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The Elfie Awards: Best Performances in an ABC Family Christmas Movie

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Last year I made it my mission to watch every ABC Family Christmas movie I could find. And guys, it might be the most fun I’ve ever had. From kidnappings to angels to magic snow globes to dates in the spirit of Groundhog Day: ABC Family movies are bananas in the best possible way.

They also tend to follow a bit of a formula. There’s usually an uptight businesswoman who’s unsatisfied with her life. Maybe it’s her family. Maybe she’s too busy for love. Regardless, she needs the magic of Christmas to help shake up her life and help her find true happiness. By the end she’s trimming trees and making out under mistletoe.

These movies also tend to star actors and actresses who are completely recognizable and who you most likely grew up watching — I’m looking at you Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and Zach Morris! You just never quite know who you’re going to come across. I can’t count the number of ABC Family Christmas movies that have kept me glued to the TV and, while we’re talking about it, I’d like to express my disappointment in the complete LACK of original ABC Family movies in the past two years. Most importantly the fact that this year’s 25 Days of Christmas will NOT have one original movie. Shame, ABC Family. SHAME. As an antidote to my Scrooge-y misery, here are my picks for The Elfie Awards—best performances by famous people in ABC Family Christmas movies:

Best Performance by Actors Who’ve Grown Up On-Screen

Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez in Holiday in Handcuffs

ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas rolled out this gem in 2007 and can we talk about that chemistry between Lopez and Hart? Whew! This is one movie I could watch over and over and over again every Christmas. Hart plays Trudie, an aspiring painter whose job as a waitress at a local restaurant leaves her wishing for more. Trudie quickly finds herself in a dilemma when she tells her overbearing and oblivious parents that her boyfriend will join her for Christmas at the family cabin – the same boyfriend who just dumped her 10 minutes before they were supposed to leave. Thanks to a baddest of hair days and the worst morning ever, Trudie is absolutely losing it and decides to take the next guy who walks into the restaurant where she works captive. Enter David Martin (Lopez) whom she knocks out in the back parking lot, then handcuffs, blindfolds and tosses in her car. We know all of this is politically incorrect, but put on your madcap Lucy-and-Ethel goggles. The road trip to the cabin is entertaining, adorable and the chemistry between Hart and Lopez is instantaneous. But nothing compares to the shenanigans that unravel once they arrive at her family’s cabin. In addition, this is the rare Christmas movie that is about the woman finding herself BEFORE she’s ready for romance. Literally laugh-out-loud funny, Holiday in Handcuffs is a must-watch Every. Single. Christmas. Season.

Best Performance by a Former Teen Pop Star

Christina Milian in Snowglobe

You might remember Milian from her years as a teenage pop star, or in the criminally underrated teen movie, Love Don’t Cost a Thing. She’s also an ABC Family darling, starring in several of their original movies. Snowglobe is my favorite performance by her, mostly for how completely ridiculous it is. She plays Angela, a girl who loves Christmas, but finds her loud family too overbearing. One day she gets a magic snowglobe, which transports her to a magical Christmas village where every day is filled with carolers and presents. She eats goose, builds snowmen and starts to fall for a local rosy-cheeked boy. But is fantasy better than reality? Obviously not, and hijinks ensue when that rosy-cheeked boy ends up following her to the real world. I cannot get enough of how bonkers this movie is, and how well Milian sells it.

Best Performance by the Person You’d Least Expect to See on the ABC Family Network

Jenny McCarthy in Santa Baby

McCarthy plays Mary, a—wait for it—uptight businesswoman who doesn’t have time for Christmas. But she happens to be the daughter of Santa Claus and when he gets sick on Christmas, she has to step in to take his place. She also ends up using all her business know-how to save the day. I’m a sucker for imagined North Pole villages and McCarthy, while not the world’s best actress, is pretty charming throughout this entire tale.


Best Performance by a Supporting Actor Who Comes Back from the Dead

Ashley Benson in Christmas Cupid

Benson is best known for playing Hanna on Pretty Little Liars and she’s a ball of fun in this truly bizarre Christmas story. Christina Milian once again stars, this time as Sloane, an uptight businesswoman (sigh) who is basically the Scrooge of LA publicists. When her client Caitlin (Benson) chokes to death on an olive, the Hollywood It Girl comes back as an angel to guide Sloane toward the true meaning of Christmas. What transpires is basically a modern version of A Christmas Carol, with Sloane getting haunted by ghosts and eventually realizing she wants to suck face with Chad Michael Murray (Ugh, I miss One Tree Hill). But Benson is the true star here, as her angel is vapid, destructive and all-around hilarious.

Best Performance by a Former Teen Heart Throb

Mark-Paul Gosselaar in 12 Dates of Christmas

Oh, this movie is the best. Kate (Amy Smart) finds herself reliving Christmas Eve over and over as she attempts to navigate love, work and relationships. She has a blind date with Miles (Gosselaar), but is still pining for her ex. Of course, Miles is the sweetest guy in the world and she slowly falls for him as they keep reliving the same date over and over. Things get awkward and hilarious as she gets progressively closer to him, while Miles still thinks they’re just on a first date. Gosselaar may never top his role of Zack on Saved by the Bell, but this movie is a close second as far as I’m concerned.


Recommended Reading:

Christmas on Candy Cane Lane by Sheila Roberts (Mira; October 27, 2015)

sheila-roberts-christmas-on-candy-cane-laneIf any book should be made into an ABC Family Christmas movie, it’s Candy Cane Lane. In the town of Icicle Falls, Christmas is the most important time of year, and for Candy Cane Lane, holiday decorating is essential. Tilda, a local cop, just bought her dream house on the iconic street, but she’s finding it hard to keep up with the demands of the holiday. In the meantime, someone’s been vandalizing the candy canes and Tilda is tasked with finding the culprit. She’s also busy forming relationships with Ivy, the newly separated woman next door who couldn’t care less about Christmas, and Maddy, who’s made it her job to make sure Candy Cane Lane shines. Tilda has her hands full—which makes it much harder to fight off the advances of bad boy Devon Black. This fun Christmas tale was released on October 27, but it seems like the perfect book for any ABC Family Christmas junkie like myself.


Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.

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