Or, the story of how a magical wish goes terribly, terribly wrong.
Nothing incenses me more than when our beloved protagonist actually turns out to be the real villain of the story, so let’s meet our sad sack lead, Sara Thomas, played by Lacey Chabert, who is cashing in Hallmark cheques left, right, and centre these days.
Ol’ Sara is a total pushover with everyone, especially at work. Her best friend and colleague Molly (Andrea Brooks) takes advantage of her by getting her to do her work, as does the evil marketing director, Dirk Tyson, who’s just the exact right shade of conniving and awesomely patronizing that he becomes my favourite character. At least he owns his bitchiness when he dismisses her latest proposal, Christmas 365, for a prospective client, Wilson Taylor. Since Sara is only a junior web designer, Dirk tells her to leave the big picture stuff to him.
We meet an extremely subdued Paul Greene as Peter Williams, the founder and CEO of this company. All we learn is that he has an annoyingly peppy employee named Brian who keeps leaving mistletoe around, and that he doesn’t really care for Christmas, which is probably why he’s getting Brian’s team to work on Christmas Day. Sara overhears this and is dismayed because everything is her business, always.
At the company’s Christmas party that night, Sara is outraged when Peter publicly announces that the winning pitch to be presented to Wilson Taylor is…”Holidays 365″ by Dirk Tyson. Amazingly, Dirk just mean-mugs Sara from across the room in the best way while Peter praises his proposal. Dirk is played by a Canadian actor named Jason McKinnon and I just wanted to let him have his moment before he’s rudely done away with.
Upset, Sara peaces out, only to get stopped by a totally forgettable Santa who gives her her Secret Santa gift and then leaves. Molly tries to cajole Sara back to the party, giving really good advice that Dirk was a total dick and what he did was unfair, but that he shouldn’t ruin both her work day and her fun at the party. Together, they open Santa’s gift:
Molly makes fun of Sara’s shitty Secret Santa gift and runs off to flirt with some dude, but not without making Sara promise she’ll come back to the party. Oh, here’s Santa again, this time to insist that the wish is for Sara specifically. So, what does she want? Boringly, she wishes for courage. Bravery. To stand up for herself and others. Santa’s like, extremely over it and offers her a million dollars instead, but she’s got her mind made up. He disappears, as magical Santas are wont to do.
Back at the party, Sara comes in and after a camera-zoom indicating that her wish has been granted, she marches over to Dirk white-boy dancing and confronts him for stealing her pitch, and other previous pitches! Everyone immediately stops dancing to watch this completely unnecessary and inappropriate Christmas work party drama unfold. Peter comes around to see what’s going on, Sara tells him that Dirk stole her idea and has done so in the past, and Peter just stands there like a tall jug of useless milk, saying nothing. She runs away, upset, and Molly follows her once more. Sara berates herself for being taken advantage of by everyone…even by Molly herself! To her credit, Molly totally owns it and apologizes. But that’s not the end of it; this newfound power of courage is making Sara feel invincible. “It’s like I’m unstoppable.” This is the beginning of the end and you can read it on Molly’s WTF face.
The next day, Sara comes in just to pack up her stuff, already having assumed that she’ll be fired. Molly tries in vain to talk her out of it – why not talk to Peter, or even Dirk instead? – but Sara is a fucking bull in a china shop and leaves in a cloud of Eau d’ Self-Righteousness. She doesn’t even listen to Peter when he tries to stop her, so he has to chase her down to tell her that he believes her, he wants her to stay and help with the Wilson Taylor pitch, and he’s fired Dirk. Poor Dirk didn’t even get a fair shot at redemption. Oh, and the newly vacant marketing director position could be hers if the pitch goes well, which seems massively unfair to many other employees who probably want a stab at the job. The Wilson Taylor pitch, by the way, is later that day in Seattle and she’ll need to be ready to fly out in two hours, so inexplicably she begs a ride to the airport from Molly, rather than just going with Peter. THE RUDENESS HAS BEGUN. She also compliments Peter on his “baby blue eyes” in front of Brian and Molly, and everyone just sort of leaves her inappropriate comment hanging in the breeze.
At the airport, she’s worried that she’ll run out of time on her wish (32 hours remaining) but Molly’s like, dude, your pitch is today, it’s fine. Curiously, Molly can see that the wish card changes by the hour, but never seems to think it’s super unusual. Peter shows up, and Sara’s last words to Molly are a super rude dig about how she could maybe buy her a Christmas gift this year. Jesus Christ, that is 100% not what courage means. On the plane, Peter warns Sara that Wilson Taylor can be a shark and to not take anything he says or does personally; it’s business, and his company needs him as a client because sales have been flat for the last two quarters, and he wants to avoid layoffs. Sara proceeds to listen to approximately none of this.
Now, we meet a long-suffering but otherwise unimportant character: Megan (Donna Benedicto). Megan is Wilson Taylor’s completely professional receptionist who is consistently harassed for doing her goddamn job. Megan informs Peter and Sara that Wilson has chosen to go with another firm’s proposal, but thanks for coming by. Sara – in a cruelly ironic twist, becoming the pushy inconsiderate person that always took advantage of her – ignores this and demands to see him, or else! Poor Megan makes a phone call and relents; they can meet with Wilson Taylor…at the ski lodge in White Ridge, a few hours away, later that afternoon.
Just one problem: the local car rental place has no cars left (since it’s two days to Christmas!), leaving them and a mother/daughter pair stranded. This is mostly inconsequential, except for the fact that the mother is played by Canada’s own Amanda from 90s classic TV show, Ready or Not!
The car rental dude is just doing his job but Sara rolls up her sleeves and bullies him into giving away another person’s reservation (?!) so that this mom and daughter can get home for Christmas. Amanda (she’s not given a name, so she’s Amanda to me) offers them a ride to White Ridge since that was the last car.
They arrive in the ski town, only to be late for the meeting with Wilson Taylor, so Poor Megan tells Peter over the phone by Poor Megan that the meeting is cancelled. Naturally, Sara won’t take this lying down and gets on the horn (interestingly, saying casually to Peter, “So what, we don’t get a Christmas card [from Wilson Taylor] this year, big deal,” and thus revealing that she really doesn’t give a shit about the high stakes of this account, but is merely relishing in her newfound power of assholery), steamrolling Poor Megan to finagle another meeting with Wilson Taylor for the next morning.
Well, as luck would have it, Peter is actually from White Ridge, so they go over to some inn to get last-minute rooms because luck is infinite for assholes. Turns out, his aunt Lizzie runs the joint and this is where Sara’s brain realizes that Peter’s a local. Aunt Lizzie invites them both to Peter’s parents’ house, where they’re doing their annual Christmas cookie decorating, as well as picking out a Christmas tree.
Peter firmly says no, hinting at Deep Unresolved Family Issues, but Fuckin’ Sara says it sounds super fun and that they should go! When he insists they stay at the inn, she literally invites herself over if he doesn’t want to go with her. Aunt Lizzie’s face is the face of every person thinking, “Who the fuck invites themselves to someone else’s family tradition?”
He ends up giving in, as long as they can be back that night to work on their SUPER IMPORTANT PITCH WHEREIN PEOPLE’S JOBS ARE ON THE LINE, SARA.
I’m cackling at the totally different reactions when Peter’s parents realize their estranged son is home.
Mom is overjoyed and throws hot cocoa into their hands and ushers them into Christmas cookie decorating right away. Check out her completely insane hot cocoa digs:
(Shout out to the props people though, although I suspect the snowman is 100% inedible) She sure is lucky that the right amount of guests just happened to show up!
Completely dissatisfied with minding her own fucking business ever, Sara notices that Peter’s dad is watching football on TV instead of being with his family, excuses herself to get more cocoa (insisting that she do it herself, even), and waltzes into the room to berate him for avoiding his son. He cautions her to fuck off in a much nicer way than I would have, so she changes tack and pours on the guilt about how she used to enjoy watching football with her dad…her dead dad. It does prompt Peter’s dad to say “Nothing like a little parent/child bonding at a game than cheering on the good guys,” which is a thing that nobody would ever say.
Back in the cookie-decorating zone, Peter is getting grilled by his mom and Aunt Lizzie about reconciling with his dad (apparently, it’s been two years since The Fight – which we’ll find out about later, but it’s very garden variety dad/son shit – and also, he doesn’t want to talk about it!) and his relationship with Sara (he admits she’s attractive, but he doesn’t want to jeopardize their working relationship or creep her out).
That evening, the four of them (minus the dad, naturally) go to pick out some trees. There’s some light flirting when Peter helps Sara remove a rope sliver she got after tying the tree to the car. He thinks it’s time to head back to DO SOME WORK, but she thinks the real work is all around them (the pitch is called Christmas 365 – which is about being in the Christmas spirit all fucking year long – after all, so she believes he needs “Christmas spirit training”), so Mom and Aunt Lizzie fuck off while these two walk through the downtown area and sing along, completely unsolicited, to some sidewalk Christmas carollers, which gives me the worst case of secondhand embarrassment.
She unconvincingly apologizes for being pushy about his family situation (all of this is negated by the fact that she never listens to him or any other person during the entire movie). We find out that Peter’s dad owns a law firm and wanted Peter to join him once he finished law school, but two years ago, Peter dropped out and started his own marketing company instead. Peter wants to know why Sara never spoke up in staff meetings – was it all just Dirk? – but she tells him she was shy. He can’t believe it, because she’s the mouthiest person he’s ever met (I’m paraphrasing, of course).
They get to the inn, where Aunt Lizzie asks them to finish decorating the Christmas tree and then skedaddles off to bed. Fuckin’ Sara turns a nice bonding moment into a teaching lesson, guilting Peter for making his staff work on Christmas Day (apparently, it’s not required but the staff doesn’t really know that); he should offer things like catered dinner with Christmas crackers, gifts, double pay, and stockings with their names on them! OR JUST LET THEM STAY HOME. He tells her that she’s “refreshingly honest” which is a thing people also say about Donald Trump, so.
They share a Meaningful Moment, which in turn, has her shy away and say the tree is done, despite the fact that they hung approximately three ornaments in this entire scene. Aunt Lizzie’s gonna be fucking pissed when she wakes up tomorrow. Oh good, now Sara wants to review the pitch before tomorrow’s meeting! Except we don’t see either of them do any last-minute prepping, but instead, they both sigh and stare out their windows like they’re goddamn Beethoven and Missy from Beethoven’s 2nd.
You’re welcome for that reference and this clip.
The next morning, Sara calls Molly to check in with her friend, see how she’s doing. Oh no, scratch that, she just rambles on about how her wish only has five hours remaining and then hangs up. Peter rolls up and gives her a confidence boost (like that’s what she’s been missing!), but cautions her again about Wilson Taylor. Sara listens about as well as a deaf snake trapped underwater.
The meeting…does not go well. They walk in to find Wilson Taylor on his Bluetooth, barking orders about lunch arrangements (“Order me a hot toddy. Make it a double.”) and not even remotely trying to listen to their pitch. He grossly refers to Sara as “sweetheart” and she just melts down completely. She proceeds to read him the riot act about how they came all this way (she seems to forget that he had already told them that he was going with another firm, and she has now forced him to meet with them three different times now) and he’s clearly not showing them an ounce of respect, he’s obviously missing the Christmas spirit so Christmas 365 is wasted on him, etc. And that’s that.
PETER. IS. PISSED.
I shouldn’t have to explain why, so let’s save time and skip that part. He rips on her for going in there, expecting Wilson Taylor to be anything other than a prospective client; he’s not their colleague or friend, it’s business. She offers to go back in (!!) and fix it. SHE’S THE WORST. Officially the worst. They arrive at the airport and right before she boards her flight, he tells her he has to stay in town to finish some things up; she pouts, “How many times can I apologize? So I make one mistake, that’s it?” GOODBYE FOREVER, YOU MONSTER. He gives her a hard look and leaves.
She looks at her stupid wish card and it shows zero hours remaining. She calls a colleague of hers, who does NOT seem thrilled to be receiving a call from Sara (although who would be?), to ask where she hired the Christmas party Santa. The colleague tells her she never hired a Santa for the party, but why does she want to find him? “I liked the gift he gave me, and I want another one.” THE NERVE OF YOU. The colleague just tells her to get herself the gift if she liked it so much. Do not encourage her, colleague!
Oh god. She skips her flight and goes back to the lodge to harass Poor Megan one last time. A total pro to the end, even on Christmas Eve, Poor Megan tells her that a second meeting is absolutely off the books; Sara unsuccessfully tries to get her to admit that Wilson Taylor jerked them around, but this tactic doesn’t work and it makes me want to hug Poor Megan for being the only person in the entire movie who doesn’t let Sara’s shit stick. This movie is making me anti-Christmas. Poor Megan refuses her one final time, so Sara wanders outside…only to see Wilson Taylor hanging out in a limo. She literally lets herself in, rambles nonsensically about how she “won’t be that person again,” and then we cut scenes. Call the cops, Wilson!
I’m not going to say that something happened in that limo. But we never do find out how exactly Sara convinces Wilson Taylor to do her bidding, so…you tell me.
We see a tiny scene of Peter showing up at his parents’ house and calling out for his dad. The next thing we know, it’s Christmas Day and things are in full swing at the office, because Peter learned nothing and still asked his employees work on a fucking holiday. He did listen to Sara, though, and brings in shitty cold cuts and gifts, and tells them they can head home to their families if they want, even though they ARE being paid double for being there. Why not just let them stay home in the first place! This is bad for money and staff morale! Just then, his mom and Aunt Lizzie pop up, with dear old dad in tow, waving their stupid Christmas cookies around for everyone to have.
Peter and father share a really weird hug that looks, at times, extremely unwanted…
(Peter looks like he’s crushing the life out of a small, gray-haired child who is desperately trying to escape)
And yet…a little too wanted…
That’s enough of that. They exchange wistful I love yous, Mom and Aunt Lizzie cream themselves over the reunion, and in waltzes Fuckin’ Sara looking super countrified.
Why isn’t she with her mom and sister on Christmas Day? Well, apparently showing up in an ugly blazer and Making a Point to your boss is more important, even though she’s all about Christmas and Family. She gives Peter a letter, which just says she closed the deal with Wilson Taylor. How? We’ll never find out, of course, but I have my ideas, especially when she says that Wilson’s not so bad…”you just gotta tell him who’s boss first.” Kinky!
“You really are something,” Peter tells her. She’s not sure if that’s a good thing. IT ISN’T. Peter lies and says it is. Oh, and she sees Santa but obviously she’s the only one to see him before he magically disappears, so great job wrapping up the storyline nobody cares about.
Peter convinces her to stay for the party, leaving her poor mom and sister behind at home, and then they make out under Brian’s stupid mistletoe in front of all his employees. I’m sure that’s just great for them to see that Sara went from being a junior web designer two days ago, had a temper tantrum at the work holiday party, went on a super quick business trip with her boss, and came back with his dick in her hand (more or less). You know she’ll be marketing director by the end of the night, once they bang in the supply closet.
One theory I had was that by the end, Sara would discover that Santa couldn’t fulfill her wish in time and she had had the courage within all along. This would’ve been predictably fine, but now it’s just this, “well, it was all just magic! But I guess I still have courage anyway.” Whatever.
Also, courage and bravery to stand up for yourself is not the same thing as inserting yourself and your shitty unsolicited opinions into everyone else’s situations. She was literally just an asshole, he was completely ineffectual and bland, and it made for a really unpleasant time watching.
Bring back Dirk!