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OK, kids! It’s the holiday season and ABC Family decided to do 25 Days of Christmas, and that means that they need a whole lotta Christmas movies and no, Silent Night, Deadly Night doesn’t count. And so they are running The Mistle-Tones. That explains why this TV-movie is running, anyway, but I still can’t figure out why it happened in the first place. There’s nothing egregious about it –well, very little that’s egregious, but we’ll get to that – it’s kind of aggressively innocuous. I just can’t figure out who it’s supposed to be for.

I will note that, according to IMDb, Pitch Perfect came out in October of 2012 and The Mistle-Tones came out in December of 2012. That’s a hell of a turnaround, but I also can’t help but think of those dates as significant. Or maybe it’s a Glee thing. I keep forgetting that Glee existed.

Ah, well. It matters not. Let’s plow ahead.

We open on a happy holiday home. Someone somewhere is singing and there is a cat clawing at wrapping paper and a flier for an audition for The Snow Belles. Just go ahead and relax into your annoyance that they aren’t called The Sleigh Belles, for it won’t go away, and we’ll be saying that name one billion times. The singing is coming from a steaming shower. Our friend the precocious cat flushes the toilet and Tia Mowry comes tumbling out of the shower wrapped in the curtain. And also in full makeup. The cat’s name is Bonkers, which might be my favorite thing about this movie.

OK, so Tia is adorably clumsy, which means she’s good and we like her. Also she likes to sing Christmas songs. She is good and we like her! And now she has that big audition for the Snow (Not Sleigh) Belles.

We see an entertainment executive’s idea of a Goth/punk girl audition badly and Tori Spelling (It’s Tori Spelling!) doesn’t like it. Tori is evidently presiding over these auditions. Oh, no! Tia’s car is stuck in the snow and she’s going to have to shovel it out! Will she ever win?

Three drag queens audition in a moment that really skirts the line of flat-out bigoted. As in I hope they’re meant to be drag queens, because that’s the closest thing that will come to mitigating this. I think the only thing that stops it from being just full-on offensive is that there is no dialogue. We’re playing an interesting game here. We can tell that Tori and her Plastics pals running the audition are too mean to let people who are different into the Snow Belles… And yet we’re definitely using these auditions to get some laffs over how different people who are different are. I feel like someone hasn’t learned the lesson and thinks that excluding people only counts if you’re saying it out loud. Tia sings a Christmas song along with her car CD.

She made it to the church! An old lady in a Christmas sweater sings in a high, thin voice. Tori Spelling is mean and her tiny dog is also mean by association. Tori is acting hard. On the other hand, she knows what her character is and she knows what this movie is. I think she’s just going for it. Why not?

Tori says that The Snow Belles are the spirit of Christmas in here in Richfield. And thus you know where this movie is going and can just have some eggnog and not worry too much about paying attention. Is that who this movie is for? The very tired?

Tia runs in! Oh, her name is Holly. I’m not sure why this surprised me, but at least this movie is committing. Tori knows Holly by name, and clearly doesn’t want her to get in. Wait a minute, Holly’s mom founded the Snow Belles. How did she lose the reins? Turns out Tori’s name is Marcie. Tia is so excited about the Snow Belles that she even has costume designs! This will not be in any way important! It’s just a quick way to explain how costumes happen later. No one ever thinks about Holly pursuing her professional level of design. Marcie is a jerk and doesn’t let Holly audition. She says it’s too late, even though there are 10 minutes left. Oh, P.S., these auditions are happening at 8:20 in the morning.

BUT THEN.

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Tia/Holly climbs up on the altar and starts singing. Everyone stops, because of course they do. She sings “O Holy Night,” and a rock band (unseen) starts to accompany her. Stacy, the Mean Girl who’s clearly been pre-selected to be a Snow Belle, gets pissed.

Wow, we’re going full-on put-the-Christ-in-Christmas here. Do not look for token nods to other holidays, because they ain’t happening. Tori/Marcie doesn’t like this, but certainly can’t deny the beeyooytiful singing. Everyone applauds Holly! Marcie says that their decision will now be more difficult, but they’ll go deliberate.

Holly’s red Beetle pulls up at her job. Holy fuck, does she love Christmas. Her cube is all decorated in that intensive way where when you see a coworker has done it, you think “How nice.” and also “Oof.”

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A.J. is here! He is a sassy office mate — and he knows Holly wants to be in the Snow Belles. Because he’s added a paper clip to the Christmas tree he made out of paper clips every time she has mentioned The Snow Belles. Jesus, that’s both passive-aggressive and creepily obsessive, A.J. Anyway, it’s a lot of paper clips.

Wait, they videotaped the auditions? We see the presumed pick for the Snow Belles, Stacey, sing “Comfort and Joy” with silly expressive arm gestures. Tori is nixing Holly because she’s “a diva” and will show her up and maybe try to take over. All of the Snow Belles want Stacey to get in except for Barb, the mousy nice one who knows Holly was a better singer and wants to do what’s right. How is she in this group?

Holly’s boss gives the whole staff a lecture about not getting senioritis as the holidays approach. A woman from H.R. who it will turn out is named Bernie says the holiday party is on! But in the lobby of the office! Aww. The company headquarters is so officious and mean. Bernie reports that having the office party in the office will cause “only a 9% reduction in enjoyment.” Anyway, the company had a great quarter. Ooh! Just at that moment, Holly gets the call from Marcie and screams “Hallelujah!”

She covers it by making like she’s super happy about their great productivity and then darts out to take the call. Marcie has a huge tree all dolled up with what looks like white roses and is also stripping thorns and leaves off more roses to put them in a vase. She says that Holly is not Snow Belle Material, but just adorable. I’ll be honest, Tori has the tone here. She knows what this is and what’s required of her character and she’s going for it.

Holly’s uptight boss, Nick, hopes that wasn’t a personal call. He says he felt like Holly was mocking him when she shouted Hallelujah back there. Also he doesn’t like that paper clip tree made out of office supplies and hopes she’ll be putting those back. There has not been a commercial break yet, which is either generous or brutal, depending on your point of view.

It’s late. Holly packs up her stuff and Nick asks her to stay for a minute. He asks her to take down the mistletoe that’s been hung in his office doorway. By whom? Rogue elves? Holly takes the mistletoe and puts it in her bag. Nick asks her to close the door and goes back to eating ramen at his desk.

We’re at a house where there are a lot of Christmas lights up. Two young boys are literally screaming at each other for their major activity. Reginald VelJohnson is in the background. Like an hour more into this, we’ll finally figure out that he’s Holly’s dad. We will also eventually be allowed to know that the woman here is not Holly’s best pal but her sister, Grace. Grace invites Holly to stay, but Holly says she’s drinking white wine for dinner. Yikes. That seems like a different movie than we’ve been aiming for. Grace calls Marcie a “frigid beeyotch.” She offers caroling with the boys if Holly is craving Christmas music, but Holly wants to be in the Snow Belles. Grace tells Holly to start her own group – after all, their mom did.

Holly goes to sleep. One thing I’ll say for this plot: it’s way easier to recap than Top Model.

A plow throws snow onto Holly’s car, but she’s plucky! She decides to start her own group. An electronic mall sign confirms her decision. It’s nice to know that the sign from L.A. Story is still getting work. Holly decides to ask Santa/the mall manager (or something) about the Christmas Eve spectacular at the mall. Fake Santa says it’s always the Snow Belles who perform and they’re already on the sign out front. Which apparently is not indicative of a contractual agreement, because in the next moment he decides why not, let’s shake things up! They’ll have American Idol-style tryouts a week from Saturday! That is one tight timeline! Santa thinks this will be awesome!

A lot of scripts set up obstacles for their main characters, but this one is really in to knocking them down. This movie WILL get to Christmas, dammit! Oh, NO! Stacey is at the mall, somehow at an angle where neither we nor Santa and Holly could hear us. She’s pissed.

Marcie is also pissed! The Snow Belles always play at Deck the Mall (heh). Barb, ever the meek voice of justice, says they totally should have picked Holly in the first place. Marcie says that Holly is peppermint barking up the wrong tree. I wish that the whole movie had taken that kind of care with going all batshit over Christmas. Tori Spelling does an unusual bit with over-petting her dog, but no animals seem to have been harmed. Anyway, no one screws with her Snow Belles!

Now Holly needs a group! A.J. says the ladies dig musicians and he’ll be in her group. I know: I thought he was the sassy gay friend too. We almost immediately discover that a guy whose name (Larry) we will learn in about three years sings Christmas carols like an angel. That’s supposed to be funny and surprising because he’s overweight. Get it? Why would a fat person be able to do things well? I feel like everyone involved with this movie watched a bunch of snobs-vs.-underdogs stories, but learned literally none of the lessons.

Meanwhile, Marcie zeroes in on Mall Santa, who starts gibbering. Tori pulls his beard off and demands he call off the auditions, but he says that wouldn’t be fair. Dude, I’m no Snow Belles fan, but you did just cancel their set gig with zero notice. Marcie calls Santa, who has a child on his lap, a “son of o a—” and we fade into a silent shouting montage that Tori does a fine job with, though I will ask again: Who is this movie for? Marcie threatens to kill Santa in front of the little kid and storms out.

Back at the office! Can it be that Bernie, the shy H.R. girl, can sing? For reasons I don’t understand, they all go into I guess the ladies’ room to hear Bernie’s voice, but Bernie is shy. Holly gets her to go into a stall and sing so she won’t get bashful. What? This whole scene seems to be aimed at people who find bathrooms inherently giggle-inducing. So who would that be? Bernie is so very shy, but Larry says she has a wonderful voice. Hey, with her eyes closed, she does! Nick the boss walks past the ladies’ room and hears her belting out Deck the Halls. Wacky!

Just as I have decided that The Mistle-Tones is meant for the tamest of the tame, like puppy nuns or something, Bernie says, “Is somebody going to tell me why I’m caroling in a crapper?” Who is this movie aimed at?

It’s dark. Nick finally heads out of the office and sees them all still there, allegedly working. He reminds them that he doesn’t pay overtime and heads out. Larry has the keys to the whole office complex for some reason. A.J. says the warehouse is the perfect place to practice! We can’t use someone’s living room?

The Snow Belles, in matching tracksuits, are singing a very traditional and upright version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” But Holly’s group is doing a rocking version! (Rocking in the sense that “Jingle Bell Rock” rocks, but that’s all we’ll be getting. Wait a minute. Why the hell aren’t they called the Jingle Belles?) Carol montage!

Marcie is in a white sweater, surrounded by red-sweatered Snow Belles and this is really bad.

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Tori has magnificent leg warmers on, though. Bernie is singing while reading a book called How 2 Dance. There are wacky warehouse mishaps. The Belles hip-shake. You might think that as we switch back and forth between these incredibly different groups, the singing style changes, but no, the Belles seem to adopt the same rockin’ version.

Thank god, we’re up to 12. We did that whole song. That whole eternal song. Holly’s panting group is so happy! Marcie is mad and gratuitously chastens Barb. One day, Barb is going to stab her in the eye. A.J. is happy with the rehearsal, but Holly says they’ll get destroyed by the Belles.

Holly says they need better moves, like a show, and then says “We are so screwed.” FOR WHOM IS THIS?

Holly listens to a radio commercial for the mall spectacular thingy as she drives. A dude runs out in front of her car as she messes with the radio and she spins out into a snowbank. The car won’t start. How does that work? Don’t worry, it’s not mechanical, it’s Christmas magic. There’s a winter storm warning and a tow truck will take a while. Holly is sad.

So she goes to a bar. Holly! Stop drinking your feelings! Ooh, there is karaoke happening! She asks for white wine. I have no idea why Holly’s choice of white wine has been emphasized twice now, but it has. Character! And now the host announces the king of karaoke and everyone in the whole bar happily loses their minds. The king of karaoke storms the stage and soon is dancing all through the whole bar…

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And it’s Nick! He’s singing “Burning Love,” and, OK, I guess this bar has some low standards for wild performance and raw charisma. He does fine. It’s just very tame, for all his doing shots and schmoozing every woman in the bar as he sings. The women love him. He’s a bad boy (well, OK, a mischievous boy), and flirts and takes their drinks and –Oops! — catches holly filming him on her phone.

But the show must go on! He dances with all the women and they go all twiny like cats. He runs around a lot. Pretty clear that he’s aiming to tear the roof off… But he doesn’t sing the hunk-a hunk-a part. Some fucking karaoke king. I’m sorry, but if you’re nailing “Burning Love,” you’d better exert yourself for the hunk-a hunk-a part. Yes, I know that’s an addition by Elvis and he didn’t do the original part. NOT THE POINT. Do the hunk-a hunk-a part or do another song.

Nick, covered in sweat and bar glory, approached Holly. He’s pissed because no one at work can know that he does karaoke. You should be more worried about them knowing that you skip the hunk-a hunk-a part. In saying that this might help people relate to Nick better, Holly lets it slip that no one likes him. She asks him if he sings a lot, and in fact he does this every Friday night. She says he was incredible and he says it’s all about giving them a show and making everyone feel like you’re singing just to them. Which is lovely advice that will not at any point be revisited, so just tuck it away like a hunk-a hunk-a random dialogue.

Holly wants help for her group – Whatever will it end up being named? – but Nick won’t teach them. He tells Holly that this night never happened. He’s called St. Nick (GET IT? GET IT?) the king of karaoke. She threatens to out him to the office with her phone video. Nick gives in to the threat. Holly leaves the bar, and just in time, there’s the Tow Truck of Fate.

Nick enters the warehouse on Saturday and sees the group’s terrible moves as they do “Joy to the World.” Everyone freezes up when they see Nick, but Holly reassures them that she invited him.
Nick is disgusted that the group has no name, but he agrees that they can mostly sing. Nick says they’re not working as a team. Which they totally were during “12 Days,” so whatever.

Nick says he’ll train them, but he’s not part of the group, they have to do what he says, and no one can know about it. And now time for a rockin’ version of “Joy to the World!” and at leat one egregiously autotuned note. Nick is a taskmaster! He yells “Drop your jaw!” and tells Bernie to sell it, which is definitely an HR violation. Aw, Bernie is nerd-dancing in character and it’s pretty cute. Good job, actress who plays Bernie! More training montage! Larry falls into boxes. Hyuk hyuk. Holly designs outfits for the team and Bonkers is by her side, being wacky. And now they’re a team! Nick looks happy. And by the way, we will apparently be hearing every note of every Christmas song, so just hunker down and brace yourself for it.

Larry is sweeping and carol-rocking out at work, as we discover after we pull out from a tight shot on his butt. GET IT? BECAUSE HE’S FAT, SO THAT’S FUNNY. Really, movie?

Wait! Nick is dancing along during rehearsal! Is he in the group or not? If he’s still not, won’t this wreck their dancing formations? Bernie is improving. Way to go, Bernie! And, seriously, this actress is doing her best to give Bernie an arc. Attention must be paid.

Whoa, Holly and Nick whiff some choreography and bump into each other and do that thing where they catch their breaths and stare for a moment. Romance! They knock off for the night and Holly suggests a drink, but Nick has to go back to the office even though it’s 8:30 at night. Holly tells him to get a life and he points out that she’s busting all kinds of tail to sing Christmas songs at the mall. But he says it in a way that indicates he sorta likes her. Aww. Not that either has been given a reason to like the other or has indicated a previous attraction, but OK.

OK, how the fuck did Stacy get into the warehouse and how did she remain undetected all this time while recording the rehearsal? Was she in Special Ops or what? Anyway, trouble.

They’re at the bar! There’s a joke about guys who have mullets! What year is this? And who is this movie for? Larry mentions his wife and everyone reacts like he just mentioned an alien implant. This movie is an asshole. Larry says his wife married him for his body — the one he had when they got married! Har! Everyone, including Larry, has a good laugh at how impossible it must be for someone to be attracted to him now. You know what? The actor who plays Larry is both overweight and Asian. I bet this isn’t even in the top thirty of the most appallingly written characters he’s been up for.

Bernie beat a video game called Red Horizon II. A.J. says that’s hot. Bernie says that’s inappropriate, but it’s OK. Romance! Glad that Larry is married so everyone can be paired off but we don’t have to think about the mind-blowing possibility of someone liking him!

Gosh darn it, this group needs a name! Time for Attack of the Puns! The Snow Tunes! Holidazed and Confused! Bernie says Sled Zeppelin. I liked that one. Someone suggests The Backstreet Goys (heh), but that won’t work because Bernie is Jewish. And that’s the last we’ll be hearing about any other religions. There is so much I need to know about Bernie.

Holly goes home, still needing a name. I’ll remind you that the cat’s name is Bonkers, which is the best name in this whole movie. Suddenly Holly sees her bag. The mistletoe that she took off Nick’s doorway is still there from days ago. Hey! Can you guess what the group’s name will be?

Because she’s kind of a ruthless dick (see: blackmail), Holly just rushes off to the mall instead of checking in with anyone in the group. Santa has gone all entertainment mogul and is demanding that everyone sign up in person. He says that this idea of taking on the Snow Belles is the best thing ever. The list of groups that want to try out is Santa-list huge. Holly signs at the bottom. I’m glad there were still spots since they decided to go ahead and rehearse before getting one.

Stacey shows Marcie the video and says that The Mistle-Tones are an awful group of rejects. See, movie? That’s how the mean people talk. Marcie says they’re not awful enough; she knows Tia could take it all away from her because she’s such a good singer. By “it all,” Marcie presumably means her musical empire of singing once a year. You can see why she wouldn’t want that stripped away. The people in this town fucking love Christmas songs. Marcie stops Stacy from eating a cookie so she’ll fit into her costume. See how that’s an asshole thing to do, Movie?

Holly is trying to start her car and can’t (again). I think this was meant to be a Magical Car of Christmas Love plotline, but it hasn’t been developed, so it just looks like Holly’s new-looking Beetle never works. I’m sure Volkswagen loves this. On the other hand, they jiggered their cars to fake emissions tests, so to hell with them. Holly looks in the window and sees Nick in his office. He’s getting a conference call pat on the back. If he keeps delivering those great numbers, he can leave Richfield. Which is his goal. Nick gives Holly a ride. It’s no trouble at all!

Awkward Car Attraction Moment!

Nick says everyone looked good in rehearsal. I guess Holly has bothered to mention that they’re the Mistle-Tones by now? Nick says it’s not his style to tell the singers that they’re good directly. Holly says he has the heart of a rock star. Eh. This movie is so odd. It’s working its butt off to be innocuous holiday fare, but still trying to be cool in the way that the edgy cool kids are.

Nick says he was a rock star for a long time, but then he grew up. WHAT? Nick says a mall Christmas show is sad and she says his corporate world is sad – yes, we’ve already done this – and Holly tells him about what real passion is, which is just sort of words to keep the plot going and JESUS CHRIST, THERE ARE STILL 45 MINUTES LEFT.

Nick wants to know what she’ll open the show with. Holly doesn’t know, but she knows what they’ll close with. Instead of just telling him the title, she sings it right there in the car, because that’s what you do when someone is dropping you off and has his own life to get to. It’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Nick joins in and sings it with her, because why not? Holly explains that it’s the one her mom used to sing to close for every Snow Belles show before they became jerks. OK, thanks for the ride! Nick, wanting a reason to call Holly back, reminds her that the holiday party is tomorrow.

Marcie is waiting at Holly’s house. She asks if Nick is her boyfriend. OooOOooooo. Marcie says she doesn’t blame Holly for the whole competition thing, so how about they join forces? She’s going to make room for a sixth Snow Belle and Holly is in, just like her mom! She has until Monday to let Marcie know.

WHAT WILL SHE DO?

Holiday party! We see Bernie spike the punch with at least a half-gallon of whiskey.

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Damn, Bernie. If you hadn’t already guessed, Bernie is worried that the party is lame and Larry says yeah, it’s lame. A.J. says he can fix this. Holly brings Nick – who is working – some firewater punch. She asks him if the Mistle-Tones can really win and explains her Snow Belle dilemma. She says that if she joins the Belles, she’s guaranteed a chance to sing on Christmas Eve. Who cares this much about singing on Christmas Eve and at no other time? Are there no other malls?

Nick says the choice is a risk versus the sure thing. Wait. Neither of them mentions their friends who have been busting ass on evenings and weekends? And who have been doing so to fulfill Holly’s obsessive wish? I finally figured out why this aggressively innocuous movie is bothering me so much: It’s shorthand for an underdog movie, and it’s running through the marks so quickly that we skip a few. So we don’t bother to get a reason for why we should like Holly and we don’t get a reason for why she’s a loon about Christmas and we never get any real moments that show why, other than their presumed future as the replacement Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Holly and Nick should be attracted to each other. And now we don’t even get a token thought from Holly about disappointing her friends. The movie doesn’t mean for this to be the case, but she’s a dick.

Nick says the opportunities we want don’t come when we want them to. Ooh, double meaning. Holly deletes Nick’s video – not as a gesture of friendship or trust, but because she no longer has any need for him to help her – and says she’ll go tell the Tones. Charming.

A.J.’s plan to save this party is karaoke, based on Chekov’s rule that if a character puts karaoke in a desk drawer in the first act, someone had better use it by the third act. A.J. is annoyed at the lack of immediate participation – You know you have to let people know what the songs are, right? – and leaves the karaoke machine unattended. Wow, Holly is awful: The audition is TOMORROW. She’s right about to tell, but Nick stops her with his masterful “Winter Wonderland” karaoke. It’s a duet with a rockin’ beat! Nick and Holly harmonize and they’re so happy and everyone loves the boss who’s been a total cold fish hard-ass all this time because of one song. A.J. sings the “Are you married?” line to Bernie, who goes all a-twitter. Bernie joins the song as the boys do swivel chair dances. A.J. moonwalks.

Larry has to dance by himself as the others couple up. Yay, the whole office loves Nick now! He pulls Holly into his office and begs her not to leave the Mistle-Tones. And, whoa, who hung up more mistletoe in the boss’s office. There was a back-up decoration squad? And now they’re kissing. Holly begs Nick to sing with the Tones tomorrow – again, without checking in with anyone – and he’s in! More kissing! See you tomorrow!

Bernie, in the hall, jokingly tells Nick to stop by her cube to fill out some boss-employee makeout forms. The actress playing Bernie has gone ahead and decided that she’s in a better movie than this, and I salute her.

Nick looks at Holly through the window, like medium creepily, and right then he gets a phone call. He’s getting a promotion to run the company’s branch in Southeast Asia but he has to get on a plane TONIGHT. He’s filling the suddenly available spot because he has no obligations. And speaks another language or something? Anything else at all? Sigh.

The mysterious boss on the phone says “Call me when you touch down,” not mentioning a city or country at all. Meanwhile, Holly happily calls Marcie and tells her she’s not Snow Belle Material and Nick waves at her sadly. Wait a minute. If the auditions are on Saturday, why the hell did Marcie give Holly until Monday to decide? No. I will not get sucked down this rabbit hole. Baldur help me, I will not.

Marcie, who is either in her own dining room or in the one from Beauty and the Beast, drinks red wine and calls an emergency rehearsal. I don’t understand the wine symbolism at all. Bad people drink things that stain?

ABC Family takes a moment to let us know that in January it will be called Freeform. What?

OK, so it’s audition time and we have 23 minutes left. We are having some sort of alternate time rules in which everything lasts longer. Maybe this is where all the time people lost during alien abductions went. Fortunately, the Not Teams We Care About auditions are fun.

The Chest Notes are shirtless Chippendale guys in tight jeans and I don’t understand how they are not winning immediately.

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They do a sort of Backstreetish “Deck the Halls” with lots of pec flexing. I can’t believe we’re pretending that the opportunistic mall owner would not want this. The Mistle-Tones are there in their outfits… but not Nick. Holly says he’ll be there

Next is a white rapper-singer who calls himself Ludacris Kringle. OK, that made me happy. He auto-tunes and raps “Away in a Manger.” Why so many auditions? Because you will be hearing all the Christmas songs. You fucking will.

Nick isn’t answering. His phone goes to voicemail. Aww. Holly’s sister and dad are here. Way to support! Next up is the Tinsel Tweens. It’s girls wearing tinsel skirts singing “Oh, Christmas Tree.” It may or may not be a commentary on the media’s problematic influence on adolescent girls. I really can’t tell if we’re supposed to be enjoying it.

As they walk offstage, The Tinsel Tweens, who are not tweens, insult and threaten A.J. Holly is worried that Nick isn’t coming. HE JUST JOINED THE GROUP LAST NIGHT. If they can’t adjust to his loss, it’s time to hang up their vocal cords.

No time for that! The Mistle Tones are up! They’re doing “Winter Wonderland” with a vaguely jazzy beat! I’m glad we did all that talk about innovation and making the crowd feel special! It’s perfectly fine Christmas music, but honestly, it’s pretty boring. Nevertheless, the audience is losing their minds with joy.

The Snow Belles enter via escalator like they’re Donald Trump. Tori is selling it.

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The Belles look hard at Holly and she gets nervous. Now? They keep going through to the finish, even though Holly has clearly lost a step.

Everyone is still really excited even though Holly’s performance flagged. Larry’s hot wife kisses him. (How crazy! Even though this is essentially the Jerry’s family joke from Parks and rec!) A.J. and Bernie kiss too and now everyone is in love. Oops – but is Holly?

OK, time for the Snow Belles. They’ve been a holiday tradition at the mall for 30 years! They do “All I Want for Christmas,” and I’m pretty sure this movie happened because Tori wanted to cover this song. Aww, she doesn’t even try for that high note at the end. But she does do that end-of-the-song thing where you raise your hand real high and then bring it down slowly in a fist. Thank you for committing, Tori.

Holly is sad. Is it because she knows they lost? Because of Nick? Use your words, Holly. The rest of the group leaves and, wow, the crowd is still cheering their brains out for the Belles. This town fucking loves Christmas carols.

Reginald VelJohnson finally gets to talk for an appreciable length of time and he gives Holly the Wise Gentle Dad speech. He tells Holly that her mom would be proud of her. Her mom started the Snow Belles to have fun singing Christmas songs with her friends, not to win contests. Values burst!

Holly remembers, even though she was so tiny, how her mom would bring her out on stage and sing right to her on the last song of the night and let the powerful emotions of the song out. Was there originally going to be another song that they couldn’t get rights to? Because “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is about hoping a spouse or lover will return. There’s no indication that Holly’s parents had split or that Holly was separated from her mom in any way. She was singing to her right there. I’m just saying that most moms would have made another pick.

Nick is calling! Dad leaves. What could the phone call be? Nick says he got the promotion. Holly says she hopes he gets everything he wants, but she says it with a side of bitter.

Holly and Grace and Dad watch Mom sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) right to Little Holly on videotape. Again, she is right there. Also: Just to Holly? Was this psychologically damaging to Grace?

Seven minutes to wrap this up. Let’s push through. It’s another night, and the underused Bonkers runs past as Holly answers the door to her sister in the melting snow. They go to the mall, I guess. Because tradition!

Marcie is bitching at Mall Santa Guy for giving her a poinsettia and having no Christmas originality. Really, movie? Holly comes in to the GIANT performer’s dressing room. This mall has really shelled out some space and luxury goods for its transient acts. This town fucking LOVES Christmas music. Marcie tries to dismiss Holly by saying it’s performers only in there, and then asks if Holly is there to apologize. Holly says she wanted to say Merry Christmas. The backup Belles look shamed as Marcie makes a stinkface. Holly leaves and Marcie finally looks ashamed too.

OK, mall Christamas Eve Spectacular! Holly stands and watches the Snow Belles. They have a lot of costumes for a group with such a specific singing niche. Holly walks away during the applause — we don’t actually see the Snow Belles sing this time.

Holly watches a mom and daughter and feels happy and wistful But she’s distracted by some cheering. It’s a sleigh car with Nick on it! Singing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” because they bought the hell out of those rights and they will not be wasting this. Holly won’t go up on the sleigh and sing with him so he crowdshames her into it. It’s a dick move, but she was blackmailing him earlier, so it’s not like she has much room to object.

Nick turned the promotion down! He got all the way to Southeast Asia and then realized he wanted Holly!

“I’m gonna make you work for this,” says Holly. Why did they make her such a dick?

Ted says that’s fine because he’s a workaholic. They are a couple now and they sing a duet. They have never been on a date.

Marcie stomps out of the mall and is pissed that the crowd is listening to other people sing Christmas carols (THIS TOWN FUCKING LOVES CHRISTMAS CAROLS), even though her own show is over.

Marcie tells Stacy she’s out of the Belles if she listens. Stacy tells Marcie to lighten up. It’s Christmas! Why did we not give poor Barb that line? And who is this movie for?

No time to worry about that. It’s Christmas. Eve. The Snow Belles push to the font of the crowd to listen to the beyootiful Christmas music of love. Even Marcie.

And it’s over. I still don’t know who this movie is for. I guess it’s like if you need something on while you’re cooking and baking and don’t want to risk losing the plot? Or if you have five generations there and Jesus you just want to watch something but there can’t be any swearing and there can’t be any sex and SHUT UP KIDS, JUST DO THIS ONE THING FOR ME but then someone says “crapper” so the middle generation feels like they’re seeing something for adults? I don’t know.

There are certainly worse things you could watch, and definitely definitely worse holiday things. Maybe the lesson is to find the small joys hidden inside the glossy commercial packaging.

Happy Hanukkah, Bernie. And thank you.

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