Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas
Release Date: December 12, 2020
Director: David Winning (Same director as The Tree That Saved Christmas. And 10 episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, which might account for the light horror vibes?)
Primary Cast: Eh, see below. It's just easier.
Our Unofficial Summary of Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas
Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas is a character-driven movie more than a plot-driven one. So, the short version of the plot: a group of people are sent invitations to stay at an inn for Christmas. They all have people in their lives who they think sent the invitations (except Karen, who concerningly thinks she won a contest she entered), only to find out upon arriving that the invitations were sent anonymously. So, they work together to solve the mystery of why they're there. Let's look at our characters:
Sarah Thomas (Lacey Chabert): Hotshot lawyer from Seattle/New York who is here a year after the only Christmas she ever missed with her now-dead mom. She thinks her company sent her the invitation. (And yes, Chabert played a Sara Thomas in A Wish for Christmas.)
Karen (Lini Evans): You think she's going to suit the name when she arrives, but she actually is pretty sweet. She's just excited to be there, especially since she just got divorced. She thinks she won a contest she never entered.
Jasper (Leon): Jasper is a musician whose wife just died. He has his guitar but avoids playing for anyone because his wife was the reason he was able to play—she's the only thing that made him happy. It turns out he had 100 copies of an album made, and all the invitees have a copy. He's also incredibly handsome, but that's never addressed in this movie. He believes his wife arranged this trip before she passed away.
Ted (Peter Kelamis): Ted is Karen's college boyfriend. We learn almost nothing about him. I can't even remember how he thinks he got the invitation.
Owen (Doron Bell) and Cassidy (Vienna Leacock): Owen is divorced from Cassidy's mom and feels like he's losing touch with his daughter. She's a moody teenager but is trying her teenaged best to make him happy while also doing teenager stuff. Owen is dorky and sweet and trying to find anything that will interest her, but admits he doesn't know her well. Cassidy, it turns out, is teaching herself piano. Handsome Jasper sees her playing and helps her for a few minutes, and that's how Owen finds out she's doing that. Jasper lends him his guitar, and Owen and Cassidy play some music together, which is how they bond. Owen thinks his brother got them the reservation, even though his brother denied it.
So, you may wonder where the love interest comes in. That's Ben (Stephen Huszar). He owns the inn, but he's worried because it's not doing well financially and is considering offloading it. His sister Bess (Emma Johnson) is trying to talk him out of it, but it's not going well. There's a chance she's a ghost, and no one will convince us otherwise.
There's also a kooky old lady named Frenchie (Jennifer Higgin) who comes and goes throughout the movie. She's the former owner.
When looking through old photos, Ben and Sarah discover photos from 1984, which contain Sarah's parents, Jasper's wife, little Owen, and college-aged Karen and Ted. There's also a guy named Peter, who seems like he's going to be important in the story, but he isn't.
It turns out Frenchie sent them the invitations because the night all those people were there was the night she decided to not sell the inn herself, and she wanted to have Ben love it as she did. She met her husband at the inn just a few months later, which wouldn't have happened if she hadn't kept the place. Also, there's a chance her husband is a tree because of the way she gestures at it when she tells that story. Bess disappeared partway through, so yeah, ghost.
Mattie's Three Sentence Review
I kind of loved this. I was invested in almost all of their stories as they felt realistic and not forced, they didn't overdo it on the unrealistic love aspect (I honestly forgot Ben was there most of the time), and there wasn't much in the way of traditional gender roles. The only big bummer is they never confirmed this was all actually a ghost story, which it totally was.
Mattie's Rating: 5/5 Karens Who Turn Out Pretty Cool
Austin's Three Sentence Review
This was a good movie: the characters were fun, their motivations made sense, and there was not a log cabin in sight. I loved Jasper, and Chabert was amazing as always. The only bad part was Ben, the romantic lead, who was just kind of there; his character arc just wasn't as enticing as everyone else's.
Austin's Rating: 4/5 Untraceable Transactions That Definitely Came From the Same Person
Our Real-Time Reactions to It's Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas
Mattie: This movie has the longest title EVER. Also, because Austin is on the phone, I cheated and looked at the description. This sounds like a horror movie.
Austin: What kind of horror movie? With as long as the title it provides zero clues about the movie.
Mattie: A group of strangers is invited to a dinner party where they learn there's a secret that connects them.
Austin: Oh. Saw. This is exactly the plot of a Saw movie.
Mattie: It's ALREADY showing heavily. This is quite the switch! Also, her name is Sarah again. And she's a lawyer again. What was she when she was Sarah last time?
Austin: How was he not aware of his own court date? She is not a great lawyer.
Mattie: She also had the same last name last time she was a Sarah. Except there wasn't an -h.
Austin: Seattle AND New York City. It is hitting both!
Mattie: There is always Seattle! What's that about? I wonder if one of the higher-ups at the network is from Seattle. The last Sara Thomas was in A Wish for Christmas, when she was the web designer. And that one was...Seattle? I don't remember.
Austin: Yes, they flew from Chicago to Seattle, and the guy they were meeting with decided to go skiing instead.
Mattie: They just gave her some major Jennifer Love Hewitt in Can't Hardly Wait lighting. I wonder if some guy is going to have a note for her that won't get to her the correct way, and then Jenna Elfman will be an angel/exotic dancer at a phone booth.
Mattie: Of course her name is Karen. She packed so much that multiple people have to help her carry bags.
Austin: She is going to speak to that manager.
Mattie: At least she doesn't have The Hair.
Austin: There are some major horror movie vibes.
Mattie: "Are you sure you haven't stayed with us before? You look very familiar." Is this The Shining? I want this to be The Shining. Look, a creepy kid! She keeps staring at her!
Austin: If she is in room 237, she needs to run.
Mattie: I hope Chabert plans to reset that clock. Rude.
Austin: He is the manager that Karen has come here to fight.
Austin: He is mansplaining The Christmas Carol to her.
Mattie: You know him from Letterkenny. Yorkie?
Austin: Either he collects stickers, or he travels all over.
Mattie: This guy is really handsome. (Not the obvious love interest guy. The musician.)
Austin: The Jingle Bell Sisters?
Mattie: Gingerbread with peppermint icing? That's A LOT of really strong flavors.
Austin: It is also being served with cinnamon ice cream and pickled herring.
Mattie: The musician was the main guy in Cool Runnings!
Austin: After he mastered the bobsled, music was the obvious next step.
Mattie: This place seems like my nightmare. "Join us for our Christmas events! Here's our itinerary!" And it's tree trimming and ornament decorating, i.e., forced socialization with strangers.
Austin: Draco is an awful laptop stand.
Mattie: Chabert looks really skeptical of the love interest guy. The handsome guy is now playing guitar and looking sadly at a picture of a lady. I am excited to hear his story because he already is showing a lot of depth, and he's said about three words.
Austin: Who sent her there? This is getting spooky.
Mattie: Jack Torrance. He's collecting new ghosts.
Mattie: The love interest guy just had a REALLY dramatic surprised/confused look, and it was amazing.
Austin: It was like the old school The Rock eyebrow.
Mattie: A prepaid card reservation with no name attached? That's somehow even creepier than if they'd paid in cash. THERE ARE NO COMMERCIAL BREAKS!
Austin: Who is covering the deposit?
Austin: I love the lack of commercials, but now we can't go on even dumber tangents.
Mattie: My guess is this is an all or nothing kind of place, like you have to pay for the whole reservation up front, and it's really expensive. Or they don't have anything you can steal. No robes. No towels.
Austin: You have to use the undecorated Christmas ornaments as towels and pillows.
Mattie: Okay, so Karen stayed here about 30 years ago. Lacey Chabert is...36? So she could easily not remember staying here. But that wouldn't explain why she looks familiar to them unless she looks exactly like her mom or something.
Austin: Everyone I know from the south goes ape shit over snow when they see it. This teen is extra sullen.
Mattie: Wasn't there a computer at the check-in counter a little while ago? Is this whole inn traveling back in time?
Austin: Karen wasn't cutting it. An even kookier and older lady has arrived.
Mattie: It sounds like she was the former owner of the inn. I bet she's the one bringing all these people here. Or her ghost husband.
Austin: It is Chabert's dead mom. That is why the booking lady thought she looked familiar. I have developed some kind of Hallmarkmas oracle sight.
Mattie: The musician guy is named Jasper. The same card made the reservation, but no idea how he can tell that since the number is encrypted and there's no identifying information. Jasper says his wife made the arrangements and seems spooked.
Mattie: Damn. Commercials are back. But it's a commercial for a Chabert murder mystery!
Austin: I would watch Chabert solve a murder. Or commit a murder.
Mattie: So long as she isn't the victim.
Austin: She is too wily to ever be the victim.
Austin: It is all murder in these commercials.
Mattie: Someone used a sculpture to commit a murder! It's like they're reading my mind! Anything can be a weapon if you have a dream.
Mattie: I feel bad for the teen's dad. He's so cute, all excited to spend time with her, and she's just being a teenager. I'm sure we were both like that.
Austin: Was the "it's always hot cocoa" thing a lie?
Mattie: The teenager is on the phone? Like, talking? We Millennials don't even do that. Maybe she's talking to someone about her extended warranty. They're the only ones who call.
Austin: Maybe they are all ghosts?
Mattie: It switched to video call with her mom, and she's telling her mom she wishes she was there with her. I feel like she's trying her teenaged best to make her dad happy, but she's also really unhappy.
Austin: She has amazing tree identification skills in every movie.
Mattie: Where is her hat? I miss Chabert's adorable hats. And it's actually snowing, so she needs that hat. Also, how is she working for a law firm in Seattle but able to represent that guy in Brooklyn? I guess she must be registered in two states. Maybe she registered in NY before heading to WA.
Austin: Those are two VERY different fields of law. She must be some kind of genius.
Mattie: She might have been planning on doing underdog law for small businesses. It would be the same basic idea as large company law. You'd probably have to study both. Also, Karen thinks she won a contest she never entered. I wonder how many Nigerian princes she's supporting. Do you think the choice of her name was intentional?
Austin: Ted? Is this a sequel to How I Met Your Mother 20 years after Robin got sick of his shit and left again?
Mattie: Is there a lighthouse somewhere near here? That'd tell us for sure.
Austin: It is within driving distance of New York.
Mattie: Technically, anywhere that touches the continental US is within driving distance of New York.
Austin: Dorky dad is in this strange cult? I think a cult might be doing this. Her mom is arranging sacrifices from beyond the grave to bring herself back to life.
Mattie: ...I thought Bess was hitting on Ben this entire time. Isn't she the one who responded to "I'm not looking for a relationship" with "You don't have to look?"
Austin: Is their last name Lannister?
Mattie: They are both blond and good-looking.
Austin: Does he have both hands? Have we checked?
Mattie: She consistently has Amanda Beckett lighting.
Austin: She does look a bit like Jennifer Love Hewitt. It might be on purpose.
Mattie: Old photos! I bet she'll find herself in one of them.
Mattie: Didn't she just say he came here in high school, so she was looking for a high school photo? Was he five in high school? Oh, and that's her pregnant mom in the photo, and she looks like her.
Austin: Her mom. Called it.
Austin: Aurora Teagarden is an amazing name for a Dungeons and Dragons character.
Austin: I mean, your mother is a big part of why you are here. At least in the grand scheme of things.
Mattie: Is fate a comforting thought, though? Or is that just something we use to not take responsibility for our choices?
Austin: Bess Lannister is looking jealous.
Mattie: He just said his massive gloves were a perfect fit for Chabert's tiny hands. Was he the lawyer in the OJ Simpson trial?
Austin: He could've been a juror.
Mattie: Wasn't a Kardashian the lawyer, now that I think about it? Or a Jenner?
Austin: Caitlin Jenner was on the legal team, right? I straight up can't remember anything to do with that family.
Mattie: Rob Kardashian. Along with a lot of other names that you know and immediately feel itchy upon hearing. But I'm not here to analyze the OJ Simpson trial.
Austin: We are here to analyze the unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey.
Mattie: Handsome Jasper is helping the teen girl with the piano. Dad is jealous. And now he's smiling. I think he may not have known his daughter was teaching herself piano. AND NOW HANDSOME JASPER IS SINGING. He's my favorite.
Austin: Dorky dad Owen is my fav.
Mattie: I'm legitimately enjoying this movie. However, I'm still waiting for the murder/ghosts. Or murder ghosts.
Austin: I have ruled out murder in this movie, but there is still a good chance of there being ghosts.
Mattie: She was in New York but apparently didn't visit her mom. She didn't say her mom was dead, but I think she just doesn't want to talk about it.
Austin: Is this about to become a musical? Was this entire plan with the invitations to assemble a Christmas jazz quintet?
Mattie: CHABERT IS SINGING. And now Jasper is joining her. This is the best movie ever. We are learning there's an album made by Jasper that seems to connect at least some of them. Is this an "if you hear this, you'll die in 20 years" situation, like The Ring but playing the long game?
Austin: Her mom put together a damn near Machiavellian plot.
Mattie: I wonder why Chabert doesn't do musicals. That's her background, or at least she did it when she was really young.
Mattie: Ben cleared that entire massive parking lot by himself?
Austin: He has been shoveling since midnight.
Mattie: The last musical she did was the movie Anastasia in 1997.
Austin: Hanging around looking through old hotel records is what drove Jack Torrance crazy in the book of The Shining. Looks like murder ghosts are possible again!
Mattie: She's talking about her mom in the past tense now.
Austin: Not great timing for the "I missed one Christmas and mom died" message.
Mattie: Especially since this was almost definitely filmed during COVID.
Mattie: Owen is the demon in this movie! Did you see little kid him?? (Sidenote added later: The actor was a crossroads demon on Supernatural, so this checks out.)
Austin: He was lit from below. He looked sinister.
Austin: Sarah is always a great name for a baby.
Mattie: She's named after Handsome Jasper's wife! And yes, I will be calling him Handsome Jasper this whole time because it's accurate.
Austin: He is the handsomest guy I've seen in a Hallmark movie. With the possible exception of Ben Savage.
Mattie: That dress isn't for Ben. That's good. It wouldn't fit him. He's too broad-shouldered. (This movie's Ben. Not Ben Savage. I don't know if it would fit him, but I doubt it.)
Austin: Ben Savage could absolutely pull that off.
Mattie: Owen's daughter is SUPER tall. And I was right. He didn't know she was learning piano. He hasn't played piano in at least 20 years, and he immediately knew how to do it perfectly again. Is that how music works? I used to be a Spanish translator, and I can't speak it at all now.
Austin: I don't know. Let's break out my viola and see if I can still play one of my regular audition pieces.
Mattie: I think that's how music works, now that I think about it. There are those videos of people with Alzheimer's who are still able to play or do their ballet from when they were decades younger.
Austin: It is just like riding a bicycle. A piano also has pedals. How different could it be?
Mattie: Rude. You know I forgot how to ride a bike.
Austin: The tree lights were already on for the lighting ceremony. I am so confused.
Mattie: Chabert looks goddamn adorable again.
Austin: I do love a nice asymmetrical sweater.
Mattie: She's Googling "Peter Sanderson" like that's going to be an uncommon name. Er, not Googling. Quandary-ing.
Austin: That is one of the better fake search engines I've seen in a TV movie. It looked nothing like a 2005 MySpace page.
Mattie: I wish I knew of your love of asymmetrical sweaters. I would have rethought your Christmas gifts.
Austin: I have amazing collar bones, and nobody ever gets to see them.
Mattie: Look at Owen not being pushy just because his kid is involved, letting Handsome Jasper say he's not ready to be on stage, and just saying, "okay, cool, if you change your mind, let me know."
Austin: It would be so easy to be a bounty hunter here. "Oh yeah, I know him. Here is his schedule, address, and Amazon wishlist."
Mattie: They seem confused about why the inn isn't doing well financially. I bet it's bad Yelp reviews because the management keeps giving out private information about guests. I like this group, though. They aren't normal B&B guests. Those are more like the ones in that episode of Gilmore Girls. Even Karen is chill.
Austin: Or that bed and breakfast from Parks and Recreation.
Mattie: Her sweater is more symmetrical now, and it makes me sad.
Austin: Did they just show the end to the movie we are watching in the commercial break?
Mattie: "Home isn't a place. It's people. I live inside a tent made of skin." Weird ending. I'm excited to see how we get there.
Austin: That is clearly a yurt made of human skin and not a tent. Do better research Hallmark writers.
Mattie: Okay, she didn't know her mom was sick or anything at the previous Christmas. Are we thinking it was an accident or sudden illness?
Austin: Parents not giving their kids important information is a big theme in these movies.
Mattie: Lacey Chabert's signature pose is lying on her stomach to do things.
Austin: This band is bad.
Mattie: But they're The Jingle Bells! They need Anna Kendrick to come save them.
Austin: No! There are too many acapella groups singing Christmas songs as it is.
Mattie: I'd love to see one of those acapella showdowns using only Christmas carols, but they have to do like they do in the rest where they use a word from the previous song to start theirs.
Mattie: I wonder how the old lady who called worried about being evicted is going to come back into this. I'd wager she's going to move to NY and have that lady as her first client. Ben is being unreasonable and is trying to get her to stay in NY, though. Her reason for wanting to move back to Seattle is perfectly reasonable—everything else in her life is unstable.
Austin: I keep forgetting about Ben.
Mattie: He's the least interesting one. Maybe because he didn't get a mystery invitation.
Austin: Kooky old lady is back! We gonna get some answers?
Mattie: I told you she sent the invitations!
Austin: Did they just kick out all the guests for storytime?
Mattie: I think they're in a different room. But oh man, how much has she practiced this speech?
Austin: SHE MARRIED A TREE? SHE HAS TWO DAUGHTERS WITH A TREE?
Mattie: So inviting all these people was her way to try to convince Ben to keep the inn. This could have backfired. What if they'd all been terrible guests? Super pissed they got these invitations and couldn't be told who made them? "What kind of business doesn't even know who's making reservations?!" The way Frenchie is standing, a little too close and leaning forward, I'm expecting her mouth to open to show rows and rows of sharp teeth. I think I've been watching too much Supernatural. But then again, about half this cast has been on that show too.
Austin: We haven't watched as much horror in the last couple of weeks because of this little blog project. Maybe you are experiencing withdrawal?
Mattie: Speaking of horror, where's Bess?
Austin: She Skinned Ben and is wearing a Ben suit.
Mattie: That explains why home is people.
Mattie: Supernatural is the Canadian Law & Order for actors.
Mattie: The old lady on the phone never showed up again. Why was she even there? Also, I wish any of these movies would address how hard it is to just pick up and move.
Austin: I hope she didn't sell her mom's house yet.
Mattie: I saw more emotional connections between every other character than I did between Ben and Sarah. Otherwise, this movie was actually really solid. The love story wasn't even secondary. I'd call it tertiary.
Austin: I think if they didn't even have the love story, the movie would've been exactly the same.
Mattie: ...Did Bess ever come back?
Austin: Was Bess the ghost?
Mattie: Only Ben and Sarah ever interacted with her, and she wasn't allowed to help shovel. In fact, I don't think we ever saw her move anything heavier than a couple of pieces of paper. Definitely ghost material.
Austin: Yay! We knew this one would have a ghost!
Mattie: The last time we saw Bess, if I remember, she was looking approvingly out a window at her brother and Chabert. Smiling because he finally seemed happy. Perhaps that was her unfinished business.
Austin: Well, that and helping the police solve her murder. She seduced Frenchie's tree husband and was killed and buried in the woods.
Mattie: She DID decorate that tree! Had her hands all over him!
Austin: His sap was all over her hands.
Mattie: We are solidly into a movie about cranberries and still talking about this one.
Austin: I think this is part of a series of cranberry movies.
What is This?
On episode 60 of Will This Be on the Test?, we talked about Hallmark Christmas movies. This inspired us to watch every Lacey Chabert Christmas movie we could find. Sadly, there aren't 12, but we hope you enjoy the 10 Days of Chabertmas anyway! (And who knows? Maybe we'll throw in a few of her other ones as well.)