With that out of the way…
We open on a quaint, suburban, gated community. Boris Karloff informs us that this is Who-ville, a town filled with christmas cheer and childproof beer (whatever that means). The denizens of Who-ville are gathered in the neighborhood clubhouse for a Christmas Eve party.
Title: A Wonderful Christmas to Die Hard
As the sun sets, our protagonist George McClane pulls up to the gate – technically, his Uber driver pulls up to the gate, a charming lad named Billy Argyle. The guard buzzes them in. George informs Billy that he’s there to see his ex-wife and daughter, in a last-ditch effort to win them back. George also tells Billy that he’s a cop, probably because it’ll be relevant later.
Billy drops him off at the clubhouse. George isn’t sure how long it’ll take, so he asks Billy to just drive around the neighborhood for a while. Billy is happy to oblige, and he wishes George good luck. George quickly finds his wife, Holly Bailey, and his five-year-old daughter, Cindy Lou Who. George immediately argues with Holly about how stupid the name Cindy Lou Who is.
Night has fallen. We cut back to the guard station. An ominous moving van drives up – two men get out, shoot the guard, and take over his control booth. They let the van through. Boris tells us that ‘every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot. But the terrorists, who wanted to hijack the holidays – no pun intended – did not.’
Cut back to the club. George and Holly are still fighting in a back room, so as not to distract the other suburbanites from their festivities. George says he wants a second chance, Holly says she needs to move on, yadda yadda yadda. But SUDDENLY, there’s a scream! They run into the main room and see two burly, machine-gun-toting men blocking the entrances. A third villain, Mr. Potter, demands that they stay inside and keep quiet, and nobody gets hurt.
Out in the van, the remaining two terrorists are doing hacker things. One of them, a German named Max, successfully jams all signals going in and out of the neighborhood – nobody can call for help. When asked how that’s possible, he waves his hands and says ‘Science!’
The other terrorist, the one they call ‘The Grinch’, snarls with a sneer. ‘Tomorrow is Christmas – it’s practically here!’. Max is confused by this unprompted observation. But he just keeps typing away until he’s got control of ‘the mainframe’. The Grinch growls impatiently, Max works as fast as he can.
And then, with a click of a button, Max is in! He’s able to remotely unlock every house in the neighborhood. The Grinch smiles deliciously – he dons a Santa Claus suit, and threatens Max at gunpoint if he doesn’t put on fake reindeer antlers. Max, once again confused, nevertheless follows orders. Phase two is afoot.
Cut back to the clubhouse. Mr. Potter is holding the HOA president hostage: Gower Takagi, an even-tempered older gentleman who assures Mr. Potter that he won’t get away with it. George is able to sneak out of the clubhouse through the air ducts, and begins scoping out the neighborhood.
Over the next thirty to forty minutes, several things happen:
— The Grinch and Max rob the houses using a high-tech array of magnets, vacuum hoses, and other ingenious gift-nabbing gadgets.
— George uses a plot device to contact a police officer named Clarence Powell, and keeps an ongoing line of communication about the hostage situation. He follows The Grinch and Max at a distance, waiting for the right moment to strike
— Officer Powell notifies the police force, but since this is deemed an act of terrorism – in a suburb no less – where there are children no less – on Christmas Eve no less – the FBI gets involved
— Holly and Mr. Takagi try to negotiate with Mr. Potter, but he stubbornly refuses and shoots Mr. Takagi in cold blood. Mr. Potter announces that he’s doing this because he’s evil and greedy. And while it might be hard to accept, he genuinely has no other motives (this is the most shocking revelation by far).
Throughout this sequence, George is far less competent than he lets on. Turns out, he used to be a cop, but after he killed a man, he resigned. There are several moments where he could easily have killed The Grinch and Max, but panic kicked in, and he couldn’t follow through. Officer Powell tries to encourage him and reassure him that he’s doing his best.
As The Grinch and Max burgle the final row of houses, George has an idea. He uses his plot device to call Billy Argyle, the Uber driver. But to his dismay, Billy left right after he dropped George off. He said that he needed the money and couldn’t afford to just circle the neighborhood. He wanted to tell George, but he felt too ashamed, so he just drove away.
George, at his breaking point, prepares to confront The Grinch and Max head-on, knowing full well that he may die. He regrets everything, he thinks of himself as a loser for not being able to stop them, and he’s prepared to accept his death.
“But wait, not so fast!” says Officer Powell. He asks George to imagine a world in which he did stop the terrorists. What then? Sure, the neighborhood would be safe, but would the townspeople have learned anything? Sure, they wouldn’t have been robbed, but is Christmas really about having lots of stuff? Sure, his wife and daughter would respect him for being a hero, but won’t they respect him more if they see that he’s a broken, fallible human being who makes mistakes?
That’s the pep talk George needed. He confronts The Grinch and Max as they rob the last house. But instead of greeting them with violence, he compliments them. He congratulates them on such a clever, well-conceived, foolproof plan. And he says, “I imagine your boss never acknowledged that without you two, there would be no mother-f***ing heist.”
Max and The Grinch start sobbing. They feel woefully underappreciated, and they vent to George about how Mr. Potter never gives them any credit. They don’t even like robbing people, they’re just hoping that somebody will pay attention to them. And what happened then? Well, in Who-ville it’s thought, in Who-ville they say, that The Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. He went into cardiac arrest and died on the spot, but at least he was happy.
Max and George are stunned by his abrupt death, but there’s no time to grieve. The two lead FBI agents have arrived, Bert Johnson and Ernie Johnson. They declare that this is THEIR operation now. But George convinces them to stand down, and that the situation is under control.
Back at the clubhouse, everybody is singing Christmas music. Cindy Lou Who gives a stirring, adorable speech about the dangers of materialism and the true spirit of Christmas.
Meanwhile George and Max march to the clubhouse, overpower the guards, and tie up Mr. Potter. The FBI and the police help restore order, they arrest all the baddies (except Max, because George vouches for him), and everybody celebrates. George happily reunites with Holly and Cindy Lou Who.
In the final minute, George goes outside and looks around for Officer Powell. He asks a nearby policewoman where he is. She says that there is no Officer Powell. He must be imagining things. The camera zooms slowly towards George’s awestruck face.