinarily not want to come home for the holidays, because Sara and her mother have what sounds like a stormy relationship. But Sara loves her grandmother. After all, she was the only character on Happy Days who got to call Fonzie by his real first name, and thus, begrudgingly agrees to make the trip
So why do Sara and her mother not get along? Pretty basic reasons. Nothing Sara ever does is good enough, Mother wanted her to follow a different path, and the two are sort of polar opposites, even though they flip personality traits that are supposed to be so opposite. Like for instance, when Sara and her mom make cookies, Sara is measuring everything out perfectly and not just the ingredients either. Like she even uses a tape measure and level to make sure all the cookies are the exact same height whereas Mom just likes to do it all by feel. Pinch of this, handful of that, etc. So Sara is the uptight, anal one, right? Well not necessarily. Because there’s another scene where Mom is trying to get a picture to hang perfectly on the wall. Sara has it’s completely straight but Mom is like no way! To an average person, it may seem straight but to a keen, awesome eye like hers, it requires microscopic adjustments. So maybe Mom is the uptight and anal one? Or it all just depends on whether or not we are talking about cookies or pictures.
The Mom also overhears Grandma talking to her young, love-interest-for-Sara, doctor named Brandon one day and misunderstands the conversation to mean that Granny is dying soon and this may be her last Christmas, when really she’s just talking about moving out of her condo. So we’ve gone from Happy Days to Three’s Company here. Grandma really wants to patch things up between her daughter and granddaughter and now that Mom thinks she’s dying, she’s inclined to be a little more receptive. Sara doesn’t ever catch wind of this misinformation but she’s less of a bitch so that’s her motivation to at least try and play nice with her mother for the time being.
Grandma’s meddling takes the form of this list she made, which is the titular Perfect Christmas List. It’s all stuff she wants Sara and Mom to do together, in hopes that it will repair their fractured relationship, which is an interesting approach given how usually spending more time with one’s parents is exactly how the relationship got fractured in the first place. And it’s all pretty basic stuff on the list too – bake cookies together, go ice-skating, cut down a Christmas tree. But perhaps there is a method to this lack of madness?
Or maybe the madness all comes from how Sara and her mother approach each task? Like for instance, if I was told to cut down a Christmas tree, I would go to a Christmas tree farm where you can cut trees down yourself, cut a tree down myself, and then pay the people who work there. For reasons I don’t understand but certainly appreciate, Sara and her mother take a different route. They see that there is a giant, 20 ft, Christmas tree all decorated in front of one of their local malls and decide that is the one they are going to cut down. Ignoring for a second that it doesn’t make sense that the tree would just be naturally growing there, why do they feel like they need to steal a tree? Especially one that won’t fit in their house? Was this an old family tradition the movie forgot to explain?
Better still is the way they take down this tree. Once again, if it were me, I would probably use some kind of saw. Seems like the natural approach. I guess you always go with an axe too but that might be a little too hardcore for your average non-lumberjack. But also once again, Sara and her mom have something totally different in mind for us. Mom takes a rope and actually manages to lasso the top of the tree. From there she just pulls that sucker down completely, which seems to break it off at the stump pretty clean. Then I believe they do end up using a saw, just to get the top off because like I said, the tree is way too big for their house. So the mall people are just going to show up tomorrow and see their tree, one that would have had to have been growing naturally in front of their establishment for probably about 30 years or so, cut down to a neutered carcass left out for everyone to bear witness to. Right before Christmas. If that’s what you are supposed to do to reconnect with your family or considered part of a perfect Christmas list, count me out. Better to remain frosty with my mom and just hope Granny can skip that one.
This isn’t just an aberration either. Another item on the list is that they need to give money to a local charity but Sara decides that’s totally impersonal and they should instead RAISE the money for charity, by way of dressing like Christmas skanks and busking outside of a local supermarket. How does that give it a warmer, more personal touch though? The charity doesn’t care whose money it is and by the looks of things, Sara and her mom have a lot more cash than the people dropping duckets in their collection plates. Plus they just completely push out some guy playing the sax who was more legitimately in need of charity. Even worse still, they make him part of their act, which inexplicably turns into something that seems to have been inspired by the musical, Stomp. I doubt I’m making much sense myself here so feel free to watch this clip and see what I mean:
I don’t know if it was clear from the video but every time we saw their little collection plate, the money was obviously fake. Like not even close to real money. But why? You’ve got all these people filming the scene, I assume some of them must be carrying wallets with American currency , why not just have everyone loan out some of their own clams and then re-acquire them once the scene is over? But I suppose that makes as much sense as anything in the scene. Probably more.
I did mention that there was, of course, a love interest for Sara. A humble doctor who kind of looks like Wally from Leave It To Beaver. He’s also a handyman, orphan, and big time charitable donator. If they can just throw enough things at you, you will hopefully find at least one of them attractive. And yet another case where the male love interest can’t only be a good guy or a successful guy but has to be able to do something with his hands. He’s got to be able to build something BUT it can’t be because he’s lower-class or just not sharp enough to be financially well off. He could be rich if he wanted to but he’s too real to care about such things. What I really appreciate is that in the case of Brandon, he’s simply just both things. A doctor and a handyman.
The relationship between him and Sara is less interesting. I’m not sure why they even like each other and there isn’t much actual chemistry before she decides he should be her boyfriend but when she asks him to come over on Christmas Eve and then to continue hanging out with her family on Christmas Day and he says he’s unfortunately not available on those dates, Sara takes this as a major dis and confirmation that he’s just not that into her. If a girl you just met asks you over on Christmas and gets mad when you tell her that you have plans, that is what I would consider to be a red flag. If you want pursue this relationship any further, you can expect to spend a lot of it in some kind of trouble.
But of course he’s game for all of this and Sara and her mother do enough wacky things to fulfill Granny’s perfect Christmas list and Granny’s not dying and Happy Days is still the only show I am aware of to have had someone literally jump the shark (I see no connection to that episode and the downfall of the series so I don’t totally understand the genesis of that expression, btw) and there’s a lot of talk about eating bad hot dogs and lemonade. I forgot to mention that part but the gist is that Sara gives Dr. Brandon guff for buying these unhealthy things – hot dogs, lemonade, M&Ms – at the grocery store, only to find out later that he was picking them up for a bunch of orphan kids. And I guess that’s supposed to make it okay? Orphans need healthy food as much as anybody. Oh, and that’s also why the good doctor couldn’t come over on Christmas. He was helping out the orphans. So why didn’t you just say so, Doc? I realize I keep asking questions that probably cannot be answered but this really is the saving grace of A Perfect Christmas List. And Buddhism. Because it’s the questions without answers that clear the mind of conscious thought and bring us closer to nirvana. I don’t know if I quite made it all the way to nirvana but would give this at least…