When Tyra Banks first appears as a living doll (Eve) in the Life-Size sequel, 20 minutes into the movie, she’s laying on the bed of protagonist Gracie Martin (portrayed by Francia Raisa), introduced through a heavy-handed joke about a black-out hookup. The bit carries on for another 20 minutes, though it feels much longer. It’s both a strange attempt at maturing the movie for its nostalgic audience (yes, the joke is that they slept together) and a way to introduce an unbelievable premise: that Gracie, a 20-something multi-millionaire CEO of a toy manufacturer, would tolerate a statuesque one-night-stand following her around, calling her “a special friend.”
Life-Size 2: A Christmas Eve, which aired Sunday night on Freeform, contains a handful of PG-13 innuendo for the college-age crowd who grew up on the beloved 2000 Disney channel original Life-Size. From the first trailer, it was clear this was not something to be viewed seriously. But for the most part, the sequel is nothing more than a barrage of allusions to the first film and various moments from Banks’s pop culture repertoire. (At one point, her character yells Tyra’s famous America’s Next Top Model line, “I was rooting for you; we were all rooting for you” for no particular reason.) The movie is not so much a sentimental snack as it is a force-fed meal.
The sequel begins with Gracie engaged in self-destruction. She drinks herself into oblivion and waltzes into meetings hungover and inattentive. She then learns that her company, Marathon Toys (inherited from her mother after she was framed for some undisclosed crime), is close to bankruptcy, and the only way to save it is to discontinue vintage models for video game apps—so she okays the decision to kill off the Eve doll (Tyra Banks). When Gracie’s 12-year-old neighbor Lex learns of the resolution, she gets pissy and asks Gracie to hold a seance to bring Eve to life and ask her for help. She agrees, if only to get the kid to shut up—and because she finds her mom’s old spell book, gifted by Lindsay Lohan (Casey in the original Life-Size. Lohan doesn’t make an appearance in the film, but there is a photograph of her in the book.)
The magic works. Eve comes to life, eats a lot of butter, gets a makeover, and proves she’s actually a doll by revealing a serial number etched on the bottom of her foot. She also takes Gracie to a Christmas village at a mall to try and show her a good time, inexplicably curing her of her alcoholism and reminding her of childhood whimsy. All of this would mostly mirror the first film, if not for the gratuitous MeToo reference. When Eve suggests Gracie sit on Santa’s lap, Martin retorts, “In the last year, there’s been a whole movement... two women sitting on a powerful man’s lap asking for gifts as he says ‘ho ho ho ho,’ it’s not exactly PC.” They do eventually, but not until after Banks performs the original Life-Size title theme “Be A Star” and Gracie knocks it for sounding dated. This is called foreshadowing.
Gracie, now officially bit by the Christmas bug, asks Lex and her fellow tweens to come over for a sleepover, where they work diligently to rebrand the Eve doll as something kids would actually want to buy instead of ceasing production all together. They come up with a few designs: Woke Eve, whose all about “Eve-quality,” Love is Love Eve, and another I swear was called “Curvalicious Eve,” a thicc, body-positive Eve. They also remix the theme song into a trap monstrosity. This somehow saves the company and gets Gracie’s mom out of jail.
In the first film, Tyra Banks helps Lindsay Lohan’s character come to terms with her grief and the loss of her mother. In the second, Banks rebrands a company for her own personal benefit and fronts like it’s about empowering young women and saving Gracie’s career. (The alcoholism thing was dropped pretty fast.) Perhaps that makes it the perfect sequel for 2018—capitalism but make it feminist. At the very least, Tyra seemed to have had a good time filming. But I respect Lohan for sitting this one out.