A Christmas Detour is like a car wreck in that you can’t look away. Proof? That car wreck line is used as a term of endearment between the leads.
The movie starts out like a used car; it looks good for a second before you notice all the dents. Here’s all three establishing shots the movie uses at the start.
Clearly these shots are from the summertime but for some reason Hallmark decided that it was a good idea to digitally add giant Christmas trees and garland to Venice beach, and a giant wreath on the control tower at LAX, among other poor decisions that aren’t too hard to spot. Is it really that hard to establish it’s Christmas time in LA? Unfortunately, the movie’s effects don’t get any better but they do make watching A Christmas Detour a laughable experience.
So let’s say you buy that used car despite the initial dents, and you soon find a bunch of leftover junk from the previous owners, which gives you a vague idea of these characters without ever actually getting to know them, much like this movie. There’s Paige Sutherland, perky writer for Radiant Bride who sold the car as soon as she met her rich fiancée. There’s Dylan Smith, previous owner who never looked back after being ditched by the car four years ago. And then there’s Frank and Maxine, the original owners of the car who gave up on it at some point in their 20 years of marriage. The car is a metaphor for their relationship status.
All four of our characters are on the same flight to New York but criss-cross paths in the airport while waiting to take off. Paige (Candace Cameron-Bure) asks for an aisle seat for the flight because she gets claustrophobic but the attendant tells her he only has window seats (as if that ever happens!). Dylan is behind her in line and checks his itinerary which is in Comic Sans font for some reason.
He of course has an aisle seat and debates giving it to Paige but holds back when he sees her vision board. You see, Paige is the type of girl to believe anything Oprah says, and it’s probably why all her articles seem to be just a list of traits men should have.
On the plane, of course Dylan and Paige are sitting in the same row along with a random black guy whose advertising Beats headphones.
Note that in the poster the seats on the plane are red. Here they’re navy blue. Also note that Dylan and Page are sitting on the opposite side of the plane AND Paige has a window seat which is the exact opposite of what she wants! Clearly the person who designed the poster couldn’t even make it through 2 minutes of the movie.
Dylan (Paul Greene) gives her the aisle seat and they immediately dive into a conversation about ‘the one’ because that’s just what you do on cross-country flights with strangers. Paige is an optimist and believes her fiancé Jack is the one for her while Dylan is a pessimist and believes the odds would be astronomical of finding ‘the one’. Clearly these two are meant for each other and Hallmark tries to make their exchanges witty but it mostly comes off creepy.
Meanwhile, Frank and Maxine (David Lewis and Sarah Strange, respectively) are your typical married couple getting on each other’s nerves. Maxine gets huffy that Frank doesn’t know she uses dried figs in her Christmas dressing after 20 years. Frank rightly asks why he would know that? Legitimate question, Frank, but this is just to show that they’ll bicker politely over most things because that’s marriage.
It wouldn’t be an Alex review without a conspiracy theory about plotlines left on the cutting room floor, would it? Well here it is. The plane is dark and Paige is sleeping. Dylan’s not in his seat, in fact he’s coming from the front of the plane, where the cockpit is. Just as he’s stepping over Paige to get back to his seat, the lights come on and the pilot announces that due to a snowstorm they’ll be landing in Buffalo. Let’s look at the evidence here:
1. Dylan somehow got out of the middle seat and over Paige without waking her up
2. Dylan is coming from the front of the plane where the cockpit is
3. Immediately after he returns from the front of the plane the pilot announces they’re landing in Buffalo.
Dylan is probably a lonely warlock looking for love who can control the weather and also seat allocation, which explains why Paige could only get a window seat. He needs more time to land Paige so he forces the plane to land. In Buffalo, they learn that all east coast airports have been closed and all flights cancelled and that the set decorator ran out of real decorations.
Even more worrisome is why they thought this shot of the waiting area for the airport shuttle was a good idea.
Anyway, Frank and Maxine have heard Paige’s story about her going to meet her fiancé’s parents for the first time about ten times by now. The shuttle finally appears and who should pop out of nowhere to help Paige load her vision board? Warlock Dylan, of course, who also doesn’t seem fazed by the cold weather.
Stacking the evidence further, at the hotel, Dylan and Paige have to share an adjoining room. They chat some more and Paige tries to call her fiancé but her phone doesn’t get reception. Dylan offers her his phone because it is still working (warlock powers)…she declines because she’s starting to be suspicious that Dylan is a warlock…the movies plays it like she doesn’t want to make her fiancé jealous though. Oh Hallmark, why can’t you ever take a risk and keep the original plot line. It’s 2015, audiences are willing to accept a warlock romance movie!
Later at the hotel bar, Frank, Maxine and Paige reiterate their travel stories. Paige is going to the Hamptons for her perfect Christmas with her future in-laws while Frank and Maxine are visiting their daughter. Dylan again butts in with cheeriness on their stranded situation and we get another deleted plotline. Frank says, “Let me ask you something, brother, why are you so happy to be stranded?” Yes, poor Frank – who is very white – has a bad case of the Hulkamania. His struggle with calling people ‘brother’ throughout the movie is not addressed but I’m sure it’s the real reason his marriage is struggling.
Turns out, Dylan is not looking forward to going home for the holidays. He turns down the offer to join them in sleeping at the airport in case it opens up. Instead he prattles on to the barkeep about peanut freshness and watches a cameraman invade everyone’s privacy by filming them sleep for a news segment about the airport closure.
The next morning, the airport announces that all flights are cancelled so Paige, Frank and Maxine go back to that really fake shuttle waiting area. Paige gets a phone call and her ringtone is the Nutcracker theme which is confusing throughout the movie because you’re never sure if it’s her phone or just Hallmark’s continuous loop of loud Christmas music playing in the background. It’s Jack, and he wants to delay the wedding by a year and a half if Paige can’t make it to meet his parents. Just then, Dylan pulls up in a pickup truck and offers to drive all three to New York! They agree and we get to laugh at really fake shots of the truck driving on snowy roads. Note that the truck has no snow on its hood in that shot, we then get an interior shot with snow on the hood. Details, Hallmark!
In the car, we learn that all these people can talk about are relationships. Frank and Maxine make jokes like, “We’ve been married 20 years, hoping to get time off for good behaviour,” and “Soulmates? More like cellmates.” Next thing you know, they’ve already stopped a truck stop. Paige leaves to calls Jack again and lies that she’s only travelling with Frank and Maxine. Meanwhile, Dylan has grabbed Paige’s notepad out of her purse. Frank’s Hulkamania arises again as he warns Dylan, “Mind your own business there, brother.” Dylan doesn’t listen to people with rare 80s wrestling diseases though and reads the list which is ‘75 Traits of a Perfect Man’. They both realize this list is about Jack and that the only box she didn’t check was “must have a good sense of humour.” She did check off “good oral hygiene” though, which is important later.
Back in the car, Paige explains her vision board as a montage of pictures of things you strive for. Dylan makes fun of the idea and Paige tells him he’d need a Great Wall of China-sized vision board to fix his life. Great burn, Paige. Dylan, with obvious hurt pride over that sick burn, takes a cheap shot and asks if Jack makes her laugh. Paige says he’s very funny but like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, she can’t say how he’s funny. The only story she remembers is when he had a napkin stuck to his shoe; no one in car laughs at this story. Seeds of doubt are planted and if Dylan wasn’t a warlock, this whole movie could be about how to brainwash someone.
A bit later, Frank and Maxine are sleeping in the backseat so it’s time for Dylan and Paige to kiss and make up. They apologize for their initial hostilities and Paige compliments his way of using humour to diffuse situations. She says he’s like a car wreck, she can’t look away. Speaking of car wrecks, Dylan swerves off the road after Paige screams to watch out! Here’s where Dylan’s lonely warlock comes into play again. Paige thought she saw a rabbit. Warlock powers to crash the car. Luckily there’s the “O Tannenbaum Inn” right nearby, which only has two rooms left. Warlock powers as an excuse to spend more time together. The town’s mechanic will look at the car first thing tomorrow morning…which happens to be Christmas Day. Warlock powers to buy them time together and to convince the mechanic to work on the day that pretty much everyone doesn’t work!
This town is obsessed with Christmas, they even have a pub that the front desk clerk Rudy suggested called ‘Dashers Dine & Pub’ which is named like that all year long. The town also apparently has some very rare trees that keep their bright green leaves all through the winter despite the snow.
While walking around town, Dylan shares that he used to believe in the one until his girlfriend dumped him for his own brother. He hasn’t seen them in four years and they’re engaged, hence why he doesn’t want to go home. Just then Frank and Maxine take a picture of them and point out they’re under the mistletoe. They don’t kiss and instead say they’re hungry.
At Dashers Dine & Pub, Frank and Maxine reminisce about their first Christmas eating mac and cheese together and Dylan remembers stealing nibbles of the Christmas turkey with his brother who always took the blame. Paige then lies about the big family Christmases she had before fessing up that it was just her and her mom and they would watch the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting ceremony and clap at the TV like they were there. If that’s not sad enough, her mom passed away at some point because we can’t have a Christmas movie without a dead mom. All she wants is a big family Christmas, the kind the others take for granted, which she’ll get with Jack. Dylan then bites into a really stale loaf of bread, which makes Paige snort in laughter. Apparently that’s how she laughs. Notice again that Paige is laughing at the situation, rather than at Dylan’s sense of humour.
After dinner, Frank and Maxine go shopping to leave Dylan and Paige with some alone time because they’re clearly a meddlesome couple trying to set people up. Paige says that it was the perfect Christmas Eve, which is confusing for her because it wasn’t how it was supposed to be and because she doesn’t want him to be Jack. Dylan asks her if Jack ever makes her snort in laughter and the answer is clearly no. How is that even possible! Isn’t someone who makes you laugh the first thing you look for in a mate!? Did Jack also brainwash Paige?! Oh wait he’s rich, that explains it.
Dylan has now lead them back under the mistletoe and this time he gets the kiss…only to be interrupted by carollers. Paige runs off and Dylan chases her down only to be interrupted by Frank and a phone call from Jack, which Paige ignores. Frank’s going back to the hotel room and slips up by telling Paige to congratulate Jack on his excellent oral hygiene. Paige figures out that Dylan looked at her list and has been using her doubts to steal her away list to make fun of her and leaves.
Back at the hotel, Maxine finds Frank in her room after they agreed that the women would share a room, as would the men, to make it less awkward for Paige and Dylan. She kicks him out but Dylan locked their room and Rudy’s not at the front desk so they’re stuck together in the women’s room. They realize that they don’t remember when they stopped kissing each other goodnight and that that’s not a good sign. Despite that revelation, they still don’t bother to kiss each other goodnight.
The next morning, everyone discovers that Paige slept in the hotel office and hitched a ride with Rudy’s trucker uncle to New York. The truck is as equally fake as the pickup truck.
Inexplicably, unless you believe in warlock powers, Dylan’s rental car is all fixed (was it ever even broken in the first place? Is there even a mechanic in this town!) and they make it to NY as the storm is now over (he knows Paige is gone so no need to keep the weather spells going). While dropping Frank and Maxine at their daughter’s mansion of a house, Maxine tells Dylan that Paige likes him (you have the slimmest of evidence of this, Maxine!) and she gives him a present. She also give him Paige’s present and reveals where she will be eating dinner tonight if he wants to give it to her. Frank’s Hulkamania is back as he tells Dylan, “Take care of yourself, brother.” Maxine and Frank then have a serious conversation that they need to take each other for the better and not the worse which they’ve been doing and just like that their marriage is fixed…except Frank still has crippling Hulkamania fever that will continue to poison their marriage.
Paige arrives at Jack’s house. For a house that’s full of servants you’d think someone would’ve shovelled the fake snow off of the front walkway!
She promptly has her clothing insulted by Jack’s parents. She also gets denied when she tries to hug them. They’re super snooty and awesome. They tell her to get cleaned up so they can have a proper introduction. After doing so, she continues her inelegant faux pas by eating a cracker weirdly. It’s then revealed that Jack’s parents have already started planning the wedding and a local senator has agreed to host it at his mansion. Paige is clearly not okay with this, but says it could be fun. There’s something about real estate and Paige makes herself snort laugh somehow even though there seriously wasn’t a joke in there. This is again a faux pas when in the company of distinguished rich people.
Back in her room, Jack asks her to not challenge his parents on the wedding planning as these things take on a bigger meaning when you’re in with the rich crowd. Paige asks if that meaning is more important than them getting married. Jack ignores her and asks what that snorting sound she made was. She reveals that that’s how she laughs and they both find it weird that he’s never heard it before. ANYONE WOULD FIND THAT WEIRD!!!!! How is this even possible…oh wait, I forgot he’s rich and Paige can therefore put up with this stuff, because she’s a gold digger.
Dylan parks outside his mom’s house and opens the present Maxine gave him.
It’s that picture that Frank and Maxine took of him and Paige. For someone who’s probably never going to see them again, Maxine really wants them to get together! Also, that’s a super weird gift to give someone you just met. Dylan goes inside and immediately runs into his ex-girlfriend Cynthia and his brother Bryce, who are surprised he’s there. Dylan gets Bryce to help him with the bags from the truck. Bryce is weirdly short compared to Dylan.
He offers Dylan the chance to punch him but instead Dylan says he’s happy for the two of them and that they’re meant to be. They hug and it’s a nice moment of warlock family love. Bryce then finds the vision board in the trunk of Dylan’s car and asks what it is. Dylan says it’s fate.
At the country club, Jack’s mom is getting sauced already which only brings out more of her acid tongue. She announces the club will be doing the catering for the wedding and her good friend David Tuterra will be designing Paige’s dress. Jack finally shows some backbone and says that Paige can still choose any dress she wants right. His mom agrees but tells her not to get something too busty…which is something I don’t think Candace Cameron-Bure has ever been accused of? Some bread arrives and Jack’s dad brags that they’re made by a pastry chef that the club flew in from France.
Dylan, wherever he is, now convinced he has a shot to continue brainwashing Paige, uses his warlock powers to get her to slip up and say the bread is fresher than the one Dylan had last night. Jack is of course confused and Paige tries to explain that Dylan was an old man with a toupee that was also travelling with them.
But of course, Dylan bursts in at that moment, with his coat on (this is important for the next scene) and Paige’s vision board in hand. He tells Paige he hopes she finds what she really wants and they have a long staring contest before Dylan loses and walks away. Jack’s mom gets in a jab about how he didn’t look like he was wearing a toupee and Paige sees that Dylan has added the picture of them to her vision board. How dare he ruin the sanctity of someone else’s vision board! This is warlock brainwashing all over again, of course she’ll want him now that he’s on the vision board!
Paige says she can’t go through with this as it doesn’t feel like her happily ever after. She give the ring back to Jack and rushes out to the lobby. The rich dad says, “I like her.” She just dumped your son! In the lobby, Paige finds Dylan giving the coat check lady his coat!!!!???? What??? WHY!!!!?? You were just leaving Dylan!!!??? Anyway, they kiss and and he asks her if they’re soulmates and then he brings her home to his big family Christmas, the one Paige always wanted.
Inoffensive on the surface, while creepy, weird, and worrying the more you look into it. Frank’s Hulkamania was my favourite part. The movie keeps calling it fate that Dylan and Paige are ending up together but it’s clear it’s his warlock powers that he subtly employs throughout the movie to create situations that would never occur. Maybe not a car wreck as initially described, but at least a shoddily built car with poor wiring and constant engine problems. The laughable special effects give it an extra bump on the rating scale.