I’m a bit of a Grinch about the holidays, so much so that my favorite Christmas movie is Jim Carrey’s version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, I have a soft spot for Christmas movies in general. I still get warm and fuzzy when I watch Elf or Miracle on 34th Street. I enjoy living vicariously through those characters without having to plan anything or buy anything myself. That’s why I was really excited to watch Lifetime’s new movie The Christmas Consultant.
Lifetime’s marketing for the movie made it look like a madcap comedy. Maya Fletcher (Caroline Rhea) hires Owen (David Hasselhoff) to plan her family’s Christmas festivities. The movie starts out irreverent and wacky. Maya’s youngest daughter explains that her princess doll has organized armies to slaughter thousands; her son puts a dummy outside to trick the neighbor kid who throws snowballs at him; and Maya and her husband comically talk over each other as they plan their day. Now this is the kind of family Christmas I can get behind!
Unfortunately, all this soon gets the Lifetime treatment. The little girl is seeing a therapist and living in a fantasy world to cope with the family’s recent move, the neighbor kid is actually a bully, and the parents’ workaholic nature is detrimental to their relationship with their children and each other. Merry Christmas!
The movie didn’t make me laugh at Yuletide antics or warm my heart by invoking the true spirit of Christmas. It just highlights all the worst parts of the Christmas season. It reinforces why SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) exists (without answering the important question of what snarky person came up with that acronym), emphasizing the stressful notion that we are all somehow contractually obligated to frost fruitcakes, host alcoholic relatives and throw lavish parties because our cosmetics-company boss wants to impress a Russian perfume magnate. I know, right? Every year!
David Hasselhoff’s character is also disappointing. He does kooky things like sing, “Someone brought a cell phone / That’s a violation / Of the Geneva Convention / On a romantic sleigh ride” to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” But he turns out to basically be a PSA for manic-depressive disorder. If you dressed Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) from Parks and Recreation in a reindeer sweater and had him decorate a Christmas tree, you’d have Owen the Christmas Consultant. Literally.
Owen is made depressing from early on in the movie when it’s very obviously implied that he’s lying about having a family. It turns out his wife has died, and he has no kids. What is this, Planes, Trains and Automobiles? No, because that movie was actually zany and fun.
Owen isn’t a hassle(hoff) at all. Aside from some damage to their car during a powerful caroling session, he actually makes the Fletchers’ holiday pretty magical. Maya complains that Owen stole her family from her and made their lives a living hell, but that’s just because she didn’t want to be bothered while she texted her boss or worked all day in her office. She even throws a tantrum which could have been reminiscent of Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids meltdown, but ends up falling flat, with just an overturned Christmas tree and a few messy presents.
To make things even more depressing, at the end of the movie Maya sets Owen up with her cat lady cousin. So much sadness!
Thanks a lot, Lifetime. Now I’m just depressed about the holidays. And it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! Fa la la la lame!