Jake Wilkinson is an 18-year-old boy attending Palisades Academy in California. For the past few years, he has not been home for Christmas since his mother died and his father remarried not long after. A few days before Christmas Eve, his father offers to give him his vintage 1957 Porsche if he is home by 6:00 p.m. Christmas Eve for Christmas dinner.
However, Eddie Taffet, a student nicknamed the Ed-Man, has the hots for Jake's girlfriend Allie Henderson. When he hears that Jake promised to help some jocks cheat a test, he puts a stop to it and causes them to fail. With Jake easily to blame, he gets left in the middle of the desert dressed in a Santa suit that's glued to his body. With no money or ID, Jake must find a way to get home for Christmas to get that car.
Tropes seen in this film:
- Big Bad: Eddie Taffet, who essentially resorts to two occasions of kidnapping in order to try to steal a girl away from her boyfriend.
- Brick Joke: Allie comments that she won't trust Jake even if he shows up in a one-horse open sleigh. Later in the film, he shows up in exactly that... and wins her back.
- College Is "High School, Part 2": Even though Jake goes to a very nice coastal university where everyone has dorm rooms, the students still use hallway lockers big enough for jocks to stick a nerd into. Or a school where jocks take a fellow student and strand him in the middle of a desert (which is essentially attempted murder).
- Cool Car: The MacGuffin that sets the entire chain of action in motion.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Jake gets furious over his girlfriend kissing Ed-Man and growls "I'll kill him" under his breath.
- Crying Wolf: Jakes manages to call his father and tells him that he's in the middle of nowhere with no money. However, with all the excuses he has made to avoid being home for Christmas, he isn't believed.
- Defeat by Modesty: Jake attempts this when he thinks Allie slept with Eddie, who at the moment is only wearing a towel. When Eddie eggs him on by saying that all that happened (a kiss under the mistletoe) was good, Jake angrily pulls the towel off.
- Exact Words: Jake's father offers to give him his Porsche if he is home by 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and not a minute later. He gets the car because, despite showing up late, he was just a few seconds late, and not a minute late.
- High School Hustler: Jake is a college version of this, because in this movie, college bears a striking resemblance to high school, but with dorms.
- Idiot Ball: Somehow, a teacher doesn't think twice when three students start using their pagers in the middle of a test.
- Jerkass: Ed-Man. He tries to steal Jake's girlfriend and he openly admits that he can't help do anything good for anyone else because it'll damage his reputation. Still, he wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't so worried about it.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jake.
- Karma Houdini: The bullies who stranded Jake in the desert and locked Ian in his locker are never seen again, and presumably got away with murder.
- MacGuffin: The Porsche. The 1957 Porsche. THE Porsche that they restored by hand. THE Porsche that, in Jake's mind, would look best with Jake at the wheel.
- Naked People Are Funny: At least, Jake seems to think so after removing the Ed-Man's towel.
- National Stereotypes: One of the Santas in the marathon looks like a professional runner and is physically fit in stark contrast to average build Jake and all the overweight Santas. He is called Kenyan Santa in the credits.
- Offscreen Inertia: Ian is last seen locked in the school lockers at night, just before winter break, meaning that there will be no one to find him until January when classes resume, by which point he will be long dead of starvation.
- Oh, Crap!: The Ed-Man, with the sinking realization that he has just called two police officers, in full Christmas costume, "jingle balls".
- Reality Ensues: Demanding to know the location of a guest and threatening the receptionist quickly gets Jake tossed out of the hotel.
- Road Trip Plot: Featuring the rare combination of hitchhiking with Tom Jones fans, hitchhiking with a purveyor of stolen goods, hitchhiking with a police officer, taking a bus, hitchhiking with the sworn enemy, running a fun-run, flying in a cargo hold, grabbing the roof of a passing car and finishing in a one-horse open sleigh.
- Rule of Funny: Allison's voicemail only seems to allow messages of no more than five seconds, far too short for any message actually explaining who called her and why. But if it lasted any longer, we wouldn't have Jake blurting "Desert Santa buzzard tumbleweed!" into the phone to try and explain himself before he's cut off.
- Scenery Censor: Eddie's private area is censored by a mug of orange juice after his towel is pulled off.
- Third-Person Person: The Ed-Man
- Titled After the Song
- Under the Mistletoe: Allie and The Ed-Man find themselves unexpectedly under it, which a less-than-thrilled Jake sees on television due to fortuitous reporting.
- Your Cheating Heart: The police officer tries to win back his wife after he kissed another woman.
- Jake sees his girlfriend kiss another guy on TV and assumes she's cheating on him.