Howard Langston is a workaholic mattress salesman, who does not find time for his wife, Liz, and his young son, Jamie - especially when compared to next door "superdad" divorcee, Ted Maltin, who continually puts Howard in a bad light. After missing Jamie's Karate class, Howard resolves to redeem himself by fulfilling Jamie's ultimate Christmas wish: getting an action figure of Turbo-Man, a popular children's TV superhero.
Unfortunately, as is the habit with him, Howard had promised to buy that action figure earlier that year and then promptly forgotten about it. To make things even harder, Turbo-Man toys are the must-have gifts of the season and are as a result impossible to come by this close to Christmas. Desperate not to disappoint his family again, Howard embarks on a quest through the Twin Cities on Christmas Eve to find the toy everyone's looking for. Along the way, Howard meets Myron Larabee, a postal worker dad with a rival ambition, and the two soon become bitter competitors in their race for the action figure. Also, during his search for the toy, Howard keeps running into Officer Alexander Hummell, a traffic cop who had earlier pulled him over for a traffic violation. After several failed attempts to find the toy in a store, Howard attempts to buy a Turbo-Man from a Mall of America Santa, the leader of a band of counterfeit toy makers. When he accuses the Santa of undermining the values of Christmas, Howard ends up in a brawl with the gang, barely escaping when the police raid their warehouse.
Later, Howard and Myron cross paths again and break into the KQRS radio station where the D.J. is running a Turbo-Man competition. They are nearly arrested but Myron bluffs the police into backing off by threatening them with a Christmas package (which he claims is a homemade bomb, unaware that it really is one). Officer Hummell tries to open it, and it blows up in his face. After his car is stripped by thieves, Howard is ultimately forced to return home empty-handed. He attempts to steal the Turbo-Man doll from Ted's house, destined for Ted's son Johnny (E.J. De La Pena), but changes his mind. Before he has a chance to replace the doll, he is caught by Ted and a disappointed Liz. Howard decides to join his family at the city's Wintertainment Parade, as he promised his son he would do. Meanwhile, at the parade, Ted attempts to hit on Liz, but she turns him down by hitting him with a thermos of eggnog.
On arrival at the parade, Howard runs into Officer Hummell and accidentally drenches him with hot coffee. In the ensuing chase, Howard runs into a preparations room and is mistaken as a live action Turbo-Man stuntman in the parade. As the "real" Turbo-Man, he uses the opportunity to present the coveted limited-edition Turbo-Man doll to his son in the crowd. But before he can recognize his father, Jamie is chased around the parade by Myron who is dressed as Turbo-Man's arch nemesis Dementor having caught and tied up the real actor while Howard does his best to keep up, though with little skill in controlling the Turbo-Man equipment.
Jamie is ultimately saved by Howard, who reveals himself to his son, while Myron is about to be arrested, all the while ranting about how he will explain the situation to his son. Touched by Myron's undying dedication to his own son, Jamie gives the doll to him. The crowd carries Howard off praising him for his heroic actions as Myron, Jamie, and Liz happily watch. Back at home, Howard puts the star on his Christmas tree, his tradition, and shares a happy moment with his family before realizing he forgot to get Liz a gift.