Christmas Trade has one thing that sets it apart from other Christmas movies and it is not its stolen plot. In a phrase that’s never been uttered before, that thing is Billy Baldwin’s acting. Come for the generic story you’ve seen in better movies but stay for Billy Baldwin acting like a kid, beating up kids, doing pratfalls, smiling insanely and trying to pretend that he’s grossed out kissing Denise Richards.
By now you’ve probably determined from the above poster that this is basically ‘Freaky Friday’ set at Christmas. You’ll notice that that kid is clearly wearing an oversized suit trying to look like an adult, while Billy Baldwin is an adult looking like a kid with that skateboard. Don’t believe this poster though because neither of those things happen in this movie. Billy Baldwin sadly doesn’t skateboard, and Billy Baldwin stuck inside that kid’s body wears normal-sized kids clothes except for a couple cardigans to try and adult it up a bit.
We open on Robbie, an 11 year old, in bed at night searching the Internet for toys he wants for Christmas. Clearly Robbie hasn’t hit puberty yet or this would be a different story. Galactic Space Ninja is at the top of his list but who knows why because it’s such a generic toy with a piss poor advertising campaign. He then visits the Mystery Emporium site and thinks long and hard if he would like to enter the site. Eventually he does and it’s a whole bunch of old school tinker toys. This bores him to the point that he decides to go to bed but not before kissing a picture of his mom at the grand opening of her bakery. Clearly something happened here and if you’ve seen any other Christmas movie you should already have your eulogy written. Suddenly there’s a loud noise outside. Robbie investigates but finds nothing because he’s blind and didn’t see the package from Mystery Emporium right on his door step.
The next morning we’re introduced to Mitch Taylor, Robbie’s father, played by, and henceforth referred to in this review, Billy Baldwin. Billy Baldwin is a lawyer who is always working and doesn’t have time for kid stuff. He goes outside and finds the package. The first compliment I have to give this movie is that it doesn’t try and pretend it’s cold and snowy outside. Nope, this movie is smarter than that and sets itself in warm and sunny Pomona, California. Billy Baldwin also bumps into Amelia, a talkative neighbourhood dog walker who I suspect is probably a witch and also the grand manipulator of this whole movie. She shows up and Robbie is all over the dogs she’s walking which in turn makes him want a puppy for Christmas. An obvious set up by Amelia to gain more money by then walking the dog Robbie would get. She even brags about how many dogs are in the neighbourhood for her to walk. Unfortunately Billy Baldwin sees right through this and will not get Robbie a dog. Amelia has a plan though; remember how that package mysteriously appeared last night? Clearly it’s Amelia’s backup plan if the direct approach didn’t work. She’ll rope them into her dog walking business through witchy magic!
Billy Baldwin drives Robbie to school and smarmily writes a cheque while two teachers, Trish and her forgettable sidekick, ogle him and call him “Hot Widow Dad.”
We learn from Trish and Billy Baldwin’s one-sided flirtatious conversation that he recommended a divorce lawyer to her and she is now single and about a step away from selling it on the street for a nickel. We also learn that Robbie is playing Santa Claus in the school play while Trish’s son, Francis the school bully, is playing a rock.
There are issues at the office and Billy Baldwin tells his staff that there’s “no problems, only opportunities in bad clothing.” Speaking of bad clothing, we’re introduced to Trudy, Billy Baldwin’s assistant, who wears a different Christmas sweater every day. Somehow Trudy is not the worst dressed employee working with Billy Baldwin. That honor goes to Bailey, his paralegal, who dresses like a man right down to the tie, and later on a full suit. I’m pretty sure Bailey was originally supposed to be played by a dude.
Enough about this ragtag group though, because here comes the bitch squad led by Harper who you’re supposed to think is speaking French but is definitely not. I speak French and re-listened to her one sentence about five times before deciding it was gibberish with an accent. Anyways, she’s Billy Baldwin’s boss and explains to him that after 36 hours of childbirth she was back in the office the next day to close a deal; that’s what kind of dedication it takes to make partner. She warns him not to screw up the Mr. Green contract or the Christmas party. He assures her everything is under control. Later on, Billy Baldwin is visited by his new girlfriend Chloe, played by Denise Richards’ skeleton. She’s not good with kids and they discuss spending Christmas apart for Robbie’s sake.
Back at school, Mrs. Brewer is trying to control her students to practice for the Christmas pageant. This is the worst display of children trying to act out of control I’ve ever seen. They’re literally just waving their arms and running in circles.
Robbie is officially gifted a girlfriend in the most elementary school way possible, by being told she likes him by a third party who also advises he buy her a necklace.
Billy Baldwin is late again picking up Robbie from school which drives another wedge between these two. Robbie complains that he needs more money because he has expenses, to which Billy Baldwin quips, “What, was there a spike in the price of Pokémon cards?” Timely references there, Billy Baldwin. They finally open the Mystery Emporium package which contains a very creepy stuffed teddy bear. They stop at the mall to do some shopping. Billy Baldwin is incapable of getting the last Galactic Space Ninja from an elderly woman and the store clerk ignores Robbie’s requests to buy a necklace because he’s a kid. On the way home, they stop to get a Christmas tree but Billy Baldwin is in such a hurry that he grabs the first one he sees. This causes Robbie and Billy Baldwin to fight about how Billy Baldwin is always busy and how Robbie has it so great and he wishes he could be 11 again. They play right into Amelia’s master plan and that stuffed bear gets even creepier when its creepy eyes start glowing and it says, “Your Christmas wish is my command.”
Billy Baldwin and Robbie switch bodies. Why does Amelia need them to switch bodies? Read on and find out.
Also, the switch makes writing this review really confusing because now Robbie is trying to act like Billy Baldwin while Billy Baldwin starts acting like a kid. It’s also the point where the movie becomes great. Billy Baldwin starts freaking out, saying “oh man” a lot, and becoming a lot more animated than normal. Clearly he’s relishing playing a fun role rather than his normal dark and brooding roles.
So at this point, the movie also has the characters say each other’s names every sentence so the audience remembers that they’ve switched bodies. To keep this shorter and less confusing, we need a naming convention for this review. Robbie, who is stuck in Billy Baldwin’s adult size body, will now be referred to as Billy-11-year-old, which captures that he’s an 11 year old inside the body of Billy Baldwin. Billy Baldwin (aka Mitch Taylor), who is stuck inside of Robbie’s kid-sized body, will now be referred to as Mature Robbie, which captures that he’s Billy’s Baldwin’s adult character inside the body of Robbie.
Anyway, now Billy-11-year-old has to learn to drive the car home because having Mature Robbie drive home would attract too much attention. After much gas, brake, gas, brake, they make it home and promptly reference that they’ve been Freaky Friday’d by that bear! Luckily the bear has a telephone number on it which they call and leave a message. Some other wackiness happens when Mature Robbie almost drinks a beer and then uses the wrong toothbrush which disgusts Billy-11-year-old.
The next morning they’re still stuck in each other’s bodies which is upsetting to Billy-11-year-old but he has that frown turned upside down by some really good pancakes.
They decide to lay low and call in sick. Unfortunately this plan doesn’t work as Billy Baldwin’s character is called into work for a deposition and Mature Robbie learns that regular Robbie has forged some sick notes and is in danger of being held back if he misses any more school. It’s literally four months into the school year and they’re already threatening this? Mature Robbie preps Billy-11-year-old for the meeting with cue cards and tells him to pretend he’s sick and let Bailey do all the work.
At the office Billy-11-year-old is met by Trudy and he comments on her awesome Christmas sweater (it’s a different one than yesterday!). This is also the time to mention that Billy-11-year-old is wearing a suit with Converse that I guess he just happened to have since they’re an adult size? Either way, he looks like Ellen DeGeneres. It’s time for more pratfalls! Billy-11-year-old tries to grab some folders and pens from a cart and knocks it over, forcing a dweeb kid to have to pick it all up as he grumbles about spending 26 hours getting those files organized and skipping out on his girlfriend’s anniversary dinner. At the deposition, Billy-11-year-old sucks down a juice box, doesn’t know anyone’s names, and tries to pawn the work off on Bailey (who is again dressed like a man) but gets told to do it himself by Mr. Green.
He tries to ask questions on the cue cards but ends up falling out of his chair and spilling his juice box everywhere. The other legal team thinks he’s playing hardball and they leave.
Mature Robbie shows up to Ralph Parker Elementary School, and yes that is a not-so-subtle nod to A Christmas Story’s Ralphie Parker. It could’ve been if they didn’t show the damn banner five times in the movie. Why a school in California would be named after a kid from Indiana is not addressed. But that’s not the school’s main problem: honestly, their teachers are terrible. First, Trish harasses Mature Robbie and tells him to say hi to his cute dad for her. Not appropriate, Trish. Next, we’ve already met Mrs. Brewer who again shows her incompetence in shaping young minds. She hands out a math test and then promptly puts a sleeping mask over her eyes to nap!! What about students cheating!? What about safety!? Her nap is interrupted only a moment later though when Mature Robbie turns in his test. As if napping in class wasn’t enough, she then accuses Mature Robbie of just picking the first choice he saw rather than doing any work. After grading the test and seeing that all his answers were correct she asks, “Did you just wake up and decide you’re not a C minus student in math?” HORRIBLE AND RUDE!!!!!
At the pageant rehearsal, we learn more about the reign of terror that Francis has inflicted. We also get a delightful aside where this nerd kid joins the conversation to claim that Francis can lift up three first graders at the same time.
Robbie’s friend Max has drawn a crude picture of Francis’ face on a large baby’s body as some sort of revenge. Of course Francis shows up and catches Mature Robbie with it. Mature Robbie tries to talk his way out of it but ends up getting punched in the face. Mrs. Brewer of course does nothing about this.
On his way home Billy-11-year-old stops to assault some kids at soccer.
He pushes them down not once, not twice, but thrice! He then falls in a moat (I think?) while celebrating his crime.
Back at home, Mature Robbie learns of Billy-11-year-old’s mishaps during the deposition from some very nasty and threatening voicemails from Harper. Just then there’s a knock at the door; it’s Chloe checking up on Billy Baldwin. Mature Robbie tries to convince her that Billy Baldwin isn’t home but she barges in anyways. Mature Robbie then tries to give signals to Billy-11-year-old but he’s no good at telephone and explains his actions earlier were just a bad shrimp episode and now he has to go to church…err…go to sleep. Eventually he gets Chloe to leave after a really awkward (for everyone) kiss in front of Mature Robbie.
Just when you think the night can’t get any weirder, Tom Arnold shows up at their front door! He’s Gus, the bear repair man who instantly knows that Robbie and Billy Baldwin have switched bodies and makes subtle references that he’s actually Santa Claus. The bear needs a new part, which will take a couple days to order.
The next morning, Mature Robbie is off to school but stops to pay Amelia – yes, he actually gives her money which is what she wants – to watch over Billy-11-year-old. But that’s not enough, she wants a steady paycheque for walking a dog! Aware of the situation, she spends the entire time on her phone while Billy-11-year-old has the time of his life. Just look at these gifs of him playing, setting up the tree, and burning some cookies along with his hand.
Watch the left hand with no oven mitt; it clearly touches the inside of the oven door, which should be hot. Unfortunately, Billy-11-year-old’s great time is interrupted by Trudy informing him that the caterer, violinist, and ice sculpture have all cancelled for the work Christmas party and they need him in the office! Hmmm…suspicious that Amelia was on the phone and now all these things are cancelled…Billy-11-year-old slaps on a blazer over his hoodie and heads out to fix these issues. Amelia pretends not to notice but really you can tell she’s doing the finger pyramid of evil contemplation that Mr. Burns does when he says “Excellent.” It’s all part of her plan.
At the office, Trudy is again wearing a new Christmas sweater. Billy-11-year-old tells her that it’s fine that all those things cancelled; they sounded boring anyways. He was at Jimmy Pearson’s awesome birthday party last week and it had none of those things! He asks Trudy for the number for Party Palace.
Back at school, Mrs. Brewer approaches Mature Robbie who is practicing his pageant lines during recess. She asks him why he’s not playing (good start, Mrs. Brewer, don’t go screwing it up…) AND if he’s missing his mom (you were so close, Mrs. Brewer). Luckily, since it’s actually Billy Baldwin in Robbie’s body, he’s mature enough to handle this and tells her no, he just wants to do well at the pageant. Mrs. Brewer convinces him to go play because later on in life he might regret spending all this time working. Why, what a nice message Mrs. Brewer, you’ve redeemed yourself nicely. Later at the pageant rehearsal, Mature Robbie has had enough of Francis’ bullying and tears him a new one with his words. Something along the lines of him having no friends and that he’ll grow up to be a loser. Francis runs away crying, the kids clap because Mature Robbie destroyed him, and Mrs. Brewer once again does nothing. Is there a word for when redemption is quickly changed back to being useless? Luckily, Mature Robbie has a moral compass and feels bad. He finds Francis outside and apologizes and they bond over their missing parent. Mature Robbie makes an ultimatum with him; if he stops beating up sixth graders, he can hang out with Robbie and his friends whenever he likes. But wait, won’t this cause problems when Billy Baldwin and Robbie switch bodies back? The movie doesn’t address this conundrum of how regular Robbie would react.
Back at the office, Billy-11-year-old has a gym date with Chloe. She professes that she’s worried about him and tries to help by quoting Dr. Phil. This whole scene takes place in an apparently co-ed locker room and, no, Billy-11-year-old does not get to see his first pair of tatas. That would be just too creepy. Billy-11-year-old also learns Chloe will be alone for Christmas since she thinks Robbie doesn’t want her there. He’s also reminded that he has to do the Christmas shopping!
Montage of shopping! Billy-11-year-old buys lots of toys, and ties, and finally gets that necklace even though it’s with the creepiest Billy Baldwin smile of all.
Not content with just buying things, Billy-11-year-old also has to work in more assaults on children. Here is he crushing them, and their dreams, at basketball.
Of course Trish is watching all of this and thinks he’s just a great dad and decides it’s time to take what she wants even though her forgettable friend tells her Billy Baldwin is seeing someone. Nuts to that, says Trish as she adjusts her boobs (does this even do anything?), and heads over to corner Billy-11-year-old. She slams her tongue down his throat before Billy-11-year-old pushes her off and says she made him feel like a slut. Making matters worse, Chloe was watching all of this and doesn’t believe that he’s the victim here. Billy-11-year-old tries to explain but ends up talking about how he misses his mom and starts crying and runs off. Apparently this works, because Chloe calls and leaves a message that she’s never seen him that vulnerable. She somehow doesn’t even realize he’s not making sense; the real Billy Baldwin would’ve said he missed his wife, not his mom.
The next morning, Mature Robbie reassures Billy-11-year-old that he doesn’t need to go to the office party for him. Of course Billy-11-year-old doesn’t listen to this and goes to the party…he did plan it, after all. The party is obviously for 11 year olds and features juice boxes, marshmallows, cups with antlers and looks like the inside of a snow globe. P.S. Trudy got a bit fancier but still has an ugly Christmas cardigan on. Harper of course hates this party and yells at Billy-11-year-old about renting a bouncy castle. She threatens to burn the whole place down so that Mr. Green doesn’t see this travesty! …But of course he’s standing right behind her. He loves the party because the kid in the bouncy castle is his son, who he thought would be bored all night long. He agrees to continue to use them as his law firm.
Billy-11-year-old then gets a call and says he’ll be right there but on his way out he bumps into Chloe and asks if they can talk. The movie makes you wait for what happens though as we cut to Billy-11-year-old meeting Gus, who had called, at their house. Gus replaces the part but the bear still won’t talk. He tells Billy-11-year-old that these things usually work themselves out. Gus also reveals that the real Billy Baldwin wanted one of these bears when he was a kid and probably doesn’t even remember. Just tell us if you’re Santa Claus, Tom Arnold!!!
Billy-11-year-old is now a pretty decent driver as he rushes and parks at Robbie’s school with the bear in the back seat. We see a bit of the pageant and, true to earlier, Francis is playing a rock.
Also did the girl second from the right have a growth spurt after costumes were measured? It clearly doesn’t fit! What’s the deal!? Right before the curtains open on Mature Robbie, the bear’s eyes start glowing again and it says its creepy “Your Christmas wish is my command” line…except nobody wished anything…both of them were silent. Why did it happen at this point? I’ll explain why in a minute, and yes, it does have to do with Amelia the witch. Anyway, Robbie and Billy Baldwin are back in their normal bodies and hug in the aisle. Robbie doesn’t even give his speech as Santa for the pageant.
The next morning is Christmas, because apparently schools in California make children go to school and perform in pageants on Christmas Eve. Robbie gets lots of toys including a tablet and a scooter (still no skateboard from that poster). There’s a knock at the door. It’s Chloe with a big present. Billy Baldwin is confused and Chloe asks him if he already forgot the conversation they had yesterday (AKA the scene they never filmed for us) about her spending Christmas with them and the present he requested she get for Robbie. The present is a puppy that Robbie names Chewie even though it has no resemblance to the loveable wookie! Billy Baldwin shakes his head, “AMELIA!!!!!!!!!!!!” Yes, her plan to use that magic bear to switch their bodies so that Billy-11-year-old could have sway in getting a puppy has worked. Why did the bear activate in the car? Because obviously Amelia was following Billy-11-year-old and overheard the conversation he had with Chloe where he asked her to get a puppy. Events were set in motion and she no longer needed them in each other’s bodies to accomplish her goals of getting more money. Obviously Billy Baldwin doesn’t actually yell her name but he would’ve if this movie wanted to make any sense. There’s also a freeze frame to end the movie which I find is always a nice touch. Oh, and Robbie also bought a wedding ring and put it in Billy Baldwin’s pocket but the movie doesn’t even show the proposal so whatever, I don’t care.
The stuff with kid actors was a bore but watching Billy Baldwin act like a child was a highlight! Overall I rate this pretty high just for his manic energy and complete reversal of type-casting.