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 never hope to 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 that 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 12th day of Bingemas, we turn our cheerful spirits to …
What are we watching?
A Gingerbread Christmas.
Where are we watching it?
Why are we watching it?
Because, per Discovery+, “an architect enters a gingerbread contest to save her mother’s bakery.”
This movie is devoid of Vanessa Hudgenses but filled to the brim with the charm of Tiya Sircar, who’s probably best known for playing Real Eleanor/Vicky in The Good Place—and best known in my group chats for the GIF of her saying, “I am a strong independent acid snake, in the skin suit of a strong independent woman.” It’s a pretty apt description of Hazel, who possesses a level of pettiness and a willingness to bitch around that I appreciate in a rom-com lead. I had never seen Marc Bendavid in anything, and some of his credits on IMDb read like the fake shows from 30 Rock (How to Buy a Baby, Good Witch), but he’s great in this movie and I will now gladly accept him as Discovery+’s version of Tyler Hynes.
Any chance they just thought of this title and then built an entire movie around it?
It is almost unfathomable to me that the title A Gingerbread Christmas was still available in the year of our Santa 2022. But thank goodness it was because it’s the perfect title for an entire movie based around Duff Goldman. Yes, this movie is theoretically about an architect and a baker coming together to create artistic yet structurally sound gingerbread magic … but mostly it is about Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes playing a slightly more cookie-oriented version of Duff Goldman. Discovery+ entered the holiday streaming chat for the first time ever with four original movies this year, and the shameless approach it’s taken in wedging its homegrown, nonactor talents into each and every one of them is admirable. The only thing missing is an Ina and Jeffrey Christmas-themed origin story, but there’s always time to save cinema next year.
How believable are the lead characters’ ostensible careers?
Hazel is an architect, which is perhaps the most believable rom-com career. James, on the other hand, is a contractor whom Hazel’s dad hired to do renovations on their bakery. And then he somehow just … became the baker. But he is also, simultaneously, the contractor. He is a baker-contractor, and they don’t even have him accidentally attempt to whisk something with a hammer once.
Are there any fake towns, or perhaps a whole fake country?
Hazel is from a village outside Chicago called Oak Park, but what you may not know about Oak Park is that it is apparently a town made up entirely of bakers. We do not meet anyone from Oak Park who is not actively running a baking business. Hazel’s mom was a famous baker; Hazel’s mom’s best friend, Nina, is currently a famous baker; Nina’s niece just opened a bakery across from Hazel’s mom’s bakery; and of course, Hazel is an architect who also bakes, has a dad who’s now running her mom’s bakery, and is actively falling in love with a man who is a contractor-baker. If you get sick in Oak Park, you are absolutely fucked—the town doctor (also a baker) will just put fondant directly into your IV drip.
Hazel’s main motivation is to preserve the legacy of her mother, who died two years before. But much wilder than that in the “who’s dead” category is the reveal that James has a daughter but is not a widower—he’s divorced! Even mentioning the word “divorce” is almost unheard of in an original holiday movie, unless of course the couple is about to get snowed into a bed-and-breakfast where they discover that their love is still alive and well. But please rest assured that James’s divorce comes with the caveats that it was totally amicable and they’re still great friends. Still, it’s growth in terms of not killing everybody off all the time just to explain how this many hot 30-somethings could possibly be single in this many small towns.
Is there a building in disrepair, or a business facing financial ruin?
When Hazel walks into her mom’s bakery for the first time since her death and discovers James baking and hammering in the kitchen, she says these words: “Everything is in disrepair!” That’s right, people, it’s our second “we gotta save this bakery from financial ruin” in exactly one week of Bingemas! Luckily, Hazel just saw an interview with the Cookie King of Chicago, Mark Clemmons (ahem, Duff Goldman), who announced that Chicago’s famous Christmas Bakeoff theme this year will be “A Gingerbread Showdown.” We will soon find out that this famous bake-off is held in a hotel conference room, it has no live competitive element to it, and it doesn’t even appear to be televised. The prize for such a competition? $100,000.
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”?
The meet-cute in this movie is just perfect. James comes out of the bakery’s kitchen to accuse a beautiful woman of stealing a scone, at which point she says, “I’m Hazel—of Hazel-nut Bakery?” He takes off his construction goggles in shock, making Hazel bug her own eyes out because the goggles were apparently preventing her from seeing that she was speaking to not only a baker, and not only a contractor, but also a male model.
Does anything tip the scales from G to PG?
Very early in the movie, James takes off his whole shirt to put on a chef’s jacket in front of Hazel. And, I mean, I’ve seen Episode 7 of The Bear only two times, but I don’t think you’re supposed to raw-dog it under a chef’s coat, and you’re definitely not supposed to take your shirt off in a commercial kitchen.
Is there any singing/crafting/baking/blogging?
Oh, the baking montages we’re treated to! The Food Network knows how to film baked goods, but I have to be honest … these gingerbread houses were not all that. I actually do live in a town where there’s a famous gingerbread competition (and the craziest thing happened—I just ran into my old high school crush, he’s a holiday movie journalist too, and now we have to save his dead mom’s local newspaper together!), and the gingerbread houses at this thing are nuts. A family of holiday squirrels could easily take up residence in any one of them. Whereas the gingerbread houses in this competition make it look like your most overachieving sibling just decided to try out a new hobby this year. I will say this about the Oak Park City Hall replica Hazel and James make, though: It looks like a city hall building.
Is there a villain who sows discord?
It’s funny that Tiya Sircar was on The Good Place because I kept thinking that this movie’s “the childhood best friends are fightingggg” plotline was like The Good Place version of Merry Swissmas’s awful one. Meaning that A Gingerbread Christmas’s feud has a little bite to it; Hazel stays eating her ex–best friend Shelby up for something that happened 20 years ago until Shelby finally explains what happened and why it happened and apologizes. She ditched Hazel for the popular crowd because she was in the closet and it seemed like the easiest way to blend in, and she stole her date at prom because he asked her to dance and she still wanted everyone to think she was straight. She also fixes Hazel’s completely basic gingerbread house, and her aunt ultimately … gets Hazel a book contract to save the bakery??? Sure, OK!
Did this movie make me cry?
I cried when Yasmin, the Iranian immigrant contestant, kicks everyone’s gingerbread ass with her really beautiful gingerbread mosque. This movie is doing a lot at all times, but it’s doing it well—and most importantly, it’s doing it with Duff Goldman, the Ace of Cakes.