In the Loop: Christmas in July Special

It’s a joke now that we’ve all been repeating the same day over and over for more than a year now. I had been thinking about this and also my unapologetic love of time loop movies.

Welcome to In the Loop, a project where I will write about time loop movies (and on occasion, TV shows) once a week.

Note: I will be writing about all of these movies as if you’ve seen them, so spoilers ahead!

12 Dates of Christmas (2011, directed by James Hayman)

  • Time until the loop begins: 15 minutes
  • The cause of the loop/inciting incident: Kate passes out after being sprayed with perfume
  • Number of time loops: 11 (for a total of 12 times Kate experiences it. Get it?)
  • Lessons learned: Let go of your desires and just be open to the world around you.

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Christmas time loop movies are a thing. I have a list of at least 10 holiday-themed movies or TV episodes that feature a time loop. And it kind of makes sense — Christmas is all about traditions that repeat year after year. While Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol isn’t really a time loop, it isn’t too far of a leap to one. There is even a short story from 1892, “Christmas Every Day,” by William Dean Howells, that is about a little girl who wishes for Christmas to be every day (in case the title didn’t tip you off) and the consequences of that (there are also at least three made-for-TV movies that were inspired by/adapted from this short story).

And in a practical sense, a time-loop movie allows for a limited setting and a limited number of characters as well as wardrobe changes. Christmas movies do need to be cheap.

In 2019, seeing that several of these time loop movies were streaming, I spend a day watching them. Of the four, 12 Dates of Christmas, which was an ABC Family movie (pre-Freeform) was by far the best of the bunch and I’ve actually watched it a couple of times since then.

Kate (Amy Smart) works in advertising and is still mourning the loss of her mother and the end of her last relationship. Her step-mom has set her up on a blind date on Christmas Eve with Miles (Mark-Paul Gosselaar). You know where this is going, of course.

I do like that Kate is sweet but flawed. She never goes through a major transformation because she’s already a pretty good person to begin with — it’s more she just needs to learn how to be more open to the people who care about her. The entire timeline doesn’t quite line up (Kate has more of an afternoon/evening than a full day) because she manages to pack a lot in. However, the whole thing is so sweet and charming that I’m OK with not thinking too hard about it. Smart and Gosselaar have some good chemistry and I like they actually come across as adults with their own lives and careers.

Kate also gets a tattoo and dyes her hair black during one of her loops and people doing dramatic things to their appearances is one of my favorite time loop motifs. She also learns how to bake, which seems like it would take a lot more than 12 days, especially when she’s also running around making sure her ex-boyfriend does propose to his girlfriend, decorating parks and finding a boy who ran away from the youth center where Miles is a hockey coach. She also manages to set up a man she meets in the department store where she first passes out with her neighbor. That’s not even all of it. Kate does a lot in her 12 days, clearly. She also opens up to Miles, which is the major part.

Also, each of the 12 things from the “12 Days of Christmas” are hidden somewhere in the movie. It’s a neat, unnecessary touch, but I think it speaks for the level of playfulness and care that went into this. Sure, it’s just a cute made-for-TV Christmas rom-com but I’ve been charmed by it every time. It’s better than it needs to be.

A scene from A Chance for Christmas

A Chance For Christmas (2021, directed by Stefan Brogren)

  • Time until the loop begins: 22 minutes
  • The cause of the loop/inciting incident: Christina makes a wish in front of Santa
  • Number of time loops: At least 70 (it’s mentioned) but only 16 on screen
  • Lessons learned: Being real is better than being perfect.

Speaking of movies that are better than they need to be …

A Chance For Christmas is a “Tubi Original” which doesn’t seem especially promising (because since when does Tubi have “originals”?) and this is the trailer, which seemed even less promising. And since this was weirdly released on Tubi in July (although as part of an event), I was going in with really low expectations.

I was completely wrong. This surprised and delighted me.

Tori Anderson is Christina A. Chance, a mommy vlogger/influencer, who will get sponsorship from Love Handles she can get 2 million engagements during a Christmas Eve event. Of course, most everything about Christina’s perfectly presented life is fake — her house is mostly a mess, her “husband” is actually dating her mother, her daughter is a sullen pre-teen and her son would rather take appliances apart than use them. Her Love Handles marketing exec, Devon (Mykee Selkin) shows up on Christmas Eve and mostly causes problems. Christina wishes she could try again and Santa makes that come true.

Yes, all of it is silly, but this is the mashup of Christmas in Connecticut and Groundhog Day that you never knew you wanted.

I liked that it wasn’t just Christina in the loop — Devon was going through it with her (after doing this for so long, I think time loop movies are better when two characters experience it together) and I liked that they had one shared goal. They wanted to get out of the time loop, sure, but they also wanted to get Christina her 2 million engagements.

(I also like that it’s never completely clear what Love Handles sells. Home goods, I guess? There’s everything from stand mixers to lights to gingerbread kits).

The movie looks pretty cheap, but since it’s mostly just confined to Christina’s house, that’s OK. Anderson and Selkin are clearly having fun and they’re selling these parts so well. There’s such a playful energy between them that makes this work. While Brogren’s direction never strays too far from the formula, he knows enough to let his two leads shine.

The characters outside of Christina and Devon are a bit underdeveloped (of course her kids just want to spend more time with her!) but Christina’s slow realization that her life is pretty great just the way it is without the artifice is great even though that outcome was pretty expected. Like Kate in 12 Dates of Christmas, it’s more about Christina letting go of her notions of what her life was supposed to be and realizing things are pretty great already.

I laughed. I even cried a bit. This is going on my holiday list.

In two weeks on August 10: Timecrimes

In the Loop logo by Sarah Burnett. If you’d like to support this project, buy one of my Polaroids.