Director: Ron Underwood
Cast: Melissa Joan Hart, Mario Lopez, Timothy Bottoms
Watch Holiday in Handcuffs online in the UK: N/A
Holiday in Handcuffs is the story of a waitress who kidnaps a man to take home to her parents for Christmas. It’s a comedy. Apparently.
Melissa Joan Hart plays Trudy, a woman who is dumped mid-shift at a restaurant. Her response, naturally, is to acquire a musket to hold another, better-looking guy at gunpoint and force him into her car. No one in the establishment bats an eyelid at this abduction – perhaps, for them, this happens all the time.
That’s certainly the attitude the film seems to take.
At first, David (Lopez) protests, highlighting how clearly unbalanced his kidnapper must be. “Oh, you’re one of those hairy man-hating types,” he declares, immediately making it clear that he’s not a likeable guy either. He eventually arrives at her home, where everyone appears unconcerned by the idea that someone says their daughter is crazy and abducted them.
Then, director Ron Underwood hits the rom-com button and all is forgotten. Our leads, incredibly, start to fall for each other. A witty, provocative take on a rare form of seasonal Stockholm syndrome? No, Holiday in Handcuffs wants us to actually root for their romance. But with no one to feel sorry for, and a shark-jumping finale that causes several satellites to take emergency evasive manoeuvres, all this unnatural warmth only leaves you feeling cold.
If it were amusing, that might not be a problem, but this tale of festive bondage has no laughs in it – unless you find people wearing novelty reindeer antlers hilarious.
It’s a shame, because Melissa Joan Hart’s Nickelodeon phase showed that she could be both funny and charming. Here, though, with a disjointed script and non-existent jokes, not even Sabrina can magic her way out. The rest of the ensemble are equally cut from cardboard, from her gurning parents to the token rude granny. There’s even a brother who, halfway through, dramatically announces that he’s gay, a plot point that has no effect on anything whatsoever.
But her victim is the most inconsistent of all: after dismissing her as a hairy man-hater, David changes his tune completely, lecturing her on stereotypes, while smiling soppily and walking around in a white towel. That’s when you recognise who Mario Lopez is: fellow former TV legend A.C. Slater from Saved by the Bell.
A film about Sabrina the Teenage Witch kidnapping A.C. Slater and taking him home for Christmas? If only they made that film instead.
Sabrina and Slater soon start to do all the usual winter activities, from ice-skating and playing chess to cuddling up by the tree. At one point, he even reads The Night Before Christmas by a flickering log fire. As a 90s-era fantasy book club, Holiday in Handcuffs is great. As a movie, it’s borderline unwatchable.
So if you are browsing movies on Netflix and start to wonder what Melissa Joan Hart did after Clarissa Explains It All, look away now. The only handcuffs you should see this holiday are the ones you use to stop someone selecting this.
Holiday in Handcuffs is no longer available on UK VOD.