I flew a lot when I was growing up. My family lived in various foreign locations because of my father’s job, and we spent a lot of time on airplanes. I loved these trips, as back then air travel was actually fun, and I remember thinking that the stewardesses (that’s what we called them then, as there were no male flight attendants) were the most glamorous women in the universe.
Sydney, the flight attendant lead in CHRISTMAS CONNECTION, is indeed glamorous. And she also loves flying, as it takes her all over the world. She particularly likes flying on Christmas Day, as there are no lines and not as many passengers to deal with, so she’s pretty excited about her upcoming Christmas Day flight to Bali. And no, she doesn’t mind not being home for Christmas, probably because she really has no home, both of her parents are dead, and she has no one else in her life. But she’s cool with that, okay? Because she’s FREE.
On her final flight before heading off to lie on white sand beaches while everyone else stress eats themselves into size XL sweatpants, Sydney is assigned a UM—an unaccompanied minor—to escort to her destination in Chicago. This UM’s name is Leah, and her mother is dead too and she’s just spent a week with her maternal grandparents while her father, a newspaper writer, stayed home to work on a story. She shows Sydney a picture of him and her together, which is inside a frame she’s made out of macaroni and painted red and green. When I was little and feeling craftsy, my mother had me glue macaroni and buttons and little plastic animals on boxes and spray paint them gold, so I know how much work Leah put into this frame, and she should be really proud of how it came out, because pasta is not a forgiving medium.
Sydney is pretty good with kids for someone who doesn’t have any. She shows Leah how to make a Christmas tree out of three coffee cups and swizzle sticks decorated with pretzels, which is something I am absolutely going to try on my next flight. And when they land in Chicago and Leah’s dad is held up at security, Leah voluntarily misses her own flight to Bali to stay with the girl. This is a fortuitous turn of events, because it allows her to meet Leah’s dad, Jonathan, who is as adorable as his daughter is and hasn’t aged a day since he played the drummer in the Tom Hanks movie THAT THING YOU DO more than 20 years ago.
Jonathan and Leah celebrate their reunion by drinking hot chocolate, and invite Sydney along because she has missed her flight on their account and it’s the least they can do. Over mugs of cocoa, Sydney shows Jonathan a locket she wears that has photos of her parents in it. She also mentions that her parents met in Chicago at Christmastime, but she knows no details of the story and has always wondered what happened. I wanted to hear more about how they died, but this does not come up. Neither do we learn how Leah’s mother became an angel, as she puts it, and so all of these things must remain mysteries.
Back in her room at the airport hotel, Sydney discovers that the frame Leah made for her dad has ended up in her bag by accident, if you can call divine providence an “accident,” because this is obviously a Christmas miracle. Since she’s not going to Bali at the moment, she has some time, so she hops in a cab and heads over to Jonathan and Leah’s house to return it. I should also mention that Sydney has recently applied for a position that would see her headquartered in Rome, which is her dream posting, and she is waiting to hear about that.
Jonathan and Leah’s house is practically Santa’s Workshop. Seriously, this thing is so Balsam Hilled out that it might as well be a forest, and I can’t even imagine what the electric bill is going to look like in January. Also, it is crammed to the rafters with Jonathan’s family, all of whom are wearing Christmas sweaters and in the mood to ho-ho-ho. These are the happiest human beings you have ever encountered in your life, and they are so excited to see Sydney that they immediately put reindeer antlers on her and slap a glass of eggnog in her hand. They’re the kind of people you either take to or hate on sight, and I decided right off to just go with them, because otherwise I feared the next 75 minutes were going to be hard to take.
Sydney is not sure what to make of all this familial joy, and she at first tries to run back to the safety of her empty hotel room to watch GAME OF THRONES in peace. But Jonathan’s parents recognize a new daughter-in-law when they see one, and they ply her with cookies until she falls into a sugar coma and stops resisting. Also, Jonathan asks her if he can use the story about her search to find out more about her parents as the basis for his next column, and since she has yet to find another flight to Bali and will be around for a few days, she says okay.
As was the case with yesterday’s CHRISTMAS NEXT DOOR, that’s pretty much all that happens in CHRISTMAS CONNECTION. This is another low-stress one where we really just sit back and watch two people fall in love. Although unlike April in CND, Sydney is a bit more resistant to the whole thing. She likes jetting round the world and seeing different places. So every time she stars to think nice thoughts about Chicago and a ready-made family, she thinks extra-hard about that job in Rome and checks her phone to see if she has received any messages about it. She isn’t fooling anyone with this charade, but because it’s Christmas nobody points out to her that falling for Jonathan is a done deal and she might as well just bring her bag over from the hotel and hang up her uniform in the master bedroom closet.
Jonathan is as low-key as his family is hyper, and he doesn’t push Sydney on the falling in love thing. Also, he’s not sure he’s ready either, what with the dead wife and all. So mostly we watch him and Sydney roam around Chicago buying fruitcakes and bratwurst, visit a Christmas tree farm where her father worked one winter in college, have deep dish pizza, and go to a skating rink that also has a connection to the photos in Sydney’s locket. When they aren’t doing those things, they’re at Jonathan’s house or the house of one of his family members, making cookies, doing dishes, eating dinner after dinner, and generally being relentlessly happy.
Eventually, we get a little tired of this and want them to move on with it. So does every one of Jonathan’s family members. And Leah in particular is ready to have a new mom, so she turns up the heat and asks Sydney to make snow angels AND a snowman with her, which is a very big commitment and not to be agreed to lightly. By the time Sydney teaches her how to make Santa ornaments out of pinecones, just like her mother taught her when she was little, you know it’s all over but the kissing.
Except then Sydney gets offered that stupid job in stupid Rome. And she says yes, because otherwise there would be absolutely no drama in this movie at all. So then we have to watch Jonathan and Leah be sad. Then we have to watch Sydney be sad. And now we’re ALL sad and way to go, Sydney, I hope you’re happy that you ruined Christmas for 2.6 million people who tuned in hoping for a break from the holiday stress.
Oh, who am I kidding. Of course she doesn’t ruin it. She lets Jonathan and Leah THINK she has, though. She even goes so far as to put her flight attendant uniform back on and put her hair in a bun, which means she is dead serious about getting on that plane. But then she looks at the present that Leah gave her, which is that same frame that started all of this nonsense, only now it has a picture of Leah, Jonathan, and Sydney in it, which is a pro move on Leah’s part and so symbolic you can’t even stand it and might even start shouting, “Don’t get on that plane, Sydney! Don’t you even think about it! Rome has nothing on Chicago!” And then there is maybe another Christmas miracle and she does not get on that plane, and just as Jonathan is moping around the ice skating rink watching what he thinks is Sydney’s plane fly overhead and wishing he’d said something, he turns around and there’s Sydney. And then he surprises her by telling her he’s solved the mystery of how her parents met, which involves an ice skating contest, but honestly we don’t really care because we just want them to get to the kissing and living happily ever after part.
As I said, this is another sweet, no-drama entry in the Christmas week lineup. Everyone in the movie is delightful, and the homes they live in are particularly festive, although they may make you feel a little inadequate in the decorating department. And in the family department, actually. There’s the requisite cute aubergine coat, although since Sydney only has a carry-on she doesn’t get the 53 additional coats that the female leads are being awarded this year, which is too bad because the coats are one of the greatest things about Hallmark holiday movies and they deserve their own special. The one she has is pretty fantastic, though.
If I have a gripe with CHRISTMAS CONNECTION, it is a professional one. We’re supposed to believe that Jonathan makes a living writing one 800-word column a month. Not only a living, but enough to afford a huge, stunning house and have the cash to just go out and buy as many wreaths as he can carry at the Christmas market. If this is a thing that exists, someone please sign me up, because I am happy to do it. No. Scratch that. Someone set me up with Jonathan and let him worry about the money end of things. I can make snow angels and pinecone Santa ornaments too, you know.