A Cookie Cutter Christmas (Review)
A Cookie Cutter Christmas
If you enjoy scenes of Alan Thicke eating various cookies, you will love A Cookie Cutter Christmas! For everyone who isn’t one of those four people, let me tell you about A Cookie Cutter Christmas. Hallmark delivers a tale of female rivalry that becomes a Christmas miracle because that’s just how they roll. Thus, A Cookie Cutter Christmas has us follow a woman who constantly loses to her rival in a battle for the only eligible guy in town as well as learning how to cook. The rival aspect might turn some people off, but it’s not that unusual for life. Some people are constantly comparing themselves to others and have to be better than them. The keeping up with the Jonses mentality can be self-destructive, cause financial ruin, and it’s also pretty annoying when someone keeps beating you again and again. That might not seem very Christmas, but like it or not, competition is a big part of Christmas. Displays, gifts, cards, arguing with relatives over Christmas dinner, the true meanings are often lost, and those with competitive streaks can get sucked right in.
Christie Reynolds (Erin Karkow) has been competing with Penny Miller (Miranda Frigon) since they were children, Penny stealing her verses in a Christmas pageant long ago and the rivalry living on decades later with both women as teachers at the same elementary school forever engaged in proxy battles. Penny Miller seems to win almost all of the conflicts, her students raise more money and she even organizes the big Christmas fund raiser now. Thus, Christie is in a down point in her life, forever stuck in second place.
Enter hunky single dad James Thompson (David Haydn-Jones), whose wife thoughtfully died off long enough ago that dating again is a possibility. His daughter Lily (Genea Charpentier) ends up enrolled in Christie’s class instead of Penny’s, but soon both women are working for the affection of the new hunk in town. James is super charity man, having moved to their small town specifically to start a charitable organization, thus now Penny alters the big fund raiser to help him out. Penny also organizes a bake off competition at the school, the winning teacher getting a fat sack of cash to use for a class trip. Christie enters the contest, both because her students would love a field trip and because it’s another thing to compete with Penny in. The only problem is that Christie cannot cook. At all. Her mom, Bev Reynolds (Laura Soltis), tells her point blank to her face that her food sucks. In the first round of the competition Christie doesn’t even get her food cooked before judging! Thus she’s going to need a crash course in baking, and guess which new hunky single dad in town once wanted to be a chef?
Speaking of judging, the competition will be judged by the town’s local celebrity, a chef named Chef Krueger played by Alan Thicke. Weirdly, the part seems mostly to be just having a random celebrity that they could use as a judge, Chef Krueger barely gets any characterization until near the end of the film when he becomes the love interest for Christie’s mom. At least they don’t make him into a carbon copy of a random famous chef, though Alan Thicke screaming obscenities after eating terrible cookies would make a hilarious Hallmark Channel flick. Maybe next year…
Thanks to the power of practice, Christie starts making it through the elimination rounds, and soon it is her and Penny in the finals. But Penny isn’t about to let her longtime rival steal the glory nor steal the man, so break out the conspiracies! Something James falls for waaaay too easily, but it convinced otherwise because of a speech. It’s a weird turn for his character, who spends most of the film being Mr. Super Good Guy, seemingly doing charitable work to make a difference after his wife died and to make his character more desirable.
Christie and Penny spend much of the film sniping at each other, which is sort of funny. The major problem is we don’t really have a reason to hate Penny and cheer for Christie until far too late in the film. Penny just is better at stuff, and that’s not really a good reason to be a villain. Christie’s constant second place is sympathetic to a point, but much of the competition are things that don’t ultimately mean much. Only the battle for James’ heart matters, and in that, Christie has the edge because she also spends time focusing on Lily. She helps her not just as a teacher, but as a friend. Penny spends most of her time ignoring Lily, and Lily quickly has a preference for which woman she’d rather see her dad date. The Christie spending time with the daughter aspect felt the realest of the scenes, Christie aware that she would be joining a family and not just some guy if she were to date James. For that, I’m all for Christie winning. And turning Penny too far into a dastardly villain would spoil a bit of what happens in the end, the whole true meaning of Christmas fashion and the lesson Christie learns. But as stated, it prevents us from sympathizing with Christie as much as we could be in the beginning.
One aspect of A Cookie Cutter Christmas is that we can’t help but compare it in part to Bridesmaids. A lot of the same story beats and dichotomy of perfect woman versus loser woman are present. We have a woman who is down in the dumps, always losing in competitions to a woman who is pretty much perfect, a mom character who is prominent, and they even have a scene where both women are singing at a party. A scene which works more because of the confused audience reaction, as witnessing this in reality would be confusing and strange. A Cookie Cutter Christmas isn’t a well-polished Hollywood script from leading comedy writers, it’s a Hallmark holiday romance movie, so it won’t be in the same league nor does it have the same goals. For what it is, I thought it pulled it off pretty well. I would have liked Penny to be more devious from the start, more dumping on Christie, and maybe a magical cat, but what we did get still did the job.
The most disturbing element of A Cookie Cutter Christmas is that one of the teachers is named Mr. Green, and the town is it takes place in is Greenville! Is this a world that’s a Potterville-like dystopian version of a Bedford Falls-ish reality? No wonder Christie can’t catch a break, the universe is damaged because someone no longer exists! But we can’t hope for an angel to switch reality back, because this pocket universe still exists and the inhabitants must deal with it. And while whatever character’s absence may have sewn the seeds of chaos, the town still works towards helping others, in defiance of its place in the cosmic order. This dystopia is sticking it to the mean old rich guy who tried to carve it into his image, and that’s something we can all aspire to, no matter our baking skills. So go out and be nice and help people, and stick it to the 1%!
Also bring cookies!
Rated 7/10 (Watch Alan eat, and eat, and eat, don’t interrupt his eating!, back to eating!, dead dad, cracking some nuts!)
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