Lucky Christmas is my kind of movie. It features:
a) a washed-up 90s TV star
b) a plot involving a winning lottery ticket
c) a bumbling idiot best friend
It’s surprising then that the movie isn’t very good, due to its hijinks never reaching the delirious heights of better/worse Christmas movies.
We open on Jessie Spano, who has now changed her name to Holly (I guess Carol and Mary were already taken as those are the only three names you’re allowed to have in a Christmas movie). Holly is a single parent of her son Max, who bears a slight resemblance to Zack Morris. The reasons why Zack obviously banged Jessie, stole her car and money, and at some point forced her into the witness protection program (hence the name change and the movie being set in Michigan rather than Bayside, California) is sadly glossed over. “Holly” is also perpetually out of work and living in the attic above a nice old couple. She pays for her rent by cooking for them (highly unlikely).
Holly buys a lottery ticket every week with the exact same numbers: 21, 07, 12, 11, 06, 15; but this week she decides to buy a lottery ticket for a million dollar Christmas giveaway. The store clerk knows her numbers off by heart as they sing them together, which tells us more than a holiday movie is willing to delve into. Let’s review: no job, no money, her husband is out of the picture, and she plays the lottery every week. This all points to the real root of all of Holly’s problems: having a hardcore gambling addiction. But much like the Zack subplot, this is also swept to the subtext of the movie in favour of the bland love story. Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but I believe the director shares my desire to see a gritty and realistic sequel to Saved by the Bell. For now though, we’ll have to live with Lucky Christmas lightly winking at our hopes.
As any person does when they buy a lottery ticket, Holly gives it a big kiss and then throws it in her glove compartment (which, by the way, is packed with old lottery tickets; I see your hidden hints and nods, director that was forced to be cookie cutter!). She drives off to the bar to meet a friend, when she should be saving money.
Meanwhile we’re introduced to her soon-to-be love interest, Mike, and his bumbling best friend, Joe. They’re in the middle of their construction site, busy tossing Joe’s mementoes from a recent relationship into a flaming garbage can. Joe, being an idiot, throws a pillow into the garbage can, which causes it to explode and light the half-built house on fire. Joe is scolded by a fireman for not knowing that pillows explode when thrown in the fire (really?!). But this scolding is nothing compared to when Bob, the construction company’s boss and Mike’s big brother, shows up and wants to fire Joe for causing the damage. This is a completely reasonable demand, yet Mike needs to prove to us audience members that he’s a good guy, so he stands up for Joe and reassures Bob that he’ll get the house construction back on track. And come up with $50,000 for insurance. How? He doesn’t know yet, but he pitches his green construction idea (yup, this movie is in on the recycling fad, just another cliché to make Mike more likable) but Big Brother Boss Bob shuts it down because that’s not how their dad wanted them to run the company!
To continue with their miserable parade, Mike and Joe go the same bar as Holly, who promptly bumps into someone and drops her keys in the parking lot. Unlucky Holly has a brief bit of luck as her friend tells her they’ve hired Holly as a hostess at the restaurant. Mike proves he’s a charmer by acting sheepish and getting a free drink from a waitress, which he doesn’t even drink because he’s feeling sick. Joe decides to take him home, but finds a boot attached to his truck, at which he exclaims “I paid those parking tickets!!!” Classic Joe!
Not being satisfied that he’s ruined enough peoples days yet, Joe finds Holly’s keys and decides to ‘loan’ her car to get sick Mike home. He says he’ll bring it back, but in another brilliant bit of subtext, we realize Joe is probably a criminal mastermind on an arson/grand theft auto spree. With her friend, Holly emerges from the bar to find the car has been stolen. She calls the police to report it missing. She gets a lift home from her friend and then scolds her son Max for entering a father/son soapbox derby race, because his father is out of the picture. It should be noted that Max is way too old for this role. He sounds like he went through puberty five years ago, but alas he plays it like an excitable seven year old.
The next morning: in a plot twist no one saw coming, Holly finds that her lottery ticket is the winner of the million dollars!! But, oh no, she was an idiot and put it in the glove compartment of her now-stolen car! She goes down to the lottery office and tries to convince them she owns the winning ticket. She even brings her enabler shopkeeper, who explains that she buys the same numbers every week from him. However, without a ticket, the lottery office can do nothing but ruin her day even more by telling her she has to cash the ticket by midnight Christmas Eve! Ticking clock? Money on the line? Two people that could use the money? At this point, the writer’s job is done as she’s set all the balls in motion and we can already tell how this is going to end.
Holly goes on the news to announce that the car thief has her winning ticket, thus ensuring they can’t cash it. Mike and Joe, of course, turned on the TV at this exact moment and put two and two together. Criminal mastermind Joe starts scheming ways to keep the money, but Mike wants the audience to love him and says they should send it back. Mike does some investigating by following Holly, and he comes to the conclusion that she doesn’t need the money (giant house, big loner car). Joe convinces Mike to seduce Holly with his charm to get some reward money to pay off their arson debt and a little bit more for a new big screen TV (classic Joe!). They ditch the car, but notice Max’s skates in the trunk and plot to use hockey to get close to the mother and son.
Mike shows Max some sick between-the-legs hockey deeks and chats with an uninterested Holly. Before you know it, he’s best buds with Max, telling him and his mom to come watch him play hockey on Saturday. Through a bit of convincing from her friend, Holly and Max go to the game. Afterwards Mike asks them if they’d like to go out for dinner. Holly agrees, and Mike says he’ll pick them up and walks before Holly stops him to offer her address…because he shouldn’t have it yet. You almost got caught Mike! You should leave the criminal stuff to Joe!
Mike goes to pick them up and learns that Holly and Max share the attic in the big house, thus realizing that damn, they do need the money! On their date, he discovers that she’s eyeing a commercial space to open a cafe and live in an apartment above it. He agrees to help Max build a soapbox derby car for the big father/son race, which some idiot event organizer has scheduled for Christmas Eve.
A couple dates later, Mike’s already created a floor plan for Holly’s café, which she loves. She encourages him to post his excellent, environment-friendly designs online. Holly also opens up to Mike about the lottery ticket and asks if she should offer a reward since the deadline is approaching. Mike takes a long, non-suspicious pause before saying she shouldn’t. He runs off as she tries to put the moves on him and goes home to tell Joe he’s mailing the ticket back to Holly, because as the audience already guessed, he’s falling for her.
A couple dates with Holly later Mike is getting nervous that she still hasn’t received the letter. He suspects Joe stole it, but because Mike only sees him as bumblingly incompetent, the idea never gains traction. This was Joe’s chance to reveal himself as a criminal mastermind, but he’s probably saving that for when Holly actually has the money. In actuality, her son Max stepped on the letter and then left his boots upstairs for like five days without ever wearing them again…in the middle of winter.
Holly finally goes over to Mike’s place and, in a knowing jab to the audience, comments he needs a bigger TV. She then finds a CD labelled “Max’s Fave Christmas Songs,” which had been in her stolen car. She locks herself in the bathroom while Mike admits it was an accident, that they stole the car and the ticket, and that he’s really falling for her and that he sent the ticket back to her in the mail. At this point, Holly criticizes the American postal service a couple of times and huffs off.
Then there’s a montage that lasts for what feels like ten minutes. It probably feels longer than it is because each shot is put in agonizing slow motion. It’s almost as if they didn’t shoot enough montage footage and had to slow everything down to fill the time.
Either way, Mike and Joe have now been working lots of unpaid overtime to get the burnt-down house renovations back on schedule. Big Brother Boss Bob re-appears and says Joe is fired anyway, but Mike convinces him to keep him on, because ta-da! His online design business has orders coming in, because green construction is great. Bob finally sees the light, yet they’re still short the fifty grand for insurance.
Meanwhile, Max runs away after Holly tells him that neither Mike nor his biological father will be going to the soapbox derby. After Max shows up at Mike’s house, Mike calls Holly to tell her that they’re going to work on the soapbox derby car. I guess despite their disagreement over the handling of a stolen car and lottery ticket, he promised he’d helped Max with it so Holly is cool with leaving her only child at the house of a criminal. At this point, we finally realize that this isn’t actually a street race, but in fact, a race between tiny wooden cars that they built. Disappointing. Somehow, the event draws a crowd (maybe that event organizer wasn’t bad after all?). I don’t think Team Mike-Max wins, although frankly, I was too disappointed by these tiny cars to care about these scenes.
Mike goes to Christmas Eve dinner at Big Brother Boss Bob’s house, whereas Holly and Max go home. Joe shows up to Holly’s house as Santa Claus for non-criminal reasons, and tells them that Mike wanted to give them a Christmas gift; he’s decorated their house, somehow without anyone noticing or hearing anything! I guess the nice old couple that owns this house now has to pay for the electrical bill? Holly finally spots the ticket stuck to Max’s boot, and they rush off to get Mike, because all is forgiven and she doesn’t want to cash it without him (he still would’ve been there after you cashed it Holly, why would you jeopardize this!). They drive over to Bob’s house, pick up Mike, and are about to head downtown. In another callback to the beginning of the movie, Joe’s car gets another boot attached to it in the two minutes they were in Bob’s house! They decide they’ll run there instead (I guess Bob doesn’t care enough to offer them a drive?). They make it just in time (P.S. It’s still Christmas eve and about two minutes before midnight and for some reason, the lottery office is only right now about to close). Holly tells Mike she no longer cares about the money, she loves him, and they kiss. They cash the ticket anyways.
Despite the lack of hijinks and the disappointment of that soap box derby race, I kinda liked this movie. The hidden plot points were fun to speculate about.
Top IMDb Comment:
I didn’t care for “Mike’s” looks. His eyes seemed sinister and insincere.