The It’s a Wonderful Lifetime roster continues with Record Setting Christmas, a Christmas film that focuses on the season’s three pillars: faith, hope, and breaking world records. But does Record Breaking Christmas possess the necessary elements to make history? Or is this simply another Lifetime film about a judge attempting not to fall in love?
The Essentials: Michelle Argyris portrays Leah, an adjudicator for the World Records Bureau who is tasked with overseeing bids to break Christmas-themed records. This year, Leah and her apprentice Jin (Danny Vo) will go to the tiny Illinois town of St. Drexel to test a total of six world records. But Leah doesn’t want novice Jin to get his hopes up. In her years as an adjudicator, she has witnessed everything, and she is aware that the majority of these attempts fail.
The mission of St. Drexel is led by a doctor named Devon (Andrew Bushell). 35 years ago, his mother assisted the town in breaking the record for the world’s largest frosted cookie. However, all of the tourism the cookie generated has since disintegrated. Now all the businesses on Main Street are in risk of closing unless St. Drexel becomes renowned as the city where people dressed as reindeer spin the most hula hoops in one minute. How will Devon and Leah get along, given that he is motivated to shatter records and she is desperate to follow the rules? What does the rule book say about falling in love?
What Films Does It Remind You With? : St. Drexel is a town full of Leslie Knopes, unwavering optimists with a contented smile. Also, the attention to detail over attempts to break world records reminds me of the 2020 Hallmark film On the 12th Date of Christmas, which focuses on the complexities of preparing a scavenger hunt.
Danny Vo gives his best as Jin, an engineer-turned-judge who is thrilled to see records broken but faints at the sight of beards or the sound of people singing in harmony. Just go with the flow.
As Devon tells Leah, “Sometimes you have to give up an important career in order to live an essential life.” There is also some speech that is an unabashed advertisement for CarMax, but I won’t spoil it here.
Every Christmas, instead of celebrating the holiday, Leah adjudicates holiday records as a holiday custom. And on Christmas Eve, the residents of St. Drexel meet at the town hall to adorn a community tree.
All I Didn’t Want for Christmas features Andrew Bushell as the object of Gabourey Sidibe’s desire if you can’t get enough of him in Two Turtle Doves.
Does the Title Make Sense? : The only way it could make more sense is if Guinness were engaged in some manner and they could include that attention-getting name in the title. But Guinness is not (yet!) in the holiday film game, so Record Breaking Christmas it is.
Our Take: Document Breaking Christmas like an eggnog container. It is unquestionably Christmassy, and films like it are a fixture of the holiday season. It is an acquired taste that will be off-putting to some, but it goes down easily for those of us who crave it.
In other words, despite its focus on breaking records, Record Breaking Christmas is not as ambitious as other holiday romances we’ve seen this year. I’ll give the film credit for its original premise and the way it portrays Leah’s dedication to her job’s regulations as a Scrooge-like fault, as if she is opposed to the concept of hope. She constantly refers back to the rulebook to determine how the World Records Bureau defines concepts such as vans, frogs, and kissing, as opposed to simply ignoring them. Leah’s delivery of the news that a local did not break a record is played with the gravity of a surgeon informing a family that a loved one perished during operation. It is excessive in every sense, but so are all of the records that St. Drexel attempts to break, which makes the life-or-death choices feel more like a wink to the audience than an out-of-touch decision.
But I am serious when I say that Record Breaking Christmas is easy to drink. This film never allows any of its characters to wallow in a misunderstanding, which is one of its most intriguing qualities. There are several — what’s a holiday film without Leah assuming Devon has a girlfriend? — but the protagonists quickly resolve their disputes. The only significant issue in the film is whether or not the town will break a record and attract tourists. Note that no other measures to save Main Street are suggested. It’s record-breaking or nothing, baby!
This is what makes Record Breaking Christmas such a holiday-themed eggnog film. You must have a taste for this type of silly, simple film in which a character who is afraid of beards and choral singing eagerly tags along to a town obsessed with breaking Christmas records, and you must believe that two strangers can fall in love in a matter of days — and I’m talking about career-altering levels of love. It helps that Record Breaking Christmas features charming performances (Andrew Bushell has chemistry with everyone, perhaps even more so with Danny Vo than with Michelle Argyris) and festive set decorations, which spice things up considerably. It’s eggnog, but at least it’s an established brand.
Since I enjoy both eggnog and corny holiday films equally, I must say STREAM IT. It does nothing extraordinary, but it is nonetheless gratifying.