Happy New Year Everyone! You may wonder why I’m still in Christmas world if it’s 2019 – but there are still 6 days left of the 12 Days of Christmas, so I will try to cram the rest of my DVR – and let’s not forget A Christmas Prince 2 – Royal Wedding – before Twelfth Night. That being said, here we go with Christmas Wonderland – something I know nothing about other than it starts in NYC with a very wintry scene of Washington Square Park.
Our heroine, Emily Osment, plays Heidi, and she works at a gallery, with a Sassy Assistant who carries her coffee for her, and a boss who relies on her a lot. Heidi is also an artist, but her painting skills are not being used enough in the high stakes world of gallery running.
We cut to a small town high school class, with a dreamy history teacher who is also a hockey coach, and has a troubled student named Tom, who is troubled about something. Dreamy Teacher is also BFFs with the Vice Principal of the high school, and BFF guilts Dreamy Teacher into planning the Snowball Dance. I think high school dances in tv are just a lot more than the dances when I was in high school.
Troubled kid Tom has a nice home, with a sister, and parents who are realtors who just got asked to be speakers at a realtor convention – which means parents have to leave tomorrow! So mom is Heidi’s sister, and Heidi’s sister really wants Heidi to come home for 2 days to babysit. Heidi’s boss is very anti Heidi leaving, but Heidi promises to work from home, and be back in time for the office Christmas party, and oh my goodness, is this almost the same plot as Christmas Joy?
Home is Pleasant Valley, PA, and it’s way too snowy there for all this talk of global warming. Heidi takes a car home, and en route to her sister’s, she sees Dreamy Teacher on Main Street and ducks down in the back seat, so you know there’s history there. Heidi’s sister also sneaks in that Heidi also has to help with the Snowball Dance while she’s there, and that is above-and-beyond for 2 days of babysitting, so I call shenanigans on Heidi’s sister. Also, there is drama between Dreamy Teacher – named Chris Shephard – and Heidi and Heidi’s brother-in-law is right to be concerned about going down that memory lane, but Heidi’s sister poo-poo’s this concern and they leave Heidi alone in a very nice open concept home.
Heidi’s sister left recipes and food in the house but Heidi orders pizza. Yaaaaas, girl. But then Heidi heads to the PTA meeting, and Heidi meets up with Chris in the gym! Backstory here is that they dated in high school, and I’m thinking they broke up because he wanted to stay home in PA and she wanted to go to NYC and be an artiste – so he is suitably distressed when she admits that she doesn’t really paint anymore. BTW she is wearing horrendous shoes. But their shared upset at each other outweighs the need to fix the gym up for a dance, and Heidi leaves in a huff.
Next morning, kids are saying that their parents usually make them eggs and bacon and pancakes for breakfast before school, but I’m sorry, unless this is 1974 and their house is the Brady Bunch, no one really does that anymore, right? How else would General Mills and Kelloggs still corner the market on breakfast cereal? Anyway, Heidi says whatever, eat your generic cereal and then has to placate her freaking out boss over the phone – seems no one else can do anything at that gallery except Heidi.
A Chekov gun moment earlier about the broken dishwasher is going to bite Heidi in the ass as she turned the dishwasher on before she took the kids to school. And for some reason, I guess for a bigger reveal on the travesty of the dishwasher all over the Pergo flooring, Heidi heads to a diner to work on her laptop despite the fact that I’m pretty sure sister’s house has WiFi. But then we get Heidi meeting her old friend Erica, who is married to the BFF Vice Principal. We also hear that Chris had a book published on Mark Twain, so who’s looking good to Heidi now, hmmm? He looks so good to Heidi that she shows back up at the gym to help out – and the roof of the gym is leaking. Which matches the little lake that is awaiting them in their kitchen when the kids come back home from school.
Aunt Heidi is nice and encouraging to her 15 year old nephew – telling him to go after the girl he likes, but in a nice, non-threatening way. Then she is so overcome with nostalgia and art love that she gets all her painting supplies out of her sister’s closet, which are conveniently clearly labeled for her use – but before she can paint one stroke, she gets interrupted by a text from her boss. And wouldn’t you know it, her sister and brother-in-law can’t come home because of some kind of computer glitch, and Heidi has to bake cookies for her niece’s cookie sale and Heidi is useless in the kitchen, as seen by her very soupy sugar cookie mix. How do you do that????
Niece has a solo in an upcoming Christmas Pageant, and niece is freaking out about it, but in that secretive way of kids, she won’t tell anyone why she’s upset. When Heidi drops Tom off at the high school, she wanders into the gym to see the damage from the leaky roof – and no one stops her or asks her for ID or makes her get a visitor’s badge, so you know this high school exists in FantasyLand. Gym is off limits for a dance, and all the old decorations are ruined, but BFF Vice Principal gallantly assumes that Chris and Heidi will just work together to plan a new dance at a location to be named later. But Heidi has a life in NYC, BFF VP! Why can’t he figure this out – he’s the freaking VP. Anyway, Heidi and Chris agree to meet up later to brainstorm.
Heidi’s boss is not understanding about airport glitches, and totally depends on Heidi and is super annoyed that Heidi is not back at work. But Heidi is inspired to sketch while sitting on a bench in the middle of town. Then Heidi and Chris brainstorm about locations – they find one in a hotel a bit of a drive away from town. In a green-screen moment in his truck, they talk about their respective lives – and how they broke up with each other before college. He had wanted to be a hockey player, but he hurt his knee. His dreams were over, but her dreams could still come true – please don’t ever stop painting, Heidi. But maybe Chris should think of other things, like not running out of gas in the middle of nowhere PA where there is no cell service.
They are near a farm called Wonderland Acres, which is where they had their first date, and the nice man who takes them into a barn which is of course the perfect place to hold a dance except for the fact that it clearly has no heat.
Niece comes clean about why she’s upset – she is worried about remembering all the words to her song. And then Chris shows up to fix the broken dishwasher, and he is nicely encouraging to Niece about finding a rhythm for “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” with a weird modern rendition of it. All this niceness has Heidi looking through her old yearbooks. Nothing in the world will send me back there.
Heidi’s sister still isn’t home. Not sure where the conference is, but they were driving to Atlanta, but there was bad weather there, so they are just driving back to PA, and she was stopped at a rest stop for lunch while Heidi and nephew Tom are eating breakfast. Excuse me but do the laws of time and space dissolve in this movie? They are all on Eastern Standard Time – how is mom eating lunch if son is eating more cereal before school?
Heidi has time to go see Niece rehearse her song – guess she’s not working that hard from home. She also has time to wander nostalgically into her grammar school art room. And again, she has no visitor pass or teacher escort. But this visit to the art room finally brings her back to her easel and canvas – why does her apron have so much paint on it when her hands don’t? I call shenanigans. Her picture is nice but totally looks like one of those paint-by-numbers things that my brother did for my mom one Christmas.
BFF VP is pointing out that Chris is a lot happier lately because Heidi is in town. But Chris says her life is in NYC and we want different things, etc. But it doesn’t stop them from shopping in BFF’s wife’s craft store –
Chris finally gets Heidi to agree to paint a 6 foot mural for decoration because she has nothing better to do. And after she dramatically falls off a tiny ladder she says she’s sorry for breaking up with him the way she did, and then they have a glitter fight, because that’s what you do when you have a heartfelt moment after a fall of a step-stool.
Old Man who owns the barn is a widower, and makes Heidi think that it’s maybe not a bad thing to be with a person who is your soul mate. She also is more inspired to paint again, and doesn’t really feel worried that her job is in jeopardy. She heads to the high school library which is absurdly decorated in garland and Christmas lights to do some research on past Snowball dances for her mural theme, and BFF VP gives her a copy of Chris’s Twain book. I just finished listening to Twain’s Feast – about Mark Twain and all his life and love of food. It was interesting, even if I have a hearty dislike of Twain because he cannot figure out the amazing awesomeness that is Jane Austen. Anyway.
She gets inspired by her old pictures of dancing couples – meanwhile Younger and Older Son are fighting over an outlet and Younger Son just hit Older Son in the nards, and I’m just sitting here observing.
She is an amazingly fast painter. It’s all done in like 2 seconds – or overnight – and it’s weird looking but whatever. We are 30 minutes from the end.
It’s gotten to the point where Heidi is ducking all of her boss’s calls. Oh Heidi, girl, you can kiss your job good-bye. The barn is almost all ready – they get to test out the dance floor but get kiss-blocked by Heidi’s boss – who is calling to tell her that Sassy Assistant took the picture of Heidi’s paint-by-numbers picture and put it on their website and now everyone in art loving New York wants to see more of Heidi’s work. I HIGHLY DOUBT THIS CONVENIENT COINCIDENCE. And now Heidi’s boss is all about Heidi’s art career, but only if Heidi is back in NYC, and not stuck in her home town. Chris is suitably happy for her and her art, and suitably upset that her life is calling her back to NYC, even if she’ll miss this Snowball dance because of the office Christmas party.
Chris meets up with Heidi and the kids at the diner, and good news all around! Tom gets a date to the dance, and gives Chris the “sometimes you just have to go for it” speech, and then Heidi’s parents have shown up to take over babysitting duty. Next scene is the Christmas pageant, and after all of Niece’s angst about singing, all she had to do is one lousy verse of “Hark, the Herald” so what the hell, screenwriters. And the parents magically make it just as she sings her song, so all is right with the world. Now it’s time for Heidi to get back to NYC.
If we were playing the drinking game with this movie, we’d be emptying the container, because Heidi has the realization that what she thought she wanted – success and life in NYC – isn’t what she really wants – she wants to go to a small town high school dance with her boyfriend from 11 years ago. And I’d like to point out that the bed in her sisters’ guest room is bedecked with garland and Christmas lights at the foot – and that is just dumb.
Before she goes back to NYC, she heads to the barn for a final good-bye with Chris. Older Son is inquiring after the Sad Times – and just look at this face – of course he’s found them!
Heidi’s back in NYC and finally shows up at work – just in time for the Christmas Party, where she hands out gift bags and plays back-up to her boss. And she finally realizes that she’s not going to get ahead in her life in NYC and so she quits in the middle of the party. This is NOT how you quit a job responsibly, Heidi – but if she leaves right now, she can still make the dance.
The barn looks nice. BFF VP tells Chris to try and have fun even if Heidi isn’t there – but how much fun can a teacher chaperone have at a high school dance? Before he can ponder this question, Heidi shows up – in the same dress she wore to the party – so I’m confused how much she had to travel – how far away is Pleasant Valley, PA from NYC? I guess it doesn’t really matter, because they love each other and we’re done.
Emily Osment isn’t a bad actress, and this movie wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t amazingly fabulous either. But hey, it was familiar, and cozy, and warm, just like a Hallmark Christmas movie should be. So there’s that. I watched this one as a New Year’s gift to you – just so you don’t have to.