Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Adam and Alison Watch Christmas Movies: CHRISTMAS UNDER WRAPS

 by Adam Thas and Alison Thas

Your favorite Christmas movie-watching couple has one more Christmas movie for your holiday enjoyment!


Alison: Christmas Under Wraps starts like so many other Christmas films. We meet a determined med student, Lauren Brunell (played by Candace Cameron Bure), who is forced to take a position in Garland, Alaska after learning she was denied her first choice in Boston. Naturally, she meets a handsome local who helps her see the beauty in the little things in the charming, small town. When a spot opens up at the hospital in Boston, Lauren realizes dreams may not always end the way you thought.

What makes Christmas Under Wraps stand apart from other holiday movies is its acceptance that Santa Claus, and all that goes along with him, exists in our world. One of the town’s elderly citizens, Frank Holliday, is always eating sweets and sports a long, white beard. The secluded town mysteriously is always well-stocked despite no planes coming in and out on a consistent schedule. As the movie goes along, it seems we’re going to get a full-out reveal that Garland, Alaska is really the North Pole, on Christmas Eve no less... until we don’t.
It is here that I wish the writers would have realized the magic they had with this story line. Perhaps they felt beholden to the Christmas movie trope which caused them to make them sharp turn in the plot. Instead of getting the moment where all the unexplained events add up, we get another cheesy, Hallmark love story that doesn’t feel earned.

Adam: When you watch enough of these holiday movies, you begin to see a lot of the same faces pop up over and over. Since the early 2000s Hallmark, Lifetime, and a spattering of movies on network TV were pretty much the only places you could get these movies before Hulu, Prime, and Netflix got in on the action a few years ago. Looking back on this relatively newer genre, there are five women who could be dubbed as “The Queens of Christmas Movies” based on their reoccurrences in so many of these movies. Holly Robinson Peete of 21 Jump Street fame and Danica Mckellar from The Wonder Years have both made a nice chunk of change starring in six Christmas movies. Slightly in front of them with nine is Alicia Witt, but the crown of “top two” go to Candace Cameron Bure with 10 and Lacey Chabert with 13. Last year, Alison and I crossed off a Lacey Chabert movie with Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe, so this year of course we decided to cross off a Candace Cameron Bure movie and watched 2014’s Christmas Under Wraps.

Christmas Under Wraps is fine. Alison covered most of the movie, but I appreciate it for existing in this holiday bubble, and yes I have my quibbles with it, like why is it daylight in Alaska at 6am in December? But these quibbles are just little things that in the long run that don’t say much about the entire movie. What is unique (or more importantly not unique) about Christmas Under Wraps is that this is quintessential made for TV holiday movie. If you want to watch the stereotype that movies like Holidate are taking jabs at, watch Christmas Under Wraps. As I mentioned before, pre-2017 these kinds of movies had only a few releases a year in only a few places, but recently other places have started to realize that there is a market for these low budget holiday movies that will never see a theater, so what you’re left with is the cinematic equivalent of white noise. Everyone is happy, no one has any real problems, and every loose end is wrapped up neatly at the end. It repeats over and over in every one of these movies to the point where there is no real suspense; you’re just left guessing how the writers will have things happen rather than wondering what will happen. Having watched a few of these, I’ve begun to appreciate nuances of the genre. These holiday movies ability to set up an entire plot within the first five minutes is pretty astounding. Take Christmas Under Wraps for instance: within the first few minutes we establish that Lauren (Candace Cameron Bure) is a doctor who just got dumped (they are always going through a break-up), has her life planned out, and is now forced to change that plan. The beats of every one of these movies are so specific that if a movie deviates it is almost like it doesn’t belong.
Watching Christmas Under Wraps, it became clear to me how difficult it is to get someone who has not watched dozens of these movies to understand that something like Christmas Under Wraps isn’t that bad because when comparing it to all movies, it’s terrible, but comparing it to the genre, it’s not so bad. I know this will likely offend some of our readers here at F This Movie!, but the best way I can describe it is like an '80s horror movie. When reviewing '80s horror in the grand scheme of all movies, there are very few great ones, but if you are a fan of the genre the level on which you consider one “good” likely increases. So if you’re reading this as a fan of holiday movies, Christmas Under Wraps didn’t offend me the way Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe did, but it’s not doing anything unique. The tight budget is very much on (or specifically not on) the screen, as I think they wanted to do more with the end of the movie, but if you’re just looking for a holiday movie, it’s fine. The only drawback is that you’ll need to pay to watch it.

Adam’s List:
1) Holidate (2020, Netflix)
2) Holiday Calendar (2018, Netflix)
3) Snowed Inn (2017, Hallmark)
4) The Princess Switch (2018, Netflix)
5) The Knight Before Christmas (2019, Netflix)
6) Christmas Under Wraps (2014, Hallmark)
7) The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again (2020, Netflix)
8) Holiday in the Wild (2019, Netflix)
9) Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe (2018, Hallmark)

Alison’s List:
1) The Princess Switch (2018, Netflix)
2) Holiday Calendar (2018, Netflix)
3) Holidate (2020, Netflix)
4) The Knight Before Christmas (2019, Netflix)
5) Christmas Under Wraps (2014, Hallmark)
6) Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe (2018, Hallmark)
7) The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again (2020, Netflix)
8) Snowed Inn (2017, Hallmark)
9) Holiday in the Wild (2019, Netflix)

4 comments:

  1. I... have watched so many hallmark movies in the last 3-4 months... i could write an essay on it. I just got to a point where i needed something safe and predictable. And yes they're all the same, but they're also perfectly fine for what they are. Some are better than others. After a few, you find your favorite actor/actress. The christmas ones are not my favorite, but it's that time of the year, so i don't really have a choice

    Favorite actress: Autumn Reeser (close second is Rachel Leigh Cook)

    Favorite Actor: Tyler Hynes

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    1. 100%, there is an odd comfort in repetition.

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  2. Another example of judging films within a genre that comes into my thoughts is 1980s action films. For every Die Hard or Predator there are dozens of films that at least do enough things right to have an enjoyable experience.

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  3. Yep. And just like the 80’s action, everyone is working there ass off to make a good movie.

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