The Ringer’s 25 Days of Bingemas is a guide for people who love original holiday movies; it’s a guide for people who hate original holiday movies; it’s a guide for people who occasionally watch these movies and want more; it’s a guide for people who hope to never watch these movies but would like to watch one writer descend into madness as she attempts to differentiate between 25 unique forms of holiday magic, 12 different fake countries, and eight different male leads who make you wonder, “Wait, is that the guy from Mean Girls?” (It isn’t, except for the one time when it is.) Every day for the next 25 days, Jodi Walker will feature one of this season’s 169 original holiday movies, answering a curated series of questions in order to showcase the genre’s masterful formula, the dedication to chaos, and the commitment to consistently widowing lumberjacks that launched an entire genre of TV movie. On the first day of Bingemas, we turn our cheerful spirits to …
What are we watching?
Ghosts of Christmas Always.
Where are we watching it?
The Hallmark Channel, streaming on Peacock.
Why are we watching it?
Because, per Hallmark, “Katherine is a Ghost of Christmas Present and she must help one soul, Peter, rediscover his Christmas spirit. But this year has something unusual in store.” (The “something unusual” is interdimensional horniness.)
No Vanessa Hudgenses star in Ghosts of Christmas Always. Instead, Ian Harding from Pretty Little Liars stars as Peter—and in terms of character arcs to be known for, dating a ghost is a big upgrade from dating a teenager. He is utterly delightful with said ghost woman, played by Kim Matula.
How believable are the leads’ ostensible careers?
Well, Katherine is a Ghost of Christmas Present. In the grand scheme of things, she’s in a pretty niche industry—but in the Hallmark scheme of things she’s chosen, like, one of the eight available career paths. Peter is the heir to a grocery empire, and if I’ve learned anything from the Bachelor franchise, it’s that “heir to a grocery empire” is the most desirable job a single man can have. Unfortunately for Peter, he hates capitalism and loves philanthropy, so it’s not his dream job as much as it’s his Dickensian burden to bear.
Say, are these two opposites?
Peter is the rare Hallmark male lead who is neither grumpy nor begrudging and who actually has an endearing amount of anxiety over whether he’s a good person. But, since Katherine is … straight-up dead, yeah, these two are about as existentially opposite as hot people can be.
Is there a villain who sows discord?
Yeah, it’s Peter’s dad, and he sucks. You know he’s a villain because it looks like his hair has been dyed with printer ink in all the scenes from the past when he’s talking on a Zack Morris cellphone and ditching his family to work on Christmas Eve. In a classic Christmas Ghosts mixup—due mostly to men naming their progeny after themselves and then making them take over their grocery empires in the name of legacy—the ghosts end up visiting Peter Baron (yes, their last name is Baron) instead of Robert Peter Baron, and as you can imagine, straightening things out becomes a whole to-do.
Oh, almost everyone is dead! Katherine, Roy (Reginald VelJohnson!), and Arlene (Lori Tan Chinn) are ghosts, and we eventually learn that they became Christmas ghosts because they all died on Christmas Eve. Peter’s beloved grandparents are also dead, taking with them all the philanthropic leanings of their company that Peter hopes to bring back. And Peter’s mom might as well be dead for all the character development she’s given. Literally and figuratively, most of the people we’re watching in this movie are dead.
Are there any fake towns, or perhaps a whole fake country?
Weirdly, this movie about ghosts and holiday spirit takes place in the very real city of Hartford, Connecticut. There are apparently so many scrooges in Hartford that it has its own devoted door at the Department of Restoring Christmas Spirit. (The whole Christmas ghosts construct rests somewhere between Monsters, Inc. and The Good Place.)
How problematic is the meet-cute on a scale of “one saved the other from falling in a snowbank” to “one is the other’s boss and they fall in love on a work trip”?
In terms of power dynamics, I’m a little foggy on ghost magic, but the main issue here is that because so many people are dead and so many people are from Hartford, you spend most of the movie wondering whether Katherine is, in fact, Peter’s grandmother. For a second it seems like things are gonna get very Back to the (Ghosts of Christmas) Future very fast.
Is there any magic?
IS THERE ANY MAGIC?! There is ONLY magic. And it honestly holds up pretty well logistically speaking, right up until the end, when they introduce the idea that these ghosts can just choose to un-dead themselves if they have a solid 10-year plan for this mortal plane and have met a hot enough grocery store magnate. You see, each year, the Christmas Ghosts trio visit one scrooge, repair their Christmas spirit through time travel, and then leave them with no memories of what happened and just a lingering feeling of joy. Only this year, the scrooge wasn’t scroogey at all, and his heart of gold and jaw of steel introduced a heretofore unexplored level of horniness to the Christmas magic equation.
How modest are the wardrobe choices?
At one point, when Katherine and Peter are about to head out on a time travel date, Reginald VelJohnson snaps his fingers and changes Katherine’s clothes from a turtleneck and tartan peacoat to a crewneck sweater and a slightly more modern tartan peacoat. Everyone oohs and ahhs at the makeover, but she obviously looked hotter in the turtleneck—at least then we could be like, Hey, maybe there are three boobs under there or something. (The ooh-ing is much more appropriate when Peter changes from pajamas into a chunky fisherman’s sweater because a chunky fisherman’s sweater is the sluttiest thing a man can wear in December.)
Does anyone almost kiss, only to be interrupted?
These beautiful idiots do not kiss once while Katherine is a ghost. They wait until Katherine walks through the doors labeled “THE GREAT UNKNOWN,” at which point she just … becomes Peter’s IRL wife. That means that when they do finally kiss it kind of just feels like an episode of Modern Family. Where’s all the hot, inter-cosmic hands stuff?
At the end of the movie, does the title make sense?
“Ghosts of Christmas Always” does not make any sense at all. First of all, by self-resurrecting, Katherine becomes the opposite of an always-ghost; she is an occasional-ghost, an opt-in-only ghost, a Ghost of Christmas Sometimes. And we have no idea whether she even remembers being a ghost once she crosses over into THE GREAT UNKNOWN, or whether she and Peter are implanted with some sort of alternate history where they met at a gingerbread-house contest where she was a pastry chef and he was a grocery store magnate judge (prequel alert!).
Did this movie make me cry?
Oh most definitely, for the majority of the final act. As soon as it was revealed that Katherine was best friends with Peter’s grandmother, and died going out to give blankets to the unhoused moments after introducing Peter’s grandparents, therefore guaranteeing his existence on Earth and her existence as a Christmas ghost … and then Peter’s grandmother dedicates the community center she starts to her dearly departed best friend, only for Peter and Katherine to revive said community center in the present and dedicate it to the grandmother … they should’ve called this The Ghosts of Christmas Sobs, amirite???
What is the meaning of Christmas, as stated by the film?
The movie has three constantly repeated messages: “Life is a series of choices”; “All is as it should be”; and “Be brave enough to see where you want to go.” These are all solid options for a piece of canvas art from HomeGoods. None of them has anything to do with Christmas.
Next up on 25 Days of Bingemas: Netflix’s The Noel Diary.