Film and Plot Synopsis
The Christmas sisters – Caroline, Paulina, Vicky, and Joanna – couldn’t be more unlike each other. However, when Caroline plans a large family gathering for the Christmas holiday, the sisters reunite and are forced to put aside their differences for the gathering. They are each surprised at the gathering by the sudden reappearance of their father, James Christmas, who left them on Christmas Eve 27 years prior. Now back, the girls are surprised that their father knows as much about each of them despite not speaking to them for decades. They are more surprised when he finally reveals why he left in the first place.
‘Father Christmas Is Back’ Movie Summary
The family soon begins to arrive. Vicky arrives and is followed by Joanna and her new boyfriend Felix (Ray Fearon) who bring along the sisters’ mother, Elizabeth Christmas (Caroline Quentin). The last to arrive is Paulina who arrives on foot. Also in attendance is the girls’ Uncle John (John Cleese), the brother to the girls’ absent father. John lives nearby and occasionally assists Peter with maintenance of the mansion.
The sisters immediately begin picking at each other upon sitting down by the thrown together tree. Joanna critiques Caroline’s decorations and forbids her niece and nephew from touching her things, which they immediately begin to do. Vicky provides things to the kids that she acquired from her recent trip to the United States. Paulina retires to the library where she continues her work on her thesis about the Beatles that she has spent several years writing. She is joined by her sisters and Caroline shows them all a mapped-out agenda for the next several days. The youngest, Vicky, begins picking on the eldest, Joanna, about her advancing age. Joanna announces that she and Felix are going to stay at an inn in town rather than staying at the mansion. Before Joanna can leave, Vicky blurts out that she stayed with their estranged father James Christmas (Kelsey Grammer) and his girlfriend Jackie (April Bowlby) while she was in Florida a few weeks prior. As none of the girls had seen their father since he left the family on Christmas Eve when they were children, the sisters are in shock but cease their discussion when their mother walks in.
Not long after, everyone is sitting by the fire in silence when they all hear a car pull up in the driveway. Vicky suddenly reveals that she invited their father and Jackie to the Christmas celebration without telling anyone. Everyone rushes outside to see James and Jackie unloading their car. The entire family gives cautious greetings to James while John is outride rude to his brother. Surprisingly, Elizabeth is very cordial to James. Everyone returns to the mansion to have tea, and the sisters slip away to talk. The girls gossip and criticize Jackie for her youth (she is 35) and her American accent. However, the sisters soon begin arguing with each other again with much of the anger focusing on Vicky. Vicky gets tired of the discussion and leaves the mansion in Felix’s Rolls-Royce, which has Joanna’s suitcases in them. She ends up at the village pub and seduces the bartender whom she has sex with that night. At the same time back at the mansion, Elizabeth and John quietly sneak off and have sex with each other as well.
On Christmas Eve, the entire family goes to a fundraising event for the church. Joanna is forced to wear Caroline’s less stylish clothes as Vicky returned without Felix’s car. Once at the event, Joanna is angered when she finds her clothes being sold by the church for ridiculously low prices. Worse, Felix’s car is one of the grand prizes in one of the contests. Joanna and Felix are forced to spend a lot of money to get their property back after Vicky “donated” the items to the church. When the church’s Santa Claus becomes too ill to see kids, James volunteers to take over for him. Dressing as Santa, James has a conversation with his granddaughter who asks why he disappeared years before, which he assures her is his failing not her mother’s or aunts’.
Sexual repression is in. For once in your life, you’re ahead of the curve. Joanna Christmas (Elizabeth Hurley)
Later, back at the mansion, everyone is having lunch and James tries to speak but finds himself constantly interrupted by his brother. The two men agree to fight outside the mansion. However, James decides against it and then suffers a sucker punch from John. In the aftermath, James proposes to Jackie. Everyone acts awkwardly, but once again, Elizabeth seems to be the most accepting of James’ nuptials.
Not long after, James apologizes to his daughters for leaving them 27 years earlier. The girls accuse him of knowing nothing about their lives or who they have each become. James corrects them by stating that their mother has been keeping him updated as to each of their lives the entire time and that he has been paying for everything since they were children unbeknownst to them. Flabbergasted, the girls invite their father to join them for a night out at the pub. At the bar, Vicky reveals that she is a lesbian and states that she is attracted to another woman in the bar.
When they all return, Jackie surprises them with a huge, garish, Christmas light and inflatable display in the driveway. However, when she plugs it in, it blows out the old electrical circuits for the mansion. Peter attempts to repair it, but surrenders the responsibilities to John, who takes a break to have sex with Elizabeth again. As the house begins to grow cold, Peter distributes additional blankets to everyone while Joanna secretly sneaks in and out of Caroline’s bathroom. As the refrigerators have no power, the family places the food outside to stay cold. Unfortunately, foxes steal the family’s planned Christmas dinner.
On Christmas morning, Peter discovers a positive pregnancy test in the trash of his bathroom. Knowing that he has not had sex with his wife for nearly 18 months, he suspects Caroline of having an affair and storms out of the mansion. A confused Caroline confronts everyone as to the test, and Joanna confesses the pregnancy test is hers. The family begins bickering. James and Elizabeth then reveal the reason for James’ sudden departure decades before. Elizabeth confesses that got pregnant by their uncle John after having an affair. James admits that he couldn’t deal with the hurt and decided to leave. He also never told them to protect their relationship with their mother. Vicky is shocked to learn that her Uncle John is really her father, a fact that he finally admits to.
However, the family is forced to rush back into town for the kids’ nativity play. James seeks out and finds Peter. James informs him of the truth about the pregnancy. Peter immediately regrets his actions and rushes to the play and arrives just in time to see his daughter sing her solo. After the play, the entire family spends the day in a nursing home serving meals as the Christmas’ family dinner was ruined. Everyone is shown having a good time.