***Note From the Editor: Please welcome your new Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann recapper, HayHor!
Sitting at home and watching Holiday in Handcuffs might make you feel like an idiot, and deservedly so. I mean, look at this photo.
“Hooray photoshop!” Melissa Joan Hart (1976 – current)
Nonetheless, there are three and a half things that made this holiday schlock worthwhile, namely an alcoholic grandmother, a painfully honest jerk (hero?) ex-boyfriend, a creepy, overly sexual old man, and a smart ass cop with no respect for old women. So c’mon kids, that’s reason enough to get together, curl up by the fire, and listen to the impossible tale of Holiday in Handcuffs!
The movie starts off with an angry Mario Lopez walking through a quiet snow filled street, with no sign of humanity anywhere. A car pulls up and it’s Melissa Joan Hart telling him to get in the car. He hesitates, but when has AC Slater passed up a chance at some tail, especially former Nickelodeon child star tale! If Alex Mac’s walls could talk…
I zapped that Bayside shit!
We then go back 17 hours earlier to figure out how we got to this already-boring start. I think the writer of this movie is a Lost reject – either that or he’s seen Memento, and it’s like, “so brilliant.” Anyways, I’m slightly confused, but I’m sure it will make sense at some point. We go to the Melissa Joan Hart character’s apartment – I’d tell you the characters’ names but what’s the point? Let’s just call her MJH from now on She’s wearing a hair curling thingamajiggy to show us how spunky she is, I think…oh yes, of course, now she’s blowdrying her Chinese food. So, she’s dumb and spunky – great we’re all gonna love this character.
Why can’t I get this lo-mein straight?
She gets a call from her mother who is Markie Post(!?). Please note: from now on the name Markie Post(?!) will be followed by an exclamation point and a question mark in a parentheses because Markie Post(?!) both mystifies and arouses me. Anyways, she’s supposed to be one of those pushy, annoying moms who won’t stop judging her kids about their lifestyles. Apparently MJH has a boyfriend who she’s bringing to some secluded log cabin with her family for Christmas. I’m sure that was an easy decision for him to make.
She then talks to her dad about going to some interview he set up for her. As she gets off the phone she realizes the hair curler thingamajiggy has been on for too long, and she freaks out. This is a running gag in the first half of the movie – the fact that her hair looks terrible (and that her mom makes her wear a pink dress that looks like a stolen Kennedy corpse in 1968). These things actually make me kind of chuckle for a little bit, but only because it supports my irrational dislike of MJH.
She then shows up late to this interview her dad set up because of some hair crisis, and runs into a very prickly receptionist. The reception-bitch shows her that someone else is there for an interview because MJH was late. MJH, instead of hanging her head in defeat or you know, something perfectly reasonable like trying to reschedule, darts past the receptionist and runs up to the man she was supposed to meet’s office window. She bangs on it, interrupting the other interview and yelling like a crazy person. I know this is supposed to be slapsticky, but c’mon. Really? Does anyone out there know anyone who would do this? Really?!
My Sabrina syndication money is running out and I’m stuck doing this movie. WAAAA.
Anyways, she goes to her life calling, aka her waitressing job, at a restaurant that is owned by a very Indian man, which makes me assume it’s Indian food. She talks to her co-worker/best friend about “blowing the interview” as if that is simply what she did – in fact, for any normal person what just happened to her would be qualified as both a meltdown and the single most mortifying experience ever to occur.
She goes to take some fat kid’s order and he calls her a chowder head – my first laugh of the movie. Then her boyfriend shows up and he is officially the first worthwhile reason to watch this movie. He takes one look at how terrible looking she is and asks, “What happened to you?” while chuckling. HA!
He then tells her he’s not going to her parents with her for Christmas. She whines that she needs someone there for her and he tells her, “Yeah the needy thing? Not a turn-on.” HAHA! Well that and the crazy thing (and the horn thing and the hair thing and the blow drying Chinese food thing). Anyways, she really starts to lose it and cause a scene. He’s about to leave but before leaving adds this little dagger: “We hadn’t had sex yet sooooooo, see you later.” Look I know this guy is supposed to be playing a jerk, but so far he’s the most realistic character in the movie so far.
Now the movie gets really awesome. MJH completely loses it as he walks out the door, and the director of photography goes crazy with the blurry and shaky cam stuff. It zooms in on the chowder head kid while he wolfs down an ice cream, people laughing in the restaurant are all blurry, and she hears her ex keep saying in her head, “we hadn’t had sex yet sooooo.” It’s really really professional-looking. Like most things ABC Family does.
Mairo Lopez walks in and MJH takes his order before he heads towards the bathroom. Being completely sane and rational, MJH decides she’s gonna corner him and take him hostage so she doesn’t go home for the holidays sans-man. She threatens him with an 100-year old Indian war pistol that the manager kept in the store. I suppose it came with gunpowder and bullets to fire, too. Anyways, they head toward the parking lot and AC slips on some ice, which sweeps his feet out from under him and knocks him unconscious.
Now, at a moment like this, you really have a choice to make. Commit the felony or don’t commit the felony. Cut to Mr. Lopez blindfolded in a car and tied to some part of the door. So, not that it needed the stamp, but it’s official – MJH is Ca-Razy. He wakes up and tries to reason with her to let him out, telling her that at some point or another he’s going to overpower her. Mario, I know you’re a freak an all, but seriously dude you’re a hostage – this is no time to spit game.
This movie would be much better if he wore this costume.
She points the gun at him and of course almost hits a rabbit or something while driving. The gun goes off and she’s centimeters away from shooting AC’s Slater off. We then go on to a gas station where she leaves him in the car and goes inside (keep in mind he’s tied up and blindfolded at this point). We’re introduced the second awesome element of Handcuffed, Creepy Old Sexually-charged Gas Attendant or COSGA. As she goes into the convenience store to get some stuff and pay for gas, the COSGA tells her he “pumps the gas for all the pretty young ladies.” He sees Lopez in the car though and his face furrows with concern. MJH tries to explain that it’s a “tie me up tie me down” kind of weekend, which nearly gives the old man a heart attack. He runs back inside the gas station and she panics, trying to fill up on as much gas as she can before he comes back out. But he does come out laughing all old and creepy-like, saying “These are on the house, honey” and hands her a pair of furry red handcuffs! “Lucky little bastards,” the COSGA says as they drive away.
MJH finally gets to her parents but leaves AC in the car. And this is really where I learn to stop worrying and love the tv holiday movie bomb. Basically, she convinces her parents that AC likes to joke about being held hostage, so to just ignore him and joke around. Markie Post(?!), whom I love and would gladly give up years of my youth to hook up with, buys it. Oh Markie, this role is beneath you! Like me in my cougar fantasies.
Mario comes in and tells them he’s being held against his will, but they just laugh at him like he’s an idiot. Seriously though, if you want out of that house bad enough, you’d figure out a way by now. Also, there’s a no cell phone policy in the house during Christmas, and MJH is in control of the keys, so at this point I realize what she’s made of: the hamhanded kookyness of Lucille Ball, the irrationality of Britney Spears, and the psychoses of Kathy Bates in Misery, only less hot.
MJH’s brother and sister come home. The sister is the hot blonde mechanic from Firefly and the brother is the stoner guy from Orange County. Apparently hot sister is in law school and normal cool guy brother is happily with his girlfriend, who couldn’t make it this year. And really, next to them, MJH looks gross – what I’d imagine an Ellen groupie to look like. Everyone tuckers in for the night, and AC tries to escape while everyone is asleep, leading to that pointless flash forward introduction.
Into dogs and white sneaks? You could be my groupie.
We go back to our two leads in the kitchen. They’re talking and Mario is getting ready to make a run for it again. He managed to find a cell phone. But, for a second, the camera focuses on MJH staring at a meat cleaver, and the worst part of me is hoping this movie takes an awesome turn and MJH becomes serial mom or fully embraces the Kathy-Bates-in-Misery homicidal tendencies. Try to dance with the stars while having a meat cleaver in your head, AC. Ahh but it’s only a cell phone she destroys, along with my pipedream.
Markie Post(?!) starts to freak out because she needs some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. AC takes advantage of the situation and says he’ll go get it for her – dad accompanies him and in the car he talks about how it means a lot that AC is here and blah blah blah. AC is anxiously waiting to get to store, but the only store they go to is…you guessed it: the COSGA’s.
“Hi Grandma, the liquor cabinet is right over here.”
They return home to see that grandma’s there, and the camera zooms in on her like she’s supposed to be some old famous person. Anyways, grandma takes one look at AC Slater and compares him to Paul Newman! Mario Lopez thinks so, too. Anyways, AC finally finds a phone, and calls his girlfriend’s aunt, some debutante old lady with cucumbers in her eyes, trying to find his gf. She finds her for him but not after a funny scene with a disgruntled maid who keeps pushing the table away as the old bag tries to keep grabbing her whiskey sour. AC tells the GF everything that’s happened, but obviously she doesn’t believe him because who would believe that someone would be as crazy as MJH? Because she’s not responsive he gives her the magic line – “I was going to propose.” Of course, she immediately wants to go after him as she’s been working towards her MRS degree her whole life.
He gets caught by MJH but it doesn’t matter, she’s way too thick into it already. He then tells her not to worry – he’s going to be the best boyfriend she could imagine so that when he is rescued, it hurts her parents even more when they find out it’s a lie. I don’t know if I get the logic of that but you dance and wrestle, AC, so maybe logic isn’t one of your strong suits.
They then have some kind of discussion about how her Christmas list is literally the following (I wish I made this up, but this is truly what MJH says she wants): 1) Tiki Lights; 2) Chinese Tea Kettle; 3) Stop Disappointing my Parents. For the first time in this crapfest I actually burst out laughing. But I don’t think that’s what the Lost-reject writer wrote that for. Anyways, this list leads to some bullshit monologue about skating and how her parents looked at her proudly when she was a little girl who skated, and she just wants them to look at her that way again. DING DING DING, I think we’ve hit the moral center of this thing – this is just a story about a girl who wants approval from her parents. Only, to get approval, she’ll commit a felony and completely lose all integrity at a bombed interview. Right, cause that makes sense.
“This ain’t prune juice”
We go back to Grandma, who is pouring a double Vodka cran, cause, “Mama’s gonna need a little help.” And now we have our third reason to watch this movie. Mom forces the kids outside, where AC and MJH play a little hockey. She falls and hits her head like 20 times which is supposed to be funny and kind of is for my dark, anti-Clarissa heart. They then have a heart to heart over a game of chess in which AC tells her that he was an orphan and he mowed lawns to pay for college. I’m not sure it’s even possible to pay for college by simply mowing lawns, but if I get nit-picky, we’ll never get through this. Moving on.
They head towards the kitchen and, conveniently, there’s mistletoe hanging from the ceiling. Markie Post (?!) eggs the kids on to kiss, and AC does so reluctantly, then he gets into it at first. You just gotta break the seal and close your eyes and you’ll get through it. We then go back to Indian guy’s restaurant where the police and AC’s snooty girlfriend arrive. They are questioning this guy who offers them some “Ho ho hot dog” specials. I don’t know of any Indian (or any at all, really) restaurant that sells hot dogs, unless the windows are all open and it’s the place next door to the sex shop on 6th Avenue in the West Village.
Tandoori Dog coming right up!
MJH checks in on mother Markie Post(?!) who is folding what looks to be one of the Biggest Losers‘ pre weight-loss undergarments. She’s having a nervous breakdown about how MJH’s father doesn’t pay attention to her anymore or some other midlife crisis bs. Kind of a bad place to start having second thoughts, you know, 25 – 30 years into the marriage, no?
Oh, we’re really gonna need to introduce this guy to Bob and Jillian.
MJH is now getting lectured about not having any career aspirations. New information: she likes to paint, she’s an artist, which as this movie has accurately shown, means she can’t hold down a job. AC actually sticks up for her, so I suppose this means he’s starting to get into her. Anyways, to keep this from turning into a bigger deal, AC reaches into his pocket, pulls out the ring he was going to propose with, and asks MJH to marry him. She’s verklmept and Markie Post (?!) is ecstatic, because now someone else can worry about her beatnick daughter.
This all raises a question for me – why isn’t she pissed? She knows everyone is gonna find out that SHE COMMITTED A FELONY in a few hours. And Mario Lopez taunts her by saying, “Well, it won’t matter. We’ll keep it going for them for the next couple of hours.” Only, instead of being afraid for her high crimes, MJH is all like “thanks for this couple of hours.” What a tard. She’s happy cause her family is pumped about her faux engagement (which will only last for a fleeting moment). Seriously, I don’t know how a family could justify wanting to even talk to this girl after she lied about a kidnapping and her family is technically aiding and abetting. But, in ABC Familyland, I’m sure the police won’t care.
Anyways, MJH is roaming around the house and walks into her bro hanging out in a dark room. Brother admits to her that he hasn’t been with his girlfriend for 6 months and has actually been seeing some guy named Todd or Steve or something else Vanilla. MJH comforts him and he admits that he’s going to tell the family during Christmas dinner. Cause that’s something that will keep the festive mood light, huh? She moves on to the bathroom where she bumps into Mario Lopez in a towel. Thanks, AC Slater, for making me feel inadequate again. Damn you for your years of open wrestling/closet ballet.
But it’s official – the batshit insane hath won him over. He decides to have a romantic ice skating session after having designed a light motif on the bushes during the commercial break – all of this while wearing a starched shirt and a sharply tailored suit. And this guy was on dancing with the stars. Are we sure he’s not a fantasy sprung by Danielle Steele or a number of people’s mothers out there (including my own).
Benefits of filming in Vancouver: Canadian stunt doubles!
We go to the big meal, and everyone is ready to make some kind of admission. Hot daughter, all of a sudden, busts out with some news of her own, just as brother was about to talk about his penchant for the blue state lifestyle. Apparently the daughter quit law school months ago and has been investing the tuition in a pilates studio. Markie Post(?!) cackles as the dad gets all riled up – “Calm down,” she tells him. Then the son admits he’s gay and she’s like, “duh.” But she’s so convincing as the drunk mom that I think Markie Post(?!) might actually be drunk. Either that, or she’s doing her best to get that guest spot on Desperate Housewives. Her big secret could be that Markie Post is still alive and kind of well in Canada.
This leads to an argument with Markie Post(?!) and father, leading to her saying something about how she has to imagine Clint Eastwood during their once a year birthday sex, which makes me wonder if she has daddy issues, or if she’s just into the silver foxes like that. All of a sudden, this whole crapfest comes to a head – cops barge in on the meal. Grandma, making me love her even more (maybe I have a thing for the silver foxes!) , tells the cops “I don’t know who brought the bacon, but I’m gonna fry it up in a pan.” The cop, who is the 3rd and a half reason to watch (only because he has this one line) asks her, “Are you having a civil war flashback?” Jokes making fun of people’s ages = lazy but consistent funny.
We go to jail where everyone is in the same cell (right, sure). AC comes in and lets them go. He’s not pressing charges, which means (I guess) that they’re all free to go. But as everyone leaves the cell, the guard says, “not now, grambo.” I guess because she threatened the cops. Granny being awesome granny however, she responds with a smile and, “why officer what did you have in mind?”
Silver fox, indeed.
As everyone says their goodbyes, bitch gf tries to get AC to go home, just as he’s about to tell MJH how he really feels, which I assume is something along the lines of, “Strangely drawn to your completely dishonest and non-functioning family and the batshit insane person that you are.”
Fast forward to Valentine’s day, our epilogue. AC is going over wedding stuff with pain in the ass fiancÃ©e, and you can tell he isn’t happy. It’s heavy handed, but the best part about it isn’t what he’s doing, it’s what the disgruntled maid from earlier is doing. He walks outside and she’s wearing a wedding dress and veil with a smoking jacket, while having a cig. It makes no sense why she’s dressed like this and is yet the funniest thing in the whole movie – it’s official, we have a new addition. Maid, you’re number 4 and a half!
I’d like to thing Vera Wang, Hugh Hefner, Mr. Clean, Phillip Morris and Jesus Cristo!
Back to MJH – she just found out she got into some new artists art show. She tells her bro about it as she loves to live clichÃ©’s and parade her gay brother around at an art show. Of course, without telling her he brings the whole family. Mom and dad are getting marriage counseling and hot daughter is going back to law school – which makes me wonder. Has she not talked to her family in like 6 weeks? I guess that makes sense since she’s the reason they went to jail.
Anyways, somebody buys her piece and she’s all happy. She walks to her car and gets kidnapped – kinky, AC, kinky. He takes her to some space and takes off her blindfold – it’s some art studio he’s opening up (forgot to mention up until now that he’s rich and into real estate or something). He pulls away a blanket on an easel and shows her – the first piece in the new gallery will be the one she just sold. He tells her that everything he wants is “right here”. Her eyes well up and she looks like a cartoon of an alcoholic person – or a weepy puppy – either way, same coherence level.
Please love me…or give me some mad dog 40/40 and then I’ll be cool. Promise.
They kiss and her voice over comes on before the credits roll. She attributes her newfound happiness to having been crazy her whole life. Because the logic of a crazy person knows no bounds.