My Birthday Romance

Painful.

The fake boyfriend romance trope is one of my favorites and has resulted in some of the funniest and most romantic Hallmark movies made. Among them, My Fake Fiancé, Holiday in Handcuffs, Holiday Date, Snow Bride, Surprised by Love, Holiday Engagement, and many more. I was really looking forward to this one. What a bust.

This movie was completely ruined by Callie’s dysfunctional parents. And dysfunctional in a not humorous way. They were smothering, overbearing, and controlling. They were on her every. single. minute. to get a boyfriend even when she flat out told them that she didn’t need a man to be happy and that she was concentrating on building her business. She is constantly set up on blind dates by them and her sister. Usually, in these romances that feature inappropriate over-involvement in grown children’s lives, one of the spouses is the voice of reason and provides some balance and common-sense advice to the other parent. Not so in this one. I don’t know which of the two parents was more offensive. Possibly the mother, because she made a big point of confiding to Callie that she made her husband wait to marry until she finished grad school. Her desperation to get Callie married did not make sense. And it was made more annoying because Callie, our heroine(?), did not nip it in the bid like any other 35-year-old woman would have. She should have quit being so nice and told them flat out to BACK OFF. If they refused, cut off communication until they get the message.

Instead, she finds a fake date to her birthday party to get her parents off her back, but instead, the parents are on them like vultures. They treat them as if they are madly in love, making them kiss, and immediately act like marriage was right around the corner, instead of just a date she has only known for a week. They publicly toast the happy couple at the Birthday in front of everyone. They make her make a speech when she doesn’t want to and she ends up spilling the truth in a way that humiliates her whole family and herself as well.

She actually declares she wishes that she really was Will’s girlfriend because being his fake girlfriend was just so awesome. By the way, Will is mysteriously absent from most of the party and later Carrie starts looking for him after the debacle and is surprised and disappointed he had left. Then 5 minutes later, when he told her he heard her speech, she says she thought he had gone by that time. So did she know he was not there when she gave her speech, or was she surprised and disappointed at his absence? Lazy writing. Well, it all ends as you would expect. But it was just such a painful journey.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

March 8, 2021

A Fiance for Christmas

Amanda Payton is a “10”.

This is a very enjoyable version of the fake fiancé trope thanks mostly to plenty of wit and humor in the script and the acting of Amanda Payton. She is adorable and hilarious. When her sweet tooth inflicted obstetrician stuffs a whole cookie in her mouth with her eyes daring the fake fiancé to say anything, I was sold.

Amanda opens a private make-believe wedding gift registry for some retail therapy. When it becomes public all of her friends, coworkers, boss, and mother think our workaholic too busy to date heroine is engaged and act accordingly with unrestrained joy and a bridal shower. Her mother even remodels a spare room into a nursery. As one thing leads to another she feels too trapped to confess the truth and is forced to recruit the handsome brother of a patient into being her fake fiancé. He agrees with alacrity, and I don’t blame him. Even her future career rests on not revealing her lie. Romance and hilarity ensue as Sawyer “I wanna marry this dough” and the agreeable Landon become more and more entangled.

Unfortunately, Adam Gregory as Landon is too passive and not up to the task of keeping pace with the force of nature that is Amanda Payton in her role as Sawyer. He is conventionally handsome and just plain conventional, bringing nothing to the table other than his too-perfect looks. There is no spark or chemistry although Amanda gives it her all. Marie Osmond is way over-the-top as the high-strung flakey Mom, totally unbelievable as a respected anthropologist, but she is funny. Will someone please tell her to get her hair out of her face though? In looking at Ms Payton’s resume it appears she has missed her calling as a comedienne.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 10, 2021

An Unexpected Christmas

Unexpectedly Overwrought

Jamie and Emily have broken up their long-term relationship. Jamie has headed home for Christmas in small-town Fulton, Illinois. Coincidentally, Emily is also heading there for work. They arrive at the terminal at the same time and Jamie’s family, who love Emily and haven’t been told of the break-up, are thrilled that Jamie has brought Emily home to spend Christmas. Emily needs a place to stay and Neither wants to ruin the family’s Christmas so they continue the deception that they are still together.

There were some good things and not-so-good things with this one.

The Good:
Bethany Joy Lenz and Tyler Hynes performances and their chemistry together. Bethany was very funny in the comedy parts and very touching in the emotional parts. Tyler Hynes performance made an essentially weak and troubling character tolerable.

The script had some unusual aspects and was witty.

The banter between Jamie and Emily was good.

Tyler’s new hairstyle.

The cameo walk-through blink and you might miss it of Bethany’s frequent co-star, Andrew Walker.

I like the scope big families provide in Hallmarks and this one had one.

The Bad:
That big family? They were so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o energetic, loud, and overbearing that it became exhausting.

Jamie’s character. He dumped Emily because she was more successful than him and he didn’t want to hold her back. OK. But his self-esteem problem was rooted in his need to be perfect in everything and vice versa. Even though we are told that his Grandfather also was a perfectionist, He grew up in a happy, stable, and supportive family. This debilitating complex did not seem to be founded on much. It also causes him to be afraid of being honest with his family about his break-up and why. BTW he never does get the backbone to be forthright about it. And he’s a liar.

Jamie’s struggles with writing the governor’s speech. He was unable to write a word. His paralysis (again, it had to be perfect) was like a big depressing specter over the whole movie.

The plot was all over the place. The Christmas play his sister directed was needless and was a distraction. Bethany’s project came to nothing. The lightening-bolt like lesson of the newlyweds’ rocks in the fountain was not used in the governor’s speech, or Emily’s theme for her project (what it was-I am unclear) the speech itself was short and lame. All that angst over THAT?

Some of the happenings were too silly. The Christmas play and the scene in the restaurant with the waiter. I don’t mind silly sometimes, but silliness is not comedy.

A lot of negatives were outweighed by the acting and appeal of the two leads, and strong production values. I did not approve of Jamie’s actions or inactions, but it did lend some depth and complexity to his character. I’m just not sure I want all those problems in a Hallmark hero.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 28, 2021

Grounded for Christmas

Winter Storm Meghan is Back and Better Than Ever!

One of my favorite romantic plot devices is the bringing a fake boyfriend home for whatever reason. This one did a great job thanks mostly to the great chemistry between the two likable leads. Cheryl Ladd as the warm and loving mom was a welcome addition. I have seen her also play a cold ruthless boss this Christmas movie season. She was equally believable in both roles. So that must mean she is a very good actress. And she still looks beautiful. The ex-boyfriend was really creepy, by the way. It was hard to swallow how Nina could ever had had her heart broken by him. Very cute and romantic ending.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

November 15, 2020

Wedding Every Weekend

Way to Go, Hallmark!

I agree with all of the positive reviews regarding this movie. Kimberley Sustad is a very likable and talented actress and does comedy very well. I liked the plot and the slow-building realistic growth of her feelings for Paul Campbell and his for her. It’s been a long time since I have looked forward to the inevitable happy ending with such anticipation in a Hallmance. Too often it’s just a big yawn. They did avoid most of the usual Hallmark tent poles in the plot although the “big misunderstanding” was front and center.

Yes, the diversity was laid on with a trowel. Jewish, Black, multi-ethnic, and gay weddings. But sometimes the politically correct thing is also the right and good thing. In fact, the only “normal” (Ha Ha) couple was the lead couple, now that I think about it. Hopefully, the religious right can take some comfort in that. As for me, I hope Hallmark doesn’t think they’ve done their duty for the time being as far as diversity is concerned and non-WASP non-straight people go back to being relegated to tokens. I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt that they will be guided by the praise and not the invective.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

August 17, 2020

Holiday Date

And for Something a Little Different…

This is a genuinely amusing little variation on the usual Hallmark template. It starts off with all of the clichés in place: Nice girl gets dumped before the holidays when she is expected to bring the dumper to meet the family for the first time. she can’t bear the humiliation or to disappoint them so she falls in with a plan to substitute an actor to impersonate the architect “”Mr. Christmas” ex-boyfriend. He is a born and bred New York City actor who is anxious to visit a small town to get a feel for a role he is up for. One problem. He is Jewish and can’t even build a gingerbread house. The chemistry between the charming leads was great, there was some ample support from veteran actors Bruce Boxleitner and Teri Rothery. And the talented Anna Van Hooft, who usually plays the villain in Hallmark movies, does a credible job in a throwaway part as the supportive sister, for a change. And let’s not forget the contribution by a Hallmark stalwart Peter Benson as the brother-in-law and all of his helpful advice.

This was a nice romance with some good laughs fueled by the tension of when will the truth come out, and what will happen then, and the cluelessness of fake fiancee Joel, played with aplomb by newcomer Matt Cohen.

One of the best this year. Hallmark Christmas movie fans: Don’t miss it!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

December 16, 2019

Snow Bride

I Can’t Say Enough About This One

When one sees one of these early Hallmarks (2013 for this one), it is evident how the brand has slid into mediocrity in the last year or two. I guess it’s to be expected, considering the sheer volume that is churned out nowadays. It is evident also in how much kinder I am in my ratings now. My standards have well and truly slipped. My expectations are so low, that when I actually enjoy one, it is kind of an event. I’ve re-watched a few of the older ones that I have given low or average marks to and finding that, compared to what is aired nowadays, they weren’t all that bad. I originally gave this one a “7”.

Snow Bride had everything I love about the Hallmark movies and is so rare today. Our heroine, a tabloid reporter, gains intimate access to a prominent political family under false pretenses. It was both funny and witty. The image of her tromping and tripping through the snow in her friend’s wedding dress had me laughing out loud. It had some funny repartee as well. The suspense of waiting for the truth to come out had me in a state of anticipation throughout. The big reveal had me cringing for our heroine and the comeuppance to the bad guys was very cathartic. The evil ones had me hissing and booing. There were some heart-tugging moments and a satisfying twist near the end that I didn’t see coming. Considering the vaunted predictability of Hallmarks, this was a real coup. Excellent writing. The actors were all great. Patricia Richardson was wonderful and wise as the mother. I loved the secondary romance and the story behind it. Very affecting. Katrina Law had great comic timing and also brought emotion to her role. She’s no Teri Polo, Meredith Hagler, Autumn Reeser or Melissa Joan Hart, but she was just fine. Unfortunately, she was not served well by the make-up artist. Bobby Campo as the brother added depth to his redeemed character. He is a favorite of mine from subsequent Hallmarks. The hero, Ben was a bit blah but was very handsome. It really had all the ingredients. I wish Hallmark would go for quality over quantity, but at least they still show these oldies but goodies from time to time.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

November 28, 2019

Mingle All the Way

Mom gets Burned by the Boyfriend, Sees the Light, and Drinks Eggnog

I love the Hallmarks where a hero or heroine we like is not appreciated by their family or their boss and is not treated as well as they deserve. We know that, with the help of the love interest, they will finally be appreciated and valued. It always makes a nice satisfying sub-plot to the romance, which is, of course, the main event. Thinking back, many of my favorite hallmark movies have this element. Mingle All the Way does, and they do it very well. I guess I’m just a sucker for comeuppances and nice people prevailing over mean people.

I loved the chemistry between Jen Lilly and Brant Dougherty. The plot device used to get them together was clever and really worked. Molly has to personally test out her new app which, instead of matching couples interested in romance, it finds the perfect “plus-one” for functions for those with no time or interest in a relationship. The writers did a good job of making the viewer understand their initial antagonism with the fight over the angel ornament. They really invested me in their situations by making you root for them by well-written antagonists that you loved to hate. Also, the viewer sympathizes with them being focused on their goals, while all their family and co-workers are interested in is whether or not they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. How disrespectful!

The scene where our hero really tells off her mother was a gem. And I loved the way the angel came back into play in that scene as well. He was truly a knight in shining armor. Lindsay Wagner did a great job with making us really dislike her. She was terrifying. And then, after the hero told her a few home truths, showing us a sincere change of heart. I loved the way the eggnog played into that: very good writing. That whole scene at Molly’s house was worth the price of admission. I wish we had had more of it.

And the same goes with Jeff’s work troubles. She took a less proactive approach with helping him in that department, but she had his back as well as he had hers. And it did the trick. I love the way his rival was taken down. What a jerk and contemptible human being! Good writing and acting on the villain’s part. I just wish Molly had done the taking down.

The only low point was Molly’s silly petulant overreaction to Jeff meeting his ex by chance at a party. But that’s par for the course in Hallmark romance. It’s a plus when it’s avoided. All in all, though, one of the best this year.**8 out of 10**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 9, 2018

A December Bride

Poorly Cast

I am amazed at all of the glowing reviews for this movie and Jessica Lowndes in her role as the “December Bride”. I had seen it before, and apparently didn’t hate it, but upon catching a few minutes of it here and there last night, I just have to articulate my frustration. Jessica Lowndes is gorgeous, glamorous, and stunning. This role, as a jilted, hurt, insecure young lady, needed a more Sandra Bullock type rather than a Scarlet Johannson or Angelina Jolie type. It needed someone we could feel sorry for and relate to. It needed an actress with some comic timing, not a line reader. Her acting was the worse I have ever seen in a Hallmark movie. She did not inhabit her part, I was just listening to an actress read her script with some expression. I am sure I will get nothing but “not helpful” votes for this. but I just had to get it off my chest.

In fact, I just looked up her resume and she has been in only one other Hallmark movie, Merry Matrimony. Same comments on her acting there, so now I know I am not crazy. Daniel Lissing was quite good, and she was probably the beneficiary of his reflected glory in this one.**6 stars out of 10**

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 15, 2017

Surprised by Love

Slinkys and Twinkies

This Hallmark non-holiday romance has all of the prerequisite Hallmark clichés: Stuffy boyfriend, quirky true-love, visit to well off but mean parents, heroine caught in the wrong career, and troubled sister. It manages to overcome them all, thanks to the whimsical charm of Paul Campbell as Quigley, and Tim Conway as the grandfather pretending to have dementia in order to escape being drawn into the various family dramas. The redemption of her parents is well done and accomplished with a slinky and a Twinkie cake. The secondary romance of the sister and her next-door neighbor and son of the Mother’s nemesis is a nice touch. The sister was tons more likable and interesting than the primary heroine, and actually is more compatible with her love interest, but would not have provided the necessary “opposites attract” dynamic and her eventual character arc where she has her epiphany regarding her love life and her career. **8 out of 10 Stars**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 6, 2015