|"Holiday in Handcuffs" (2007).|
"Holiday in Handcuffs" (2007), directed by Ron Underwood, is a fine TV movie about enduring the holidays, and how sometimes we have to be forced to realize what we really need. This is all breaking down barriers, which is a primitive process not always best served by normal social rules designed to protect people. One can think of this as the gender-reversed version of Vincent Gallo's "Buffalo '66," in which his character kidnaps the Christina Ricci character. "Holiday in Handcuffs," though, is much brighter and bouncier, befitting an ABC Family presentation.
|Joan looking desperate in "Holiday in "Handcuffs."|
"Holiday in Handcuffs" introduces us to Gertrude 'Trudie' Chandler and her slightly wacky family and their charming idiosyncrasies. Everything just leads us to the conclusion that, whatever we are, that's all right. If you want to call that a feel-good movie, or a chick flick, or simply a charming holiday film with potential, well, you'd be on the right track with any of those descriptions. Quite an inoffensive film where switching the traditional roles of practically all of the main characters is what makes it work.
|Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez make a cute couple in "Holiday in Handcuffs."|
Now, please don't go into this expecting anything more than what it is, which is a low-key vehicle made to affirm how, regardless of how terrible things may seem at the moment, they really aren't so bad if you just keep going. There aren't any real plot surprises, there isn't any real drama, all plays out in that standard TV-comedy fashion. But it's a cut above the standard fare, you just have to be in the right mood to appreciate, well, the mood.
|Melissa Joan Hart looking frazzled in "Holiday in Handcuffs."|
Melissa Joan Hart is perfect as the lead, under-achieving "Trudie who needs a date for the holiday, so she kidnaps a guy who looks the part and brings him home. Lucille Ball she's not, but she has her own style that suits this kind of set-up wonderfully. If you want someone who can pout, and be sarcastic, and then act like a poor lost down-on-her-luck waif, well, she knows how to do it. Some may comment that she's no longer a teenager, and perhaps these waifish roles are a bit much now, but I think it makes her adorable and is right for the character, who is meant to be a bit past her glory days. You sympathize with her, no matter what crazy thing she pulls off, because it's all due to her good-hearted natural impulses. Mario Lopez is genial as always as her prey, playing the object of her affections handily, though he does seem a bit self-conscious when the female wish-fulfillment narrative goes overboard and he must preen in beefcake glory.
|June Lockhart plays "Grandma."|
The supporting cast is good, though Trudie's sister (Vanessa Lee Evigan) is under-drawn and her brother (Kyle Howard) unfortunately becomes an obvious cliché. Markie Post is great as the comically conflicted mom, while Timothy Bottoms does his best to channel the oblivious dad of the Chevy Chase "Vacation" series. Legendary June Lockhart as the obligatory dotty grandma (another "Vacation" resemblance) is wonderful, a true pro, gleefully having fun with a pure stereotype role which is best summed up by a comment made about her, "Is she having a Civil War flashback?"
|The frizzy hair look has to go, Joan....|
Anyway, it's all good, clean fun and perhaps will let you think for a spell that we're all just fine, doing what comes naturally.