It’s been a hot minute since I posted another Christmas review. But nothing says “I’m recommitted to this ridiculous idea” like a movie with a wacky premise and two stars who shaped us as a nation (NO HYPERBOLE) in the 80s and 90s. So without further ado, I present:
Starring none other than Melissa “Lazy Eye” Joan Hart:
And Mario “Why doesn’t he age, you guys? I’m asking in all seriousness” Lopez:
Going forward, I will refer to them as Clarissa and Slater. If that bothers you, then you’re being kind of a Ferguson.
This movie is an ABC Family original film that came out 6 years ago, and how have I never heard of it before? THANKS OBAMA. Clarissa treats us to a voiceover declaring herself “not crazy”. Please, bitch – that’s the craziest move in the book. She’s driving down an isolated snowy road trying to coax Slater back into her car. When he finally gets back in, he tells her she’s the devil. Oh, these two! Such romantical banter!
Rewind to the day before, and Clarissa is having a classic rom-com protagonist morning. Hair in curlers, Mom on the phone telling her that her hair and body are gross, and reheating old Chinese food with her hair dryer. And things just get worse! She leaves the curlers in too long and her hair looks awful, she blows a job interview her Dad set up for her, and her comically villainous boyfriend comes into the diner where she works and dumps her. Right before he was going to escort her to her parents’ place for Christmas!!! Now Dad will totally think she’s a lesbian – what is a girl to do?!?!
Sidebar: This made-for-TV trope about single women being UNABLE to go home for the holidays without boyfriends is one of the more outlandish ones, right? Most parents are just happy to see their daughters? Whenever I’m home visiting the family the only thing that’s expected of me is that I will get too drunk and yell at the forest at some point. And I never disappoint.
While Clarissa is having a very quiet meltdown, Slater comes into the diner and tries to order from her. Instead, she grabs the diner owner’s antique pistol (SURE) and forces him to follow her outside. He slips on some ice and is out cold. (Holy shit – did you catch that pun? It’s a gift, y’all) She whisks him away and ties him up in her car with pantyhose. When he wakes up she keeps pointing the gun at him so he knows the score. Should I mention his girlfriend left behind in the diner looking for him? Naw.
They drive along merrily, him calling her a jaded man-hater, and her explaining calmly that she just needs him to pretend to be her boyfriend for the holidays. NBD, stop being such a pussy, bro. She gets a pair of furry handcuffs from an old coot in a country gas station, and now they’re on their way to a HOLIDAY with him IN HANDCUFFS.
When they arrive at her parents’ cabin, she heads in first to do damage control, explaining that when her boyfriend gets nervous around new people he makes jokes about being kidnapped. GENIUS. She brings him in, he says he’s been kidnapped, and everyone shrugs it off. Oh! And Dad makes a joke about how relieved he is to meet the boyfriend, because he was afraid Clarissa liked “The Innies” instead of “The Outties”. Holy shit. What?
By the way, Mom is played by Markie Post and she is another ageless phenom who likely has a picture of herself in an attic somewhere that’s aging as we speak:
Slater looks for a phone or computer or anything to connect him with the outside world, but no dice. This is one of those weirdo clans who doesn’t allow any distractions to take away from their family time. They must not know that TBS plays “A Christmas Story” for 24 straight hours, because no one in their right mind would choose to miss that.
As soon as everyone falls asleep, Slater makes a break for it and now we’re right where the movie started, with Clarissa running him down on the road. Cool framing device, ABC Family! The next day, Clarissa’s perfect brother and sister have arrived, adding to her feelings of inadequacy. And here comes the family’s bitch of a grandmother, and now I believe we have all the players for our inevitable Christmas Eve dinner meltdown/reveal that ‘s coming right before the Christmas Day reconciliation/close-mouthed makeout session.
Slater sees that Clarissa’s brother has a cell phone, and uses it to call his girlfriend and tell her where he is. She’s on the way to save him! But in the meantime, he has decided to go along with Clarissa’s farce and convince her family he is the BEST BOYFRIEND EVER. She’s all, “Why?” And I’m all, “Cereally, why?” And he’s all, “That way when I’m rescued and your family finds out the truth about you, it’ll hurt them even more!!” And Clarissa is like, “Well…it’s a quick fix, so I’ll take it. Besides! It’s not like I’ll fall in love with you or anything!!”
Slater “being the best boyfriend” entails him openly mocking Clarissa and her life choices with her family, who fall all over each other trying to embarrass her the best. “She is a Democrat who waits tables!” “When she was a child, we had to pay a neighbor boy to be friends with her because she had no friends!” “Yeah, and he just took the money and ran!!” “She has a stuffed bear named Bobo Bonkers so she should just kill herseeeeeeeelf!!” Ooof, why did she even come home for Christmas?!? She should have stayed in her smelly loft and blown out more leftovers.
They EVEN let him put the creeper angel on top of the family tree, which has always been Clarissa’s pajama jammy jam. Slater is charming the fuck out of everyone and Clarissa gets super sulky. Until he reads “Twas The Night Before Christmas” out loud to her incontinent grandmother; and treacly music plays as her one good eye stares out into space imagining what a real relationship with him would be like, and her other eye tries to find Frodo and the One Ring there in the mountains of Mordor.
Later, Clarissa and Slater write letters to Santa (barf), and their truest selves come out in the process. All Clarissa wants is to be loved unequivocally by her family! Slater wants Clarissa to go to jail for the felony of kidnapping, but also for her to be happy, I guess.
Meanwhile, Slater’s rich bitch (duh) girlfriend is trying to raise the alarm at the local police precinct. But like, in a total c-bag way.
Cut to: Christmas morning. Grandma is getting drunk on Bloody Marys, Mom is barking out orders, and Clarissa and Slater head outside to play hockey and flirt. Neither of them get a concussion, and I am disappoint. More secrets are revealed – Slater is an orphan who had to work hard to get his money and good job! And here she is complaining about her super alive family. Explain that lack of tact, Clarissa. Then they walk under mistletoe and kiss. Passion! Or whatever!
Later, Clarissa’s Mom confesses (while folding her husband’s underwear obvi) that she’s only ever been with one man. AHHHHH THIS IS A NIGHTMARE FAMILY.
Dad and Mom give Clarissa a really nice briefcase and explain that it was supposed to be for her new job, had she not shat the bed at the interview. There’s a lot of, “Boooo! You stink!!” coming Clarissa’s way, so Slater saves the day by proposing to her. Using the ring he was GOING to propose to his girlfriend with. Just like every little girl dreams of.
Later on in the garage, Clarissa’s brother comes out to her. Ah, the garage. Site of so many cherished family revelations. I think one year in the garage at our place in Buffalo I told my brother that I was scared of ventriloquist dummies. A secret I trust him to keep to this day. (I DON’T TRUST MY BROTHER AS FAR AS I COULD THROW A LITTLE WOODEN VESSEL OF EVIL WITH PAINTED EYES)
Grandma tries to escape in the Family Truckster, taking Slater along for the ride. But she only crashes into a tree and not any passerby, so it’s hilarious instead of tragic! Later on, Clarissa walks in on Slater in the bathroom, and she’s like, “Awww dip!”
Slater recreates the family ice rink that Clarissa mentioned earlier, because characters in these movies always have an endless amount of time and resources. She skates, it’s weird – let’s get to the terrible dinner!
Dinner is the best. Clarissa’s sister announces she’s dropped out of law school to teach pilates in California, Clarissa’s brother announces he’s gay, Clarissa’s Mom is drunk and announces that she loves her kids but hates her husband, Clarissa’s Dad freaks out, and then! Then the cops show up to arrest Clarissa for kidnapping, and Grandma tries to shoot everyone with the antique diner pistol. FOUR COPS WERE KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY.
J/K! The whole family goes to jail.
But Slater decides not to press charges, so out they go. Slater is waiting for Clarissa on the steps of the courthouse, but he can’t tell her he loves her because RichBitchZilla is waiting for him.
FAST FORWARD TO VALENTINE’S DAY: Clarissa is back in the city (what city is this? Is this Who-Ville?), looking for a real job and being sad that she never heard from Slater again. Then she sees his wedding announcement in the paper and dies 1,000 deaths. Fade to Black, RIP Clarissa.
But no, this pile of shit continues. Slater is having second thoughts, you guys! You can tell because of his ACTING:
Clarissa gets her art accepted into a show in town (Fuck – did I mention her paintings? If not, just know that they’re weird and boring but totally define her as a person), and asks her brother to escort her. He brings his boyfriend, which I guess is rude but one glimpse of them together and I wish this entire movie had been about them.
Her brother brought her parents as a surprise, and they give her the gift of finally accepting her. Which, I mean, Christmas was like two months ago you tacky fucks. But OK! They say that they’re in therapy now (Ugh, can this day not be about you guys?) and her Mom convinces her to pursue Slater. “Go after your kidnap victim, you colossal disappointment!!!” Clarissa is all, “Yeah, but he married some ho today.” She goes outside and is instantly jumped and blindfolded. “But who could it be?”, I whisper to the wine bottle as I refill. It’s Slater, he’s kidnapping her because it’s their cute “thing” now, and I am instantly grateful that this movie wasn’t titled, “Holiday in Horse Bits and Chaps and Slathered With Oil”. I guess he left his fiancee? And he opened a gallery and has hung just one of Clarissa’s paintings there? You know what? Good. Perfect.
And that’s it! Romance and bondage and gays. This is one of the more cutting edge movies I’ve reviewed, and it’s 6 years old. Take note, Hallmark and Lifetime!!
Also – while looking up pictures of Lazy Eye Hart, I came across this gem from the “Drive Me Crazy” (fuck you that movie RULES) days:
Ugh. Happy holidays, I guess.
*Photo Credit: Getty Images