Before we begin, a couple of things. This movie was bought to us by The Asylum, not the place where crazy people are kept but the movie studio which makes crazy movies. Back in my old film critic days I chronicled many of the Asylum's films such as Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies or Zombie Apocalypse and of course their piece d' resistance, Sharknado. I have a whole page at the old website dedicated to nothing but Asylum films. Did they show me any love back in those days for my tireless dedication to watching their terrible movies when nobody else was, like maybe a screener every once in awhile or something? No they did not. But now that I'm gone I am sure I am missed because whose is now giving the Mega Shark series and Transmorphers the love they deserve? Not bitter though. Even though it may sound like it. But we are a bit surprised to see they've jumped into the Christmas movie game. Also, in my watching of these Holiday TV movies, a number of them have featured couples of mixed race, such as this one, and never, not one single time has this ever been an issue. While these movies are generally awful, they do present a vision of America that I think a lot of us would love to live in. A place where you can drink hot cocoa, have snowball fights and love whomever you want to love with the only thing standing in the way of that love is that mean man who wants to shut down the local cookie factory to build expensive condos. For that, I doff my cap to these movies. I wouldn't even mention it but of course I live in real America, not Holiday Movie America. But I do hope that one day my children's children get to live in that country that I see on TV.
But on to Rent-an-Elf which I should tell you isn't nearly as terrible as I though it would be. Liam (Sean Patrick Thomas) is a hard working architect with an adorable son Nathan (Zakai Biagas Bey). It's Christmas Eve and Liam and Nathan are at an office party planned the Party Planner Supreme, Ava (Kim Shaw) who is literally the Tom Brady / LeBron James of party planning. Liam has to get home to his wife, Nathan's mom, only to find out that she has abandoned them at Christmas. Not cool mom... not cool.
A year passes, and it's been a tough one, especially for Nathan but his dad remembers Ava and how magical she was at planning parties, so he hires her to plan 12 special party days for his sad son. Ava remembers him too, and there was a spark there... but you know... wife. They meet up, plan some glorious events, Liam confides to her about the abandoned wife and now Ava is happy. I mean she is really happy. Like off the chain happy. I'm talking a four minute dance number of her leaping around her office like a spastic chicken happy. We're happy she's happy, but the man did just tell her his wife abandoned the family on Christmas Eve, so maybe tamp it down just a bit?
So Liam and Ava spend quality time together, the events are amazing, Ava just loves Nathan and even defends him when he's getting picked on by some young thug for believing in Santa. And he should be mocked for believing in Santa because he's like FORTY! Or twelve. I can't remember. Anyway, Liam and Ava's feelings are strong for each other and they are getting closer and closer, and it's about time for the kiss. But we watch these movies, right? We know the first kiss is always gonna be a near miss, this time stopped by the reappearance of the now Ex-Wife (Nicole Tom). She's terrible, a nature lover, flighty, can't cook, has no sense of fun or the concept of motherhood and she's mean to Ava. But she's back to reclaim her family, Ava sadly steps aside to allow this to happen and Liam puts his feelings on the shelf because it's what's best for Nathan.
That should pretty much be a wrap, but we know love can't be denied at Christmas. Nathan loves his mom, but even he knows she's terrible. Liam's mom (The legendary Debbi Morgan) hates her, and knows she's terrible and even the Ex-Wife knows she's terrible and as such she bows out out of the scene to clear a path. No near miss on that next kiss. Merry Christmas!
When I say that 'Rent-an-Elf' isn't terrible, recognize that it's just as formulaic, saccharine, predictable and tired as all of these Holiday movies, but it does have a little something extra going for it. Acting for one as Sean Patrick Thomas and Kim Shaw are both veteran performers who take these throw away roles just serious enough, in addition to having some actual chemistry between each other, and Debbi Morgan who was surprising as this movies comic relief in addition to being the wise old person, even though Ms. Morgan barely looks old enough to be anybody's grandmother. Plus there was some decent dialog, humor and one-liners in this movie which is almost unheard of.
The vomit worthiness of the movie, or how strongly is adheres to the tried and true Hallmark formula is somewhat in the middle. There are a lot of things we can check off the list such as carolers, a somewhat excessive display of Christmas ornamentation, a semi-Christmas Tree shopping scene, the near miss kiss followed by a soft break-up, a wise old person who wasn't very old and was low on wisdom dispensing and a cute kid who was a little too old to be honest with you. The soundtrack had Christmas songs, but they were original songs... I think... since I've never heard them before... we prefer the classics, and the background music was generic and non Christmassy. There was no cookie baking nor orphan kids. I love me some orphan kids. The narrative was Christmassy... but kind of half-ass Christmassy since the main focus of the story was Ava finding a man. Don't believe me? Look at Ava's vision board. It had the word 'LOVE' on it like ten times complete with a picture of Barack and Michelle for goodness sakes. And this pursuit of love just happened around Christmas. But she was planning Christmas parties in said pursuit of this man, while wearing an elf outfit with fake pointy ears. Not a pure Christmas narrative, but Christmassy enough I guess.
Regardless, Rent-an-Elf and the Asylum kind of got on the Hallmark train pretty good, but veered away from it just enough to sort of do their own thing. Still formulaic and predictable, but as we said earlier, not nearly as terrible as I thought it would be.