If you’re wondering whether The Christmas Setup is actually a Christmas movie – don’t worry. You’ll find out within the first ten seconds of the film, which opens on thirty-something Hugo (Ben Lewis), a lawyer living and working in New York.
We first see him sitting under an enormous wreath in his office, an equally enormous evergreen twinkling in the background, while he tries to convince his boss that he ought to be made partner. The conversation doesn’t go the way that Hugo had hoped it would, so he decides to take his mind off his career frustrations by visiting his family for the holidays.
That’s where Milwaukee, and Fran Drescher, come in. Drescher plays Kate, Hugo’s mom. She lives in Milwaukee, in an adorable bungalow groaning under the weight of about a million pounds of evergreen boughs. And she’s arranged for the neighborhood hunk, Patrick (Blake Lee), to deliver a gigantic Christmas tree to her home while Hugo’s around. When Patrick shows up we learn that Hugo had a crush on Patrick in high school, and that Kate is hoping to set them up for the holidays.
The Christmas Setup is a Lifetime movie, so it’s sometimes schmaltzy, like a carton of store-bought eggnog. The acting is uneven. And the dialogue leaves a little something to be desired (“Life is like an all-you-can-eat Christmas buffet.”).
But the film’s plot, while formulaic, is also genuinely endearing. The male leads have great on-screen chemistry together – they’re actually married in real life! And it’s fun to watch Fran Drescher, whose New York accent is as thick as it’s ever been, pretend to be a Milwaukeean.
Plus, even though there aren’t really any recognizable local landmarks in the film (which was, sadly, filmed in Canada), a few of the characters gush about how much they love living here. And even the Scroogiest among us will likely find ourselves rooting for Hugo and Patrick as they wander arm in arm through the streets of (fake) Milwaukee.