Something happened halfway through this week’s Lifetime movie Dear Secret Santa. It went from a silly, cliché Christmas movie to a total rip-off of a movie I saw in the theater when I was a teenager — The Lake House. If you’re not familiar with The Lake House, it’s that time travel romance starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves that people have been using as a punch line for seven years. Did Lifetime think we’d all be too ashamed to admit that we’d seen it to call them out on ripping it off? Well, I’m not too ashamed! I SAW THE LAKE HOUSE AND I DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS IT!
Let’s backtrack a little and set up this movie’s plot. Tatyana Ali (insert theoretical Fresh Prince joke I’m unable to make because I never watched that show) stars as Jennifer, whose hobbies include working too much and doing as many clumsy yet adorable things as possible to a musical score that sounds like it was copied and pasted from every 90s Christmas movie in existence. Here’s a brief list of clumsy things she does: scramble through a window; knock over a tower of cans at the grocery store and make no effort to help in the cleanup; try to scramble through a window again, hurting herself in the process; get her hospital gown caught in a door when she goes to get her injury from the last clumsy thing checked out, revealing a gold silk teddy that I guess she just wears under her everyday clothes. I did say she was clumsy and adorable.
Jennifer travels home at Christmastime when she learns that her dad (Bill Cobbs), who lives alone since her mom died, hurt himself when he fell off a ladder. Her first night back, Jennifer throws a penny into a wishing well asking for “true love for Christmas.” We get a close-up, Forrest-Gump’s-feather-style CGI shot of the penny falling that must have cost half this movie’s budget, and then the story really gets rolling.
When Jennifer’s not busy yelling at her dad to rest and stop eating potato chips, she’s getting mysterious letters in her mailbox from a secret admirer. After talking to her best friend Abby (Jordin Sparks, who’s here for no reason), she narrows down who it might be by investigating the one million men she’s run into from high school since she got home. Two of those guys turn out to be gay and in a relationship with each other (I’ll admit I let out an audible laugh) and one turns out to be a philanderer she wouldn’t want to date anyway. So that just leaves her dead childhood friend. Wait… what?