There are two films I have come across in my search for Christmas media that have essentially the same title, and both come from the Hallmark/Freeform/Lifetime machine that churns these out on an annual basis. The Hilarie Burton led one is by far the superior, and that is probably thanks to it being made before the holiday movie machine really began in earnest. Don’t get me wrong, it still has many of the expected elements you would find in these types of movies, but manages to not fall into those clichés and actually uses them to craft a story that rises above the standard fair. So, what makes Naughty or Nice (2012) slightly better than other such Christmas movies? Read on to see and as always SPOILERS below.
Naughty or Nice tells the tale of Krissy Kringle (played by Hilarie Burton), yes that is her actual name and surprisingly she has no actual ties to Santa Clause, and the twists and turns her life takes after accidentally receiving the legendary “Naughty or Nice” list. From there, Krissy abuses the power of the list though, to be fair, she pretty much just uses it to correct minor incidents against people who did shit things to her and others. Frankly, considering the power she technically momentarily wielded, Krissy was not even a bit player in the cosmic scale of potential. This is the first differential from the usual story: Krissy Kringle’s downfall or fallout is not really her doing. Yes, she kind of screws with some people, but they actually did bad acts, and she actively works to correct those small errors with little to no real consequence. And as for her own negative issues, for the most part they were the result of someone else’s machinations and not her own misgivings.
In fact, outside of the central antagonist, the movie makes a point to show how even those who Krissy feels have wronged her are actually decent people with dimension. Yes, they make mistakes, but those are merely mistakes in a life of good and bad or, using the film’s parlance, both Naughty and Nice. This is a refreshing take on a narrative that usually makes the central protagonist either a villain that needs to be redeemed or educated or the perfect angel amid an unjust world. Here, she is neither. Krissy Kringle is, like most of the characters, an actual person and not just an annoying caricature.
As well, there is a romance in this movie, but it is not the central element or motivation of Krissy’s arc, nor is the love interest some sort of tool or grand savior. Yes, he does help her correct the huge blunder of the film, but he is not presented as the answer to all of her issues as is usually the method in these films. Ultimately, what makes this particular film stand out is simply that it does not just present the stereotypes of the standard Hallmark Holiday movie but instead uses them to inform and produce a story beyond the standard.
I am by no means saying that this film should join the pantheon of Christmas Classics. But among the nearly endless deluge of Christmas film fluff, this one at least tries to make something beyond just a cash grab to fill time during the season. And for that, even with all the other usual issues, I will give it credit.