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 21st day of Bingemas, we turn our cheerful spirits to …
What are we watching? A Cozy Christmas Inn
Where are we watching it? Hallmark
Why are we watching it? Because, per Hallmark, “Real estate exec, Erika, travels to Alaska during the holidays to acquire a B&B, only to discover it’s owned by her ex. Soon she is falling in love with the town and quite possibly him.”
Another day, another movie without Vanessa Hudgens, and another gorgeous opportunity to stick it to Candace Cameron Bure. The casual holiday movie watcher may not know that A Cozy Christmas Inn is actually a sequel to the 2014 Hallmark movie Christmas Under Wraps. It has the same fake Alaskan town, the same love interest (David O’Donnell returning as Andy Holliday), the same kooky townspeople, but a different lead. In place of Christmas Under Wraps’ Candace Cameron Bure, we get Jodie Em-effing Sweetin swooping in, snatching up her TV sister’s boyfriend and giving the proverbial middle finger to Great American Family and the bigoted reindeer it rode in on. You simply love to see it at Bingemastime, folks.
How believable are the lead characters’ ostensible careers?
Unfortunately it’s also another day, another Jodie Sweetin joint where she has to show an alleged hotel entrepreneur how to do his job while she does her whole other job as a real estate exec, which she will ultimately quit in order to be with him. Can we please give Jodie Sweetin ownership of a fake inn and have a hottie derail his career to move to her small town next year?
Are there any fake towns, or perhaps a whole fake country?
The small, fictional town in question is Garland, Alaska, which comes with its own catchphrase—“That’s Garland for you”—and is frequently described as “a town all about Christmas.” Except here’s the thing: Beyond the name and being the home to an entire Michaels’ worth of fake Christmas trees, there’s nothing particularly Christmas-y about Garland. I have been watching Christmas markets and snowman tableaus and holiday galas all damn Bingemas, but Garland-the-Christmas-town didn’t have a single holiday event on the calendar until Erika swooped in to be like, “Hey, have you noticed you’re a tourist town with no tourists?”
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”?
Tourists or no, Erika’s boss—ahem, Vivica A. Fox—takes a random interest in Garland after reading about it in an in-flight magazine (where print media and Christmas towns are alive and well). The article was about the charming Garland Inn and how it has holiday cheer, its own observatory, and a sexy, sexy inn owner. In order to be promoted to vice president, Erika’s boss tasks her with traveling to Garland a week before Christmas and convincing the owner to sell them his inn.
Why would a huge real estate company want to invest in an inn that no one goes to in a Christmas town with no Christmas activities that’s only accessible by a two-hour car ride from the airport? Unclear. It never becomes clear, and we will not be accepting any more questions at this time. The movie is much too focused on the fact that said inn is owned by Erika’s ex-boyfriend, who ditched her in Seattle to move back to his hometown and open this very inn. Now she has to convince him to sell his passion project face-to-face while trying not to bone all alone in a hotel with an observatory, hands down the most boneable environment imaginable.
Is there any magic?
Oh yeah, pals, there’s magic. It’s a vague, unspecified, read-between-the-lines kind of magic, but it is everywhere. Because, ultimately, the reason that Garland is considered a Christmas town is because of the Holliday family business. Oh, have I not mentioned that Andy is a shipping heir, and also may be Santa Claus Jr.?
Is there a mysterious old man, and does that old man turn out to be Santa?
This is the rare case where there’s actually an old man Santa and that Santa turns out to be mysterious. Andy’s dad, Frank Holliday (Brian Doyle-Murray, you’ll always be famous!), runs Holliday Shipping, an extremely busy, extremely profitable company headquartered in Garland. From the moment we meet him, this man is very clearly Santa. He has a white beard, he’s always dressed in red, Christmas is his busiest season, he eats too many cookies—the man is Santa! You spend the whole movie being like, “Oh, Andy’s dad is Santa, and Andy is next in line to be Santa after he finishes sowing his wild inn-oats, I can’t wait to find out the mythology behind this Santa family.” But it just never comes! We’re definitely supposed to believe Frank is Santa, but I guess they’re not going to go whole-hog on explaining it to us. This isn’t Disney+.
Is there a building in disrepair, or a business facing financial ruin?
After Andy and Erika are reunited at the inn, Andy confesses to Erika that he’s broke. Somehow, the plan then becomes to launch a marketing campaign six days before Christmas so Andy can get more guests and not have to sell his inn for millions of dollars to Vivica A. Fox. I say this as a pop culture writer: the business sense in this movie is harrowing. To attract more tourists to Garland, Erika suggests that the inn host a Secret Santa Christmas Eve event so that the townspeople can [checks notes] post it on their social media. I’m sorry Erika, how many followers do you think Martin the town notary has? Andy—a man whose dad is literally a secret Santa—is all, “Secret Santa party! How do you think of these things, Erika McNicoll?”
Is there any singing/crafting/baking/blogging?
You would not believe how frequently Andy’s blog is referenced as a valuable selling point for the Garland Inn. When Vivica A. Fox asks Erika to go acquire the inn, she tells her, “The owner even has his own blog—talk about genius marketing!” Even if this was 2012, can we call it genius marketing if it has not generated a market? There’s no one at this hotel!!! The gag of this movie is that Andy absolutely needs to sell this inn while someone is interested. As it is, the only reason the inn still has wood to put on the constantly roaring fires is because Andy’s dad—Santa—is an investor. It is nepotism at its finest.
How modest are the wardrobe choices?
The amount of colorful coats and sweaters that Jodie Sweetin is absolutely glowing in throughout this movie is a direct indictment on Merry Swissmas and its outfits. Lifetime should be ashamed.
Does anyone almost kiss, only to be interrupted?
Um, these harlots kiss halfway through the movie. Getting to first base before the film’s final quarter is practically porn on Hallmark, but what can I say—they may not have a smidge of business sense between them, but they do have chemistry. And I guess if these two are going to throw away their 401Ks in the name of love, it might as well be a passionate, solidly-PG kind of love.
What is the meaning of Christmas, as stated by the film?
Erika herself frequently references “The Gift of the Magi” when struggling through the idea that her getting a promotion means dashing Andy’s dream, but Andy holding onto his dream means dashing her promotion. It’s not a perfect parallel when she makes it, but it becomes even less perfect when she realizes the moral of that story comes not from the predicament itself but the mutual exchange of selfless love between its characters. So, in the end, Erika decides to quit her job instead of acquiring the inn, tells Andy she’s moving to Garland, and commits herself to doing the marketing for his penniless hotel. And in exchange, Andy … names a star after her. That’s Garland for you!