Stream It Or Skip It

Stream It or Skip It: ‘Christmas on Wheels’ on Lifetime, a Holiday Romcom That Never Hits the Gas

Tiya Sircar and Michael Xavier star in Lifetime’s Christmas on Wheels, a holiday romcom about a small town and one classic convertible. Sircar and Xavier will be familiar faces to fans of Lifetime’s Christmas movie lineup, but how does this merry movie compare to the rest of the network’s slate?

CHRISTMAS ON WHEELS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: Tiya Sircar (The Good Place) stars as Ashley, a woman who bids on antiques at Christmas auctions as a career (just go with it). It’s at one such auction where she’s outbid on an antique angel bell by an estate lawyer, Duncan, played by Michael Xavier (The Expanse). Ashley’s mega ticked off about this as she’s working to open up her own Christmas antiques shop, and she’s even more pressed to learn that Duncan’s also working for her uncle!

Duncan helped her uncle sell the classic red convertible that once belonged to Ashley’s mom. In that convertible, Ashley and her mother would drive down the main street of Robinsville and hand out gifts to all the families who needed a little extra care around the holidays. But that was years ago! The uncle had to sell the car because he couldn’t get it to run and it was just taking up space! Fully stunned that her uncle sold such an important part of family history, Ashley sets out to find the car and reclaim a piece of her heritage. And who’s riding shotgun on her quest? None other than Duncan. Will they find the car and, more importantly, will they find love?

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: For those of us that are already waist deep in a snowbank of Christmas movies, you might see a few parallels between Christmas on Wheels and Hallmark’s Christmas Tree Lane from a few weeks ago. They’re both about a small town’s struggle to reintroduce the Christmas traditions of yesteryear into an increasingly corporate present.

Performance Worth Watching: There’s a reason why Tiya Sircar has become one of Lifetime’s go-to leads: she’s great! She’s got the right mix of tenacity and holiday wonder that these roles require. I will say, though, that from being mostly familiar with Sircar as the greedy showboat demon Vicky on The Good Place and as the voice of the cool warrior Sabine Wren on Star Wars Rebels, I watched all of Christmas on Wheels fully aware that Sircar can do so much more and a little bummed that the script didn’t give her much to work with.

Christmas on Wheels cast
Photo: Lifetime/Albert Camicioli

Memorable Dialogue: Upon seeing the Christmas convertible towed down main street followed by a Mini Cooper full of trees, Ashley’s aunt emerges out of a gathered crowd (a scant one, presumably due to COVID restrictions) and earnestly says, “Well, I’ll be… Christmas just came home to Robinsville.”

A Holiday Tradition: This is a universe where there are annual Christmas auctions all across the country, and Christmas antiquing is such a big industry that Ashley has a job hopping from auction to auction to bid on items. But the real tradition is the charity drive involving Ashley’s mother’s car handing out gifts to Robinsville. The town just hasn’t been the same since Ashley’s mom passed away.

Does the Title Make Any Sense?: Well, yeah, it does—but the title would be more fitting to a Christmas road trip movie. Christmas on Wheels is very clearly built around a literal charity drive. Charity Drive would be a better title. Or, because you gotta overdo it with the holiday lingo, maybe A Very Merry Charity Drive?

Our Take: Christmas on Wheels is a true paint by numbers cable TV holiday romcom. It’s got a career-driven leading lady, one dead parent, a love of small businesses, a yearning for the Christmases of yesteryear, incredibly specific local holiday traditions, and an unshakable belief that small town life is the best life of all. You love to see it, especially at Christmas time! And if that’s all you want from your holiday romcoms, I completely understand and celebrate your choice. If you’re looking for a little something more, though, then you’re gonna have to keep on driving.

I wanted to enjoy Christmas on Wheels because I truly do love all those tropes. I cackle with glee every time one of these movies ticks off another box—like when Ashley noticed that main street was covered in ultra-modern (and low-key spooky) white triangles with LED lights instead of traditional Christmas trees. How dare the mayor try to drag Robinsville into the 21st century—and why does she think 2020 looks like a Brutalist design nightmare?! The problem with Christmas on Wheels is that it never steps beyond the tropes. It doesn’t have a self-aware script like Lifetime’s Christmas Unwrapped, and it doesn’t have legit Emmy-ready performances like Hallmark’s Holly & Ivy. This is a movie where a character sincerely proclaims “What the Dickens?”

Christmas On Wheels, Michael Xavier and Tiya Sircar
Photo: Lifetime/Albert Camicioli

It’s a shame, too, because you can see a bit of unique, kooky charm trying to get behind the wheel. This classic convertible has an almost brainwash-y control over Robinsville. Like, the guy who bought the car from Ashley’s uncle is, first of all, overjoyed to see the lawyer who sold him the convertible and then he eagerly invites Duncan and Ashely in for cider. He reveals himself to be a sled collector (??) and then tells her that he just gave the car away to the first person who professed to have fond memories of it! He’s not the first or last person to react this way to the car, either. Truly, the Christmas sprit of every person in Robinsville is dependent on this one car, and the town has been a desolate wintry wasteland since the car broke down. Or at least that’s where my mind went, because the movie didn’t go there. There’s even a touch of straight-up, unexplainable supernatural business regarding the car that I won’t spoil, but man oh man, I wish the movie had fully shifted into that gear. Instead, Christmas on Wheels stays comfortably in the slow lane.

Our Call: SKIP IT. Tiya Sircar deserves a better vehicle next year.

Stream Christmas on Wheels on Lifetime