We’ve finally made it.
The cream of the crop of ‘so bad it’s good.’
The movie that started my obsession with terrible Christmas movies: Christmas in Wonderland.
I don’t even know where to start. Reading anything I write in this review won’t do the movie any justice. I urge you to see it before reading this because I don’t want your cringes, laughter for the wrong reason, actual laughter from actual funny parts, and WTF faces being spoiled by knowing what’s coming. That’s right, this movie is worthy of a spoilers warning.
Christmas in Wonderland is the story of a family of five that recently moved from LA to Edmonton for work. The dad is forced to do the Christmas shopping while the mom is stuck waiting for a flight and the kids get into mischief at the mall. Generic plot? You bet, but there is soooooo so much more. First off, the movie has a cavalcade of recognizable stars; Patrick Swayze plays the dad (SWAYZE!!!), SNL alum Chris Kattan and Jackass alum Preston Lacey play the bumbling criminals! Carmen Electra plays the evil bitch and mastermind of the criminals! Even the kids are played by recognizable faces! Cameron Bright, best known for being the kid from ‘Thank You for Smoking’ and Leech from X-Men 3, is oldest son Danny. AND I saved the best for last, Tim Curry plays inspector Gordon McLoosh of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police! He’s easily the best character any Christmas movie has ever had and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be yelling “McLoosh!” anytime he does something hilarious (which is always). I would watch the shit out of a TV series about McLoosh solving crimes.
We still haven’t even scratched the surface of how or why this movie is great. Here’s a bullet point list because it would take all day to go through everything:
- The family lives in Edmonton and yet it’s heavily mentioned that it’s going to be a green Christmas this year so the movie can get away with not filming in winter
- The kids claim Canadians are idiots and they’ll need a lobotomy to be able to communicate with us (I’m Canadian)
- The kids make fun of our money and that a dollar is called a ‘loonie’
- The phrase “it sucks royal cojones” is said by the kids at least five times about Edmonton
- Swayze is insulted and has his sexuality questioned by a needlessly German lingerie store employee
- Swayze thinks a handheld snowblower is a good gift for his wife (hint: a handheld snowblower is not a good idea ,in general, with how much, and how heavy, snow can be in Edmonton)
- There’s a magical Santa who plays five different characters all in different places at once
- There’s a shopping montage set to Katrina and the Waves “Walking on Sunshine”
- There’s a freeze frame finish
- There’s a stereotypical Canadian sales clerk who can’t stop saying “eh”
- Danny left his girlfriend ‘Shane’ back in LA and he meets another girl who just moved from LA who’s also named ‘Shane.’ What are the odds!?
- Danny (and the movie) is super leery and pervy towards Shane (the actress was only 15-16 at the time)
- One of the criminals is a fat guy and of course the movie has fun with that
- There’s Carmen Electra in this crazy all-white outfit
- There’s this hilarious exterior shot of the West Edmonton Mall that is nowhere near accurate to what it actually looks like
- Ads for products like Xbox 360 and iPod, to name a few, are everywhere (it is set in a mall though, so it’s acceptable even though the entire movie is pretty much an ad for the West Edmonton Mall and its amenities)
- And there’s the scene at the “North Pole.” We’ll get to that, but needless to say, it’s a showstopper for all the wrong reasons. It’s the reason the movie will be watched for years to come. It defies explanation and makes you question what the thought process was for including it.
Note: I didn’t include anything about McLoosh in there, because I’m going to go into more detail about him later.
So we’ve already met the Saunders family, Dad Swayze and three children Danny, Brian, and Mary. Mom is stuck in LA and Dad Swayze already got fired before he even started his new oil rig job in Edmonton (should’ve moved to Calgary, Swayze). He’s tasked with doing the Christmas shopping, on Christmas Eve no less, and also raising the spirits of the kids. Mary is the youngest and therefore believes in Santa so much that she starts chipping tiles off what I suspect is a roof for a fireplace? They haven’t had time to decorate and don’t even have a tree as most of their belonging are still boxed up from the move. Meanwhile, Danny does a not-so-great job of setting up the Santa decoration outside.
Enough backstory, we’re off to the mall! Swayze immediately ditches the kids under the guise of shopping and puts Danny in charge of them. Danny of course then ditches Mary and Brian in the line to see Santa, since the wait time is about 75 minutes. As soon as he’s out of sight though, the line shortens, due to the boys’ choir group in line being called away to practice. The West Edmonton Mall has the most bizarre Santa costume; frankly, he looks more like a wizard than your classic Santa.
Mary informs Santa that they’ve moved and asks for a million dollars for her dad. Santa says he’ll do his best. With time to spare before Danny gets back, Brian and Mary decide to try ice skating. Where they got the money to rent skates is unknown. But they do end up with a million dollars (or actually $200K) after the Cardoza brothers, Leonard (Kattan) and Sheldon (Lacey), accidentally knock their bag of counterfeit money onto the skating rink below due to a heated debate about Sheldon’s overeating habits. Their plan was to purchase things and get real money as change as no clerk has time on Christmas Eve to notice counterfeit money. Before the Cardoza brothers can go after Mary and Brian, they’re interrupted by Ginger Peachum (Electra) who is apparently the mastermind behind this plan, despite not having any brains…but she’s hot shit and knows it. She pops a balloon and threatens to do the same to their genitals if they don’t get the money back. Mary and Brian abscond with the money as Mary believes it’s the million dollars she asked Santa for. They use kid logic and decide to spend the money and we’re off on a shopping spree montage! Clothes are tried on, candy is bought, toys are played with, and a small motorcycle is also purchased from this Canadian hunk with gorgeous hockey hair.
The Cardoza brothers narrowly miss catching them everytime they come out of a store.
Back at LAX, the children’s mom, Judy, is visited by a hippie who tells her things will all work out for her even though she’s stranded.
He gets up and leaves when the airport calls for Kristopher Kringle. The mom also realizes he’d called her by name despite her never having told him it.
Meanwhile, Danny is being pervy and staring at all the girls in the waterpark when he spots a girl in a red bikini slo-mo coming out of the water. He’s so struck by her good looks that he becomes a criminal and skips the entrance fee by hopping the fence and running over to find her but can only find this lucky gal, who is clearly not the babe he’s looking for.
Swayze is still trying to find presents and after being shut down by a German sales associate at LaSenza (a Canadian lingerie store), he decides to shop at Zellers where his credit card is turned down. Deterred, he goes to the bar where he and Santa are the only people in the place. Santa reminds Swayze of the pony he got for Christmas when he was a young boy, telling him that his dad worked two jobs to pay for it. This gives Swayze the belief that he can make this Christmas great before he realizes that this guy shouldn’t know that info. Before he can get to the bottom of this conundrum, Santa is beamed back to the Starship Enterprise.
When Swayze asks if the bartender just saw that, the bartender promptly throws his drunk ass out.
Enter Gordon McLoosh, inspector for the RCMP (never mind that they don’t have jurisdiction in Edmonton). They’ve called him in because counterfeit money has been showing up all over the mall thanks to Brian and Mary. He mistakes the guard’s surname for Brock, then Bock, then Black, then Beck rather than his real name of Block. I should mention McLoosh can never remember anyone’s names and constantly mispronounces them. His backstory is that he was a good policeman until he got kicked in the head by a horse and can’t remember anything anymore. Why isn’t he on leave? Don’t even ask that question as the movie is nothing without him! McLoosh then interviews the motorcycle sales clerk Walter Crump, or as McLoosh calls him, Clump. He stereotypically ‘Canadians’ his way through his lines and says that he believed Brian and Mary’s story about winning the lottery. Luckily, McLoosh gets their delivery address and sends one of his guys, “Rico” (who corrects McLoosh that his name is Smith only to then have it pronounced as Smyth) to the house to find the counterfeit crooks.
Danny meanwhile comes back to Santa’s village to find Mary and Brian gone. He searches for them in the playplace but only finds the girl from the pool who introduces herself as ‘Shane’, which just happens to be the same name as Danny’s girlfriend in LA, AND she also recently moved from LA. Furthering their meeting of fate, she’s also looking for a sibling she lost in the mall. Instead of actually searching though, they decide to get some Booster Juice and bond over their hatred of Edmonton.
Smith arrives at the Saunders’ house and deduces that it looks like they’re about to move their operation because of all the packed boxes. The police tear the place apart and purposely break some lamps before finding a picture of the family which is faxed to McLoosh.
McLoosh, now armed with what the supposed crooks look like, arrests Swayze as soon as he is kicked out of the bar. Brian and Mary overhear this and realize they have counterfeit money but just then the Cardoza brothers corner them. Luckily, Santa, this time dressed as an old man with a walker, interrupts them and the kids make a run for it.
The crooks chase them but have to speed walk as running would bring too much attention. The kids head into the back halls of the mall where they, and Sheldon, are terrified by the shadow of a wolf, referencing an earlier story Brian had told Mary about the mall ghost who preys on lost children and feeds them to his wolf. The kids turn off into another room where they run into Leonard. They split up with Leonard chasing Brian up some stairs to the shark feeding area. Brian dumps some fish on the ground causing Leonard to fall into the shark tank where he spends an inexplicable amount of time swimming underwater when any normal human being would swim up for air hurriedly.
Back in the interrogation room, McLoosh lays into Swazye, who he refers to as Sanders, for information. There’s a great example of ‘one conversation, two meanings’ where McLoosh is asking where Swayze got the plates (for counterfeit money) and Swayze (thinking he’s talking about dinnerware) tells him Walmart.
Brian exits the mall’s back halls only to run right into Danny and Shane. They go back to look for Mary and find her being guarded by a one-eyed, boiler suit wearing man who has a husky for a dog. He claims not to be the mall ghost and is also played by the same actor as Santa, Kris Kringle, and the old man with a walker.
He gives them directions to get out of the back halls and tells them not to go through the red door. When asked why, he tells Brian that it leads to the North Pole. Brian is skeptical and opens the door anyway, to reveal something much much worse.
Holy moly, what is going on!!!??? Why!!!??? How!!!??? There was no need for these dead-eyed, murdery elves! You’re filming in the West Edmonton Mall which more than likely has elf costumes you could’ve put on real actors! It’s supposed to be magical I guess, but my god, it’s jarring, creepy, terrifying, and above all else, hilarious.
This slight delay causes Brian and Mary to see Danny and Shane also being arrested by McLoosh. They decide they need to catch the criminals themselves to save their family. They arm themselves with gear and a plan.
McLoosh then interrogates “Donald” and “Sherrie” (Danny and Shane), and doesn’t believe their story that Brian and Mary found the bag and didn’t know it was counterfeit money. McLoosh also walks into a closet and comments on its odd placement in an interrogation room. McLoosh!!!
As the Cardozas and Ginger meet to figure out their next move, Brian drives by on a motorcycle with the backpack full of money. The Cardozas grab a mall security scooter and give chase in a visual gag of a fat guy on a tiny bike.
As soon as they’re out of sight, Mary lures Ginger to follow her as she actually has the money and Brian is merely a distraction. Brian meanwhile causes the Cardozas to crash through a hat stand blocking Leonard’s vision (see above) and causing them to crash through a piece of glass and into the mall’s swimming pool.
Ginger follows Mary up to the roof. Mary cracks a pane of glass and tricks Ginger into stepping onto it to get the money. Ginger falls through but grabs onto the ledge dangling above the pool where the marine show takes place. Meanwhile, down below, McLoosh is transporting his criminals through the mall to his car when he notices Ginger dangling from above and announces that the water show must be starting! Mary dumps all the money through the hole in the roof and Ginger falls in the pool. McLoosh applauds in amusement and compliments her diving skills. The agents arrest Ginger realizing that the falling money is counterfeit, but not before she’s almost drowned by a playful sea lion.
Mall security shows up with the captured Cardoza brothers. McLoosh has no clue who any of these people are, despite saying he never forgets a face. He refers to them as Larry and Seymour Garbanzo and Gina Beachbum.
The Sundstroms, errr, Saunders are now free to go and while Swayze is mad at his kids initially, he’s happier that they’re all okay. On their way out, they run into Sam Nichols, the owner of the mall, who is again played by Santa.
He offers Swayze a job as a rancher up at his farm. Swayze accepts and I guess everything worked out perfectly…except they return home to find their house trashed by McLoosh’s men, whose name they curse! They decide to go to bed instead of cleaning up.
The next morning, the mom arrives home to find the house in magnificent shape and decorated for Christmas from top to bottom! There’s even a fire going in the fireplace which seems like a hazard since it was very clear earlier that it did not have proper ventilation. The Saunders are equally dumbfounded by all the presents and decorations that magically appeared. Even the turkey is already cooked and ready to go, despite it probably only being 10 a.m. at the latest. Brian and Danny both get the iPod and Xbox 360 they wanted and Mary finds a note from Santa thanking her for believing in him and asking her to go to the front window. She obliges and sees him creepily wave to her before even more creepily morphing into the Santa decoration Danny had set up earlier (which BTW is now fixed and also facing the wrong direction it originally was).
Oh look it snowed also! Freeze frame on Mary smiling and waving back. As a bonus, the theme song is also not half bad.
Amazing! Please, please, please watch this movie! It’s not very often I actually provide a recommendation on this site, but this has since become a staple in my holiday watch list along with Rudolph, the Grinch, Christmas Vacation, and Die Hard.
Maybe have a few eggnogs first though.