Friday, 19 October 2012

Movie Review: Holiday in Handcuffs

Title: Holiday in Handcuffs
Director: Ron Underwood
Year Released: 2007
Running Time: 86 minutes
Classification: Unrated
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama, Family (?)

Though its title is suggestive of a buddy crime caper (or kinky sexytimes, if you will), Holiday in Handcuffs is actually a romcom produced for TV by ABC Family. Now, while I am quite tolerant of happy crappy Christmas movies (and indeed enjoy them much more than I should), this film has the distinction of being the silliest Christmas movie I have ever seen. Ever. It's utterly ridiculous and makes absolutely no sense. And yet, if you can manage to bring yourself down to its level, you'll find that it does quite nicely as a brainless fluffy diversion.

The plot is basically this: waitress Trudie (Melissa Joan Hart) gets dumped by her boyfriend on the eve of a family Christmas trip, so she kidnaps David (Mario Lopez), a random handsome customer, so that she can present him to her family as her boyfriend. Just let that sink in. The premise is so dumb and so unbelievable that you have to wonder how it got past the development stage. I mean, they try to insert some level of realism, having David protest his kidnapping and all, but the reasons for his failure to escape are very contrived: Trudie's family believes his “help me I've been kidnapped!” thing is all a joke and (spoiler alert!) when he somehow manages to get a phone, he calls his horrible snobby girlfriend (of course) instead of the police. Further, unlike a real person, David accepts his predicament all too easily – it would not have been hard for him to overpower his petite female captor, take her car, whatever. His objections are token at best. It's almost like he wants to be kidnapped or is otherwise unusually dim. So yes, the whole basis of the movie made no sense whatsoever.

Even so, it's possible to enjoy the movie even while raging at its stupidity. This can be mostly attributed to Sabrina Melissa Joan Hart as a very 90s-styled Trudie. She's the unglamorous loser of the family and it's easy to identify with and root for her. Add to this her painterly aspirations and I was totally on her side. She's such a hot mess that you can almost buy the the fact that she'd kidnap David in the throes of a nervous breakdown, so props to her for that. David, on the other hand, is a bland and smiley sort of fellow who's just there to do whatever the plot requires of him, and since the plot requires him to be a dumbass, he's not particularly believable as a successful human being.

Still, Hart and Lopez look cute together, and since this is a “family” movie (there's a bit of sexual innuendo, albeit decipherable only to corrupted adult minds), the troubling nature of their relationship is blatantly ignored in favour of a “bickering couple” dynamic. Further, Trudie is so harmless and likeable that David's continued imprisonment becomes more and more implausible as time goes on. Normally, one might assume that the film is trying to do something clever here, like explore the nature of Stockholm syndrome and so on, but no. The movie doesn't deserve the credit of your analysis, so don't waste your time (and yes, I realise the irony of saying that as I type my review).

The latter half of the movie treads more familiar romcom territory, with the leads bonding and Trudie's “perfect” family revealing how dysfunctional they really are. Sure it's a bit cliched, but I was always entertained (...perhaps in no small part because I often thought about what I would do if I were in David's place). Overall, the film is funny and highly watchable, ultimately delivering on the happy ending that you watched it for in the first place.

Long story short, if you're looking for a pleasant and brainless Christmas movie, you can do far worse than Holiday in Handcuffs. Despite its absurd premise, it has that warm, comfy quality that you get from hot chocolate and a soft blanket. I can see myself rewatching this when I get into a Christmas mood. Make no mistake though: Holiday in Handcuffs is too silly and too stupid to be a “good” movie, but also too charming to be written off completely.

Alex's Rating: 3/5

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