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 15th day of Bingemas, we turn our cheerful spirits to …
What are we watching?
Three Wise Men and a Baby
Where are we watching it?
Why are we watching it?
Because, per Hallmark, “Three brothers get the surprise of their lives when they are forced to work together and care for a baby over the holidays.”
No Vanessa Hudgenses star in this movie, but there are certainly stars. And as a Netflix Twitter account once wrote about the Hudge-i: There are three of them. But instead of replicating one actor three times, Hallmark has cast three of its most tenured hunks—Paul Campbell, Tyler Hynes, and Andrew Walker—and that can mean only one thing: more choreographed dancing than you would expect. It also means that when Three Wise Men and a Baby dropped on November 19, it became the most-watched cable TV movie of 2022, bringing in 3.6 million live viewers. These hunks: They have the juice.
How believable are the lead characters’ ostensible careers?
Andrew Walker plays Luke, a firefighter—definitely a career. Tyler Hynes plays Taylor, a sometimes employed video game programmer—possibly a career. And Paul Campbell plays Stephan, a pet therapist—a career exclusive to holiday movies. But more important than any of that, this movie knows what Parenthood (the TV show), Brothers & Sisters, and This Is Us knew before it: We just want to watch the dynamics of adult siblings, and it helps if those siblings are uniformly gorgeous. That’s right: These hot wise men are brothers.
Say, are these [three] opposites?
Of course they’re opposites. Luke, the eldest brother, is clean cut and dependable, and he takes on too much responsibility and then resents everyone around him for it. Taylor, the youngest, is talented and inconsistent, and he runs away at the first signs of difficulty. Stephan, the middle brother, is intelligent and reserved and … has a number of clearly defined psychological conditions (acute anxiety, anthropophobia) that kind of come and go as the scene calls for. And if you can believe it, these three just cannot get along. All their mom wants this year is for her adult sons to help her decorate the Christmas tree, and for some reason, that is the worst possible thing they can imagine their landlord asking for. Oh, did I not mention that? They all live with their mom. Through a series of pretty funny reveals, we find out that Taylor lives in the basement, Stephan lives in the backyard like PG Ryan Atwood, and Luke lives in his childhood bedroom while he’s building his own house. And these numbnuts still won’t just put up some twinkle lights for their definitely exasperated mother.
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”?
You may have guessed by now that this isn’t exactly your typical holiday rom-com. But it’s still my burden to tell you that the meet-cute in this movie happens between … three large adult sons and one small baby. For the next 1,000 words or so, please readjust your expectations of the kind of cute we’re dealing with here. A week before Christmas, Luke hears crying at the fire station and discovers that a baby has been left at the front door with a note addressed to him asking him to take care of the baby until the baby’s mother can return on Christmas Eve. Luke stutters, “Who leaves a baby at a fire hall?” which, like, bro—that is literally one of the only places you’re supposed to leave a baby! And everyone knows that because of any number of Dick Wolf–produced TV shows. This particular fire station, however, seems to have no familiarity with the Abandoned Infant Protection Act, and since the note is addressed to Luke, his colleagues are just like, “OK, happy Father’s Day, I guess?” They also rightfully ask if, perhaps, he is the father of this baby, which Luke denies so vehemently that it can suggest only that he has never had sex with a woman …
This would be fantastic news considering the frenemy chemistry he has with his neighbor Mark LaClark—perfect name—but that hope is dashed by the end of the movie. And it is the film’s greatest flaw.
Are there any high jinks?
Three men taking care of a baby without the aid of even one woman—imagine the high jinks that ensue! When Luke first brings the baby home, his mother is delighted to help someone in need of a little grace this Christmas season … but then she immediately gets called away to help her sister after a fall and tasks the three brothers with taking care of the baby until she returns. From there, Taylor accidentally buys adult diapers, Stephan nearly lights the house on fire trying to bake with an infant, and Luke—the responsible one—accidentally arrives home from the store with an entirely different baby in tow. These men are, at minimum, 35 years old, and they realize only by physical cues (them almost vomiting) that babies need to have their diapers changed. I would love to see them make this movie with three single adult sisters who are still completely clueless about the bodily functions of a baby.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but no one in this movie is dead (that we know of). However, the Brenner brothers’ father did abandon them as children, and he’s sort of been dead to them ever since.
Is there any magic?
You guys, the magic of this movie is the baby. Caring for an infant together brings up conversations the Brenner brothers have been avoiding since childhood, which has been preventing them from creating adult bonds with one another. Now, tasked with not lighting a baby on fire, they’re finally able to appreciate their shared struggles and triumphs. Everyone say thank you to this baby’s magic for making Tyler Hynes shed one tear in the back of a minivan, OK?
Is there any singing/dancing/baking/blogging?
There is a dance. It is … surprisingly good. There is no narrative reason for these three brothers to know a choreographed dance to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” and there is certainly no reason for them to perform it every time the song comes on. Yet here we are—swooning. However, the real competitive Christmas spirit doesn’t come alive until the brothers realize that they can win their mom a cruise by beating their neighbor (Mark LaClark!) in the “Spirit of Christmas” yard-decorating contest he wins every year. They call on every love interest, coworker, and inflatable Santa at their discretion and put together … genuinely the strangest Christmas display I have ever seen.
Any chance they just thought of this title, and then built an entire movie around it?
Just imagine the absolute candy cane climax someone had when they came up with this movie title. (The movie was cowritten by the middle Brenner brother, Paul Campbell, but I don’t want to directly pin the aforementioned climax just to him.) The idea of turning Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson into brothers and replacing them with Hallmark hunks would, of course, be altogether irresistible to the Hallmark powers that be. But where I would have urged the filmmakers to ease up a little is making these brothers portray wise men in some way.
Because when the baby’s mom returns on Christmas Eve as promised, it is to the sight of three grown men in their front yard, holding her baby up like Simba in front of a bunch of news cameras, addressing him as Jesus Christ, and screaming, “We shall rejoice in the glory of this king!” Now, this mom did leave her baby with basically a stranger (it turns out she chose Luke because he was the first responder when she went into labor). But still … finding that your child has been involved in what could only be perceived as a cult ritual first and a means to winning a Christmas lights contest a way distant second could be unmooring to a young mother who’s already in a vulnerable spot.
What is the meaning of Christmas, as stated by the film?
You can heal your family trauma, you can reflect on your childhood with adult eyes, you can help a community member in need—but please never forget, no matter what, that Christmas is a holiday about finding romantic love. At the end of the movie, the story jumps ahead one year to reveal that Taylor has gotten back together with his ex-girlfriend, Stephan has started dating his pet therapy client (a woman, not a dog), and Luke—I don’t wanna say it, please don’t make me say it—is now dating the woman who left her baby with him a year ago. The fact that the writers resisted naming these three women some variation of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh is my own personal Christmas miracle.