An Unexpected Christmas (2021)

IMDb rating: 7.1 (as of Dec. 20, 2021)

Jamie is a down-on-his-luck speechwriter who somehow got hired to work on the reelection committee for the Governor of Illinois. He also broke up with his girlfriend, Emily, five months earlier because she is more successful than him (#MeToo, on Line 1 for Jamie). Jamie hasn’t told his parents he dumped Emily because his grandfather recently died because throwing in his breakup would only exacerbate their grief. They love her like a daughter, even though they haven’t seen or heard from her in at least five months.

While the rest of the governor’s campaign staff grinds away tirelessly through the holiday break, Jamie traipses off to his hometown of Fulton, Illinois, to work on the governor’s Christmas Day address to the state. This speech somehow carries tremendous importance for her re-election chances even though it will be watched by no one since it is being broadcast on Christmas Day when families have gobs better things to do than watch a boring speech from a politician.

By sheer coincidence, the Fulton town council has hired Emily’s PR firm to run a marketing campaign to attract more people to live in their bucolic, snow-covered slice of heaven in upstate Illinois. She arrives at the train depot the same time as Jamie.

Jamie’s sister, Becca, assumes Emily has come to spend the holidays with the family. As Emily stammers away incoherently, the family kidnaps Emily, tossing her and her luggage into their min-van and rushing back to the family compound.

Emily has arranged for Olympic hero Jackie Joyner-Kersee to be the pitchperson for the campaign, but alas, a snowstorm back East keeps her from flying in to record the commercials. After a mix-up at the local hotel, Emily also finds herself without a room.

With no spokesperson and no place to stay, she calls Jamie and asks if she can spend the night with him. When Jamie learns of her predicament, he says he can get the governor for her campaign, but only if she’ll agree to keep up the ruse that they’re still together through Christmas.

The town council threatens to pull the plug on the lucrative marketing campaign, but when Emily mentions the governor, they are somehow satisfied. This is also yet another lie by Jamie, as the governor has not agreed to spend Christmas Day away from her family in a Podunk town like Fulton.

Given a few days to write the most important speech of his career, Jamie naturally spends all his time gallivanting around Fulton and participating in the town’s never-ending Christmas festivities with Emily. Becca figures out the ruse and blackmails both Emily and Jamie to appear in her school’s Christmas pageant.

Late on Christmas Eve, Jamie finally confesses to his boss that he’s done nothing on the speech. This admission somehow frees him from the burden of expectations, and he wails away at his laptop for twenty minutes on a lackluster address that no one outside of his family watches the next morning.

A member of the governor’s family suffers an injury, so she doesn’t even come to Fulton to deliver her address. But because she included a shoutout to the little town in the speech, the Town Council is satisfied. Those rubes will gladly take any crumbs the governor throws their way. Jamie’s career and the marketing campaign are saved.

After all they’ve been through, Emily realizes she still loves Jamie. To strengthen their relationship, she foregoes the big promotion at work so she can spend more time with him while he searches for his next temporary job. After all, nothing says love like screwing yourself over to satisfy a poor fragile male ego.

Relationship update: After a few weeks, Emily figures out Jamie’s work ethic is non-existent and his obnoxious family won’t stop pestering them about setting a wedding date. She begs her boss to give her the promotion she turned down and flees to the Cayman Islands.

Actual review: Despite the ridiculous plot, this movie was a fun watch as it had some legit humorous moments (see the cookie slap). Bethany Joy Lenz’s comedic performance was outstanding. Tyler Hines tried to make an unlikeable character tolerable, and he held his own with Lenz. Together they made a good couple, which is the most important element of any Countdown to Christmas movie. The ending was trite, the rest of his family was obnoxious, and why they even bothered to have Jackie Joyner-Kersee show up via Zoom was beyond me. But this is one I’ll watch again.

My IMDb rating: 6 stars out of 10.

An Unexpected Christmas photo.

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Dashing through the Snow (2015)
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