Recap: Christmas in the City (2013)

christmas in the city

This TV movie should’ve been called “The week Teanna tried to do her job.”

Take a look at the poster, and you’ll see R&B singer Ashanti, who is the movie’s only star to rank above C-list, front and centre with two hunky guys. This tells me she’s the protagonist of the movie, and therefore I should be rooting for her. She plays Teanna, a girl who’s overcome her stupid name to become a wiz kid marketing executive. She’s hired by the movie’s main setting of a department store called Wolmans. Their sales are in the toilet, despite it being the biggest shopping season of the year and Ashanti is out to save the day! Regrettably, the movie frames her as the villain and places nowhere-to-be-seen-on-the-poster Ashley Williams as the real protagonist.

Now I do like Ashley Williams, and I always wished her Victoria on How I Met Your Mother would end up being the Mother. That said her character, Wendy (surprising restraint for a name in a Christmas movi– oh wait her last name is Carroll, nevermind) is clearly the true villain of the story by being the complete opposite of the American dream. Instead of working hard for success like Teanna, she takes over her dad’s business and promptly runs into the ground, moves to the city to squat at a friend’s tiny apartment without paying any rent, gets a job at Wolmans handed to her, and most likely runs them into the ground as well with all her meddling in Teanna’s hard work. But because we’re supposed to sympathize with her: her dad’s dead and she’s also a single mom, awwww.

We open on the villainous Wendy who has just received a foreclosure notice on her dad’s store ‘Carroll’s Candies,’ which is now being run by her and her mom. She’s kept it exactly the way it was to preserve his memory and refuses to change (watch out for this theme throughout the movie). We find out that she also has a daughter named Grace and lives with her mom in a giant house. There’s no mention of her having siblings, so I have no clue why they still have this giant house. Frankly, my first idea to save their business is to sell that mansion and downsize, but alas this unnamed small town must only have mansions so they never even consider it. Instead, Wendy decides she should mooch off her friend Angie and moves in with her to find a job in “the city”. The movie never explains which city this is supposed to be. Is it NYC or maybe Chicago? Definitely not, as there’s no snow anywhere, but the grass looks so green that it’s jarring when they wear coats. Wendy also brings her daughter along. Her daughter’s purpose in the movie is to want a father and say how awesome and likeable Tom is. Who’s Tom? Well, he’s the son of Wolmans department store founder, which he runs with his uncle. To connect this all together, Angie works at Wolmans. Tom, upon creepily staring at Wendy for a minute, gives her a job on the spot. That’s right, everybody! It’s just that easy to get a job when you show up with only a smile on your face and a child by your side! And before you say “Well, didn’t Angie give her a solid reference?” No, she did not. As soon as they got to the store, Angie had to leave to clock in and by the time she returned, Tom had already hired this destructive woman. Tom proceeds to proudly list off all the amenities this awesome, non-existent department store offers with the two most important being: daycare and Christmas bonuses. These are perfect for Wendy, because she needs both to make enough to save her store (I don’t see how working retail for a month would raise enough money but she’s stupid and it’s a movie). Tom also mentions that profits are in the red…hmm, I wonder why, Tom?

To hammer home the point that Tom has no clue how to run a department store, we learn that it’s actually the board that has hired Teanna to ship up the store. Tom obviously thought everything was fine the way it was. Teanna comes in and spouts off a list of improvements. Expensive toys at a lower eye level to attract the kids? Brilliant! Get rid of the useless piano in the lobby? Money saving! Sleek and modern decorations? Okay, maybe not the best idea since her idea of sleek and modern is just everything in pinks and silvers. She also suggests getting rid of daycare, Christmas bonuses, and the in-store carollers. Tom, of course, turns down all these ideas except firing the carollers. which is the least money-saving option. This is a business, Tom, not a charity! He begrudgingly lets Teanna redecorate with the aforementioned pink and silver trees. Yes, if you hadn’t guessed it yet, Tom is also resistant to the change, and he and Wendy naturally bond over their shared admiration of “classic Christmas”. I should mention that Teanna has been trying to get close with Tom, while plotting to have the board fire him so she can take over. I believe this is a situation of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, as Teanna is going to bang him and then send him to the curb because she’s a modern woman. The movie tries to frame it like Teanna is upset that Wendy and Tom are getting close, but the reality is that she only sees Wendy as a threat to her plan to be the rightful store manager.

So, let’s get back to the real villains of the movie and show just how stuck in their ways they are. Angie’s apartment is tiny, and earlier in the movie, she told Wendy and Grace that it’s too small for a tree. As an environmentalist, she doesn’t believe in cutting trees down. Because Wendy is a good friend who respects her friend’s wishes, she’s sad but understandi– no, wait. She mentions it to Tom, who then shows up at their door with a real Christmas tree. Angie is gracious enough to allow it. By the way, Angie is in some musical theatre play (this is semi-important later on).

Teanna now moves into Phase 2 of saving the store, and the movie goes into Phase 2 of Teanna and Wendy’s cleavage (seriously, their tops get more and more revealing as the movie goes on; almost as if they realized they needed a way to keep your attention). Phase 1, by the way, has worked so far because she shows Tom that sales are up. Phase 2 involves firing the daycare staff, since Tom wouldn’t let her shut it down, and replacing them with a TV. Gone are the arts and crafts that Grace and her daycare friend William were doing. Did I mention William before? Of course I didn’t, because he’s a character that seems like he’d be important but gets the shaft instead and is simply there to be cute. When Wendy first meets William, she asks him if his mom works in the store as well. William replies that she doesn’t, she just likes to shop a lot. Anytime Wendy comes to get Grace from the daycare (which is almost every day since she’s working the busy Christmas season), William is there, happily spouting the same line that his mom just loves to shop! He’s such a little trooper for believing that his mom will come back for him. Wendy laughs at this every time, because she’s evil and thinks child abandonment is funny. We disturbingly never find out if William’s mom ever came back for him.

Teanna’s Phase 2 also involves firing Santa Claus and replacing him with hunky Abercrombie & Fitch models. Wendy is upset that Tom signed off on this. The Santa they fired is, OF COURSE, the real Santa Claus, who checks out a different mall each year. Secret shopper Santa? He comments that Vancouver had almost no Christmas spirit last year. Oooh, Vancouver is so burned! The hunky replacement Santas boost more sales, because Teanna is a marketing wiz-kid and it is frustrating to see her genius be undermined by old dinosaurs like Tom and Wendy. Christmas bonuses have also been cancelled in another effort to save money so the store can stay open.

After a late night of ‘working’ (they were actually both very upset at Santa’s firing), Wendy and Tom slack off some more and sing ‘The First Noel’ together on the useless store piano. It’s a lovely rendition, but rings false that both their families sung it every Christmas when they were kids and as a result, they want to keep the tradition alive (there’s that theme again of not accepting change!). Teanna, working late to save the store, witnesses this and realizes she’s going to have to put a wedge between Tom and Wendy, because Wendy keeps telling Tom that ‘classic Christmas’ is the way to go. The movie frames it again that Teanna is sad to see Tom and Wendy getting close, but the reality is that if Teanna’s ever going to make the store profitable again (which is her job!), she needs to get rid of both of them. Teanna then kicks into high gear with Phase 3 of store domination: frame Wendy with theft by placing the till bag in her purse, and fudging numbers to make it look like someone is skimming. She has the board fax over the paperwork for her to take over Tom’s position.

The next day, she confronts Wendy and Tom about the theft. Wendy says she must’ve been too tired from working overtime and was about to return the money. Tom naturally believes her, but Wendy needs to slack off more and goes to get fresh air. Tom finds the faxed papers and confronts Teanna about them.

While still being on the clock, Wendy ends up at a park where the now-jobless Santa Claus is just hanging out (what!?). He gives her some advice about spreading Christmas cheer, and she heads back to the store knowing what needs to be done. She conspires with Tom, Angie, and Grace who montage their way through redecorating the store back to the way it was. Teanna arrives in the morning and demands to know what the hell is going. Tom fires her, and says he’ll deal with the board. Before Teanna leaves these ungrateful people, she goes and turns on the TVs, which are playing a looped ad of the hunky Santa models and some loud techno music. Then, in a scene stolen from Elf, Angie gets up and starts singing a Christmas song…I forget which one. The whole store sings along, proving they like Christmas spirit more than having a job and being able to feed their families. Teanna doesn’t sing, which is a waste because she’s played by Ashanti. Why would you hire a professional singer and not have her sing at all during the entire movie?!?!? Angie’s singing miraculously lands her a show in London, because some producer was in the store and liked her voice, which is extremely typical for these kinds of movies.

Tom offers Wendy a full-time job in retail, but she decides it’s time to go home even though her dad’s store has obviously been closed since she didn’t make enough money. She doesn’t realize she has now doomed Wolmans the same way she doomed her dad’s store – by instilling the idea that change is bad in Tom’s subconscious. She celebrates Christmas at home with her mom and Grace, who receives pink skates for Christmas. They go to use them and walk by Carroll’s Candies – which is now up for sale – when Tom suddenly shows up. He gives Wendy her Christmas bonus, which he obviously reinstated as an excuse just to come see her, proving he still has no business acumen. Wendy says it still wouldn’t have been enough to save the store (so she admits her whole adventure was pointless?), and Tom tells her that after Teanna was fired, they decided to add some more departments to the Wolmans, including a candy department. He wants Wendy to run the candy department, naturally. Since Tom is still an idiot, I’m guessing this idea was stolen from Teanna’s wealth of suggestions that are still lying around. Wendy agrees and Tom kisses her, which weirdly implies that her employment is based on them dating. I predict that in a year, Wolman closes because they continue to be stubborn and refuse to change. Teanna’s future is not touched upon, but I’m sure it’s a bright one because she’s actually good at her job when idiots don’t get in the way.


3 Rating

Solid, but not impressive. I’d watch this again just to double check if time constraints forced them to cut scenes explaining what happened to William.

Top IMDb Comment:

I don’t understand–real Xmas trees in a dept. store–wouldn’t that be a fire hazard? What was so terrible about the pink ones in the windows? they were pretty. Teanna was right about taking away some of the excess decorations.


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