The Christmas Contest
YOU GUYS. I did it. WE DID it. Maybe we actually didn’t all do it. But A LOT OF US DID IT. We watched every movie from Thanksgiving week. Are we better for it? Absolutely not. Did it keep me in a constant state of Christmas spirit all week long? I guess. So our final movie of the week of the long awaited CCB film, “The Christmas Contest.” Candance always gets a prime slot, regardless of whether her movies are any good. In fact, I think the last movie of hers I liked was the one where she was a vet in Alaska. I think I kind of liked that one with her and Mutt from Schitt’s Creek as well but I may be the lone voice there. Anyway I have learned by know to not expect anything just because the movie is in a prime time slot. Did it deliver? Let’s find out!
The movie begins with a devastating journey through time as a girl untangles a strand of Christmas lights. This strand is so arduous, it takes nearly her entire childhood to unwind. As an adult, as she decorates the tree with her mom, she is exhausted of untangling lights and declines to do it this year. Ladies, might I suggest A DIFFERENT WAY OF STORING YOUR LIGHTS? Anyway Lara, our leading lady seems a little burnt out.
However, things are going great at work! She gives a speech to her employees and they all laugh at the right times and everything. I assumed it was at a Christmas party but looking back, I’m not sure because the proceeding “Christmas Contest” takes several weeks.
Then we are introduced to Ben, a former professional baseball player, schilling his Christmas themed beef jerky. I mean, I would definitely try it. We quickly get the sense that he will participate in just about any advertising campaign. Ben also has a stubborn old grandma that would rather sit at home and stick to her routine rather than make new friends or find new hobbies.
Lara’s mom volunteers at a local senior center. Lara stops by and her mom tells her that everything is sort of falling apart; literally. The senior center desperately needs some money for repairs, etc…Lara offers to donate some money but her mom is like, bless your heart. We need far more money than you could ever imagine donating, you silly goose. I have a better idea! How about you sign up for a contest hosted by the local news! The winner gets $50,000 to a charity of their choice! That is a way better way to get the necessary funds than like a traditional fundraiser!
All Lara has to do is write a quick essay responding to the prompt, “What is Christmas?” So that’s easy enough. I mean, literally it is easy enough to explain the purpose of Christmas. However, I think what they want the applicants to do is to write what Christmas means to them. Again, easy enough. Except most Hallmark movies live in a world where Christmas is exclusively a secular holiday so I can see why Lara finds herself a little stumped! Somebody tell her!
Meanwhile, Ben is at his at-risk youth baseball camp HQ. He is asked to apply but they can’t guarantee him a spot. He struggles with what to write and asks his grandma for some advice.
The next day, both Ben and Lara learn they’ve been accepted into the contest. Each individual has to have their own “team” name which doesn’t make sense. But whatever. Ben, who’s last name is Winters, chooses “Winters Wonderland” which isn’t too bad. Lara selects “Sleigh the Competition.” It’s all fine. I don’t love it, but it’s fine. There are a few other competitors but who cares about any of them? Oh and did I mention that Ben and Lara know each other? They DATED for four years and I think broke up a decade ago? But they are both still really amped up about it. Anyway, the first event is Christmas Trivia. Ben and Lara know more about Christmas than anyone should know about Christmas. They tie for first place.
The next competition is a gingerbread house contest I think? Or is it just a fancy Christmas desserts? I think that’s right. But it seems like they all made gingerbread things. Also, Lara arrives in a straight up evening gown and designer heels; for the cameras! She tells her boss; definitely not for Ben. Guys, the dress is A LOT even if you are trying to impress an old boyfriend.
Anyway, they can have teams for this event. Ben enlists his sad little baseball kids. Lara enlists her mom and several elderly women. However, one of them cancels because her daughter is about to have a baby. Oh no. How are they ever going to make that…thing they were supposed to make? Luckily, Ben’s grandma happens to be hanging around the set. Lara asks her to join her team and Ben encourages her to do it! He knows she need some friends. So that’s really nice of him. Later, Ben opens a bag of gumballs like a child and they spill all over the floor. Then, to add insult to injury, he doesn’t bother picking them up. Lara, in her ridiculous heels, slips on one of them and falls on her own gingerbread creation. In spite of this, she is not eliminated.
The next competition is by far the stupidest one and I wish they had just cut that whole bit. I would have even been happy with an obstacle course! Anything but a dumb caroling contest where they all have to do choreographed dances to carols. I mean, guys. It’s so stupid and I HATED IT.
But in the midst of all this competing, there are these little “confessionals” from the contestants. I enjoy them because they’re silly but they 1)repeat every question that’s asked 2) give more insight into themselves. But, would these really be aired on as part of a local news segment? It doesn’t really make sense. But again, I don’t hate it. And, while we also see A LOT of Ben and Lara arguing, we get to see them reconnecting and enjoying each other’s company as well. They eat some kind of insane dessert I need to try for myself and have some profound discussions.
Lara is also going through something with her mom. Despite Lara being in her forties, her mom is still really pushing her to be the best; or at least that’s Lara’s perception. And they have some heated discussions about it. And as I mentioned earlier, Lara is really feeling burnt out at her job. She wants to just quit, which is also a source of contention with her mom.
Ben is going through a little something of his own with his grandma. She is set in her ways like I mentioned and not interested in making friends. But Ben really pushes her and I like that about him. He is also desperately trying to figure out what to get her for Christmas. Ben is also really connecting with the kids in his camp for the first time ever.
Anyway, we get to the final round of competition. The remaining two contestants (Ben and Lara obviously) have to plan a Christmas party and decorate a tree? Do they have to plan it together or two separate parties? I don’t know. This is where the rubber really meets the road. Ben and Lara have a bunch of intense and well written discussions about potentially getting back together that feel genuine and not Hallmark-manufactured. Notably, there is a moment where Ben arrives at Lara’s after playing poker with her mom and some elderly women. He wins and buys them all dinner. He brings a calzone to Lara and she is overwhelmed catching up on work. She said she would rather lay around and stare at the ceiling. So, they do just that. It is a silly, cute scene.
However, things get tricky while Lara and Ben are decorating their trees. Ben tells Lara that he would really like to make his sports camp a year-round program. He wonders if she might want to help run it, knowing that she is not satisfied with her job. This leads to Lara heading straight into her office to quit. However, later, back at decoration HQ, they rehash all the same arguments from when they broke up again, with Ben concluding that Lara would be better off without him. He leaves and Lara totally trashes her own tree.
The next day, Ben and Lara are both miserable. Lara’s mom and the senior center ladies work together to help Ben finish decorating his tree.
Okay, now we are nearing the end of the movie and I my eyes nearly roll out of my head at this point. When it’s time to reveal their trees, Lara announces she is quitting the contest and reveals that her tree is not decorated. I. DO. NOT. UNDERSTAND. This wasn’t about her, this was about raising money for the senior citizen center so WHY would she just bow out at this point? It truly makes no sense at all. She gives a classic end-of-movie-Hallmark-speech and I tune out. Then, Ben also announces HE is not competing either. If I was an eliminated contestant, I would be flipping a table at this point. Ben reveals his own tree and I think it’s all of Lara’s decorations; which, by the way, were 2nd grade Christmas craft style pictures of her and Ben? Again, I’d be flipping a table. Anyway, the tree is for Lara because she turned his world upside down (like she says about him all the time.) I think at this point they kiss.
Then, we flash ahead to Christmas dinner with Ben, Lara, his grandma and Lara’s mom. Everyone is just having a lovely time together. Ben gives his grandma a gift that he says is from her late husband. Is it from her late husband though? There is even a card from him but I really don’t get it. Or I missed something big. Anyway, it’s the tennis bracelet her husband always “threatened” to buy her. So it’s either sweet or really weird that Ben wrote a card and signed it from his grandpa. That IS weird right? So anyway, that’s the end of this one!
Like I said, this movie was a mixed bag. There were so many STUPID parts of this movie and the premise; well, that’s it’s own whole thing. BUT the conflicts in this movie all seemed really authentic. I felt scared for Lara taking the risk of Ben getting hurt again. Especially since they are going to start dating again AND run a nonprofit together. It’s A LOT. I don’t know that they can make it. You know I hate when couples do this sort of thing. If we are comparing CCB movies against themselves, this one was certainly better than last year’s. I am truly DYING to know what you all thought of this one though.