Road Trip Romance

Not Dreadful, but Very Very Average

Which is almost worse than dreadful.

I’m getting to be able to judge if I am going to like a Hallmark( 8, 9, or 10 stars) by the amount and application of make-up the head girl is wearing. Natalie Hall’s foundation and eyelashes were thick and ever-present, therefore I didn’t like this one. As unflattering and aging as a lot of make-up is, at least it was understandable at the beginning when she was pitching her company to a potential client. It’s not like this was a ranch-girl part. But why the next day, when she was off the clock in a small town or alone in a car with someone she supposedly doesn’t like? I mean, how long does it take to put false eyelashes on?

Natalie meets an ex-high-school rival in the same distant city while they are both competing for the same contract. And their companies sell the exact crazy thing: very niche mechanical party favors. What are the odds? I guess the same as two rivals both being butterfly wranglers for parties and having their parties right next door to each other at the same time. Even though they are both at least in their 30s, they, at least Natalie, are still nursing their petty high-school grudges.

After their business is concluded they both have to fly back to Hometownsville. She for her sister’s wedding, he for his Dad’s retirement barbecue. The flights have all been canceled. Road Trip! Forced propinquity! Hate to Love! That’s all folks!

A couple of highlights: Along the way, their car break-eth down, and they are force-eth to attend-eth a Rennaisance Festival in a small town, sleep-eth in a tent (no s’mores thank God), and deal-eth with a mechanic who won’t fix-eth their car because it’s a Renaissance festival and they didn’t have-eth cars in the Renaissance.  Natalie, the maid of honor, misses all of the festivities and her maid-of-honor duties and almost misses the wedding. The bride’s ”best friend”, who is a dead ringer for Joyce DeWitt of Three’s Company,  is corralled into taking over for Natalie, and she likes it a little too much. When Natalie finally arrives, Joyce tells her the wrong church and leaves her with the wrong dress. Wow.

Natalie seems to be a favorite with many and seems to be the go-to girl when a  young(ish) lead is needed. I am not a fan. I do like Corey Sevier, who plays a bit of a nerd. He has the best line in the movie, “When the real men were huntering and gathering, I always preferred to stay at home and read about it.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

May 20, 2022

A Royal Runaway Romance

” So You Went and Fell in Love with a Princess.”

A royal on a road trip. What could go wrong? This one was ripe for every cliche in the book being a mash-up of two popular Hallmark tropes. But it was actually pretty good. Yes, we had a festival, S’mores at the fireside, save the Bed-and-Breakfast, and a ranch family reconciliation, but thanks to excellent rapport and chemistry between the two lead characters it was slightly above average for me.

The Princess of Bundleberry? Burberry? (obviously not an eastern or southern European  country because it doesn’t end in “ia”) falls for the Chicago, America artist who is painting her portrait. When he goes back home, she schemes to follow him by visiting her Uncle in California. Once in California, her passport is confiscated (S.O.P. for royals in case they want to fly the coop) and she is forced to drive instead of fly to Chicago where the supremely barely interested artist is having a showing. Meanwhile, she is assigned a bodyguard/watchdog. Her Uncle sympathizes with her predicament and gives her his blessing to follow her heart, as he once did, and hires the reluctant (he’s about to go on vacation) bodyguard to drive her across the American west to Chicago (in a gorgeous vintage Mustang) to see if there is a future with this artist fellow. Of course,  the alert viewer understands that there is no chance of this thanks to many clues.

A couple of things pulled this out of the mire. First, the princess, played by newcomer Philippa Northeast, who started out stiff and boring, really opened up once she started experiencing “typical” American culture. Her enthusiasm and embrace of diners, food, festivals, salt of the earth Americans, and the beautiful expanse of the United States was very endearing. The romance going on between her and the bodyguard was well constructed. In addition to the fun they have along the way, they also have a few serious conversations that contribute to their friendship and understanding. He always maintains his professionalism despite being friendly and nice so there was a slow burn thing going on. There is the anticipation of her reunion with the artist and what’s going to happen. We know he was just casually flirting with her in Buttleberry and he is more involved with his career than with a relationship with her. His cavalier treatment was a stretch since he probably owed his current popularity to painting her portrait, she is beautiful and nice, and he is single. We know he is not gay, because that role is filled by the understanding Uncle. Yet he disses her every step of the way, not even returning her calls.  You gotta kind of admire his chutzpah, actually.

I need not say more about how this all plays out except to say it is a much better ending than Roman Holiday.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

April 14, 2022

The Wedding Veil Unveiled

Prego!

In part two of the trilogy, The Wedding Veil Unveiled, Autumn Reeser is going to Italy to teach an Art History class for a month or so. She is taking the veil with her to confirm that it is the same veil in the portrait, and if so, to learn the history behind it. For one thing, how did it get to San Francisco? First of all, if I were Lacey Chabert or Alison Sweeney I would be royally P.O. ed that Autumn Reeser got to go to Italy for her part of the trilogy, and I didn’t. The beautifully photographed scenes in that country were one of the best parts of this one. While Autumn and her love interest are investigating the story behind the veil worn in the portrait by the fictional artist Amici we vicariously explore some beautiful destinations including Venice, Verona, Burano, and Padua. No Rome, and I didn’t miss it at all.

It seemed like there were more side stories in this one than is usual. The story behind the Veil was intriguing and well thought out. They brought in some hurdles for Autumn to overcome in teaching her Art History class which were engaging. It was good that they had the capable and poised Autumn screw up a little bit. Her buttoned-up personality needed to be loosened up. Her love interest, Paolo, had his own problems. He was part of a family that has been in the lace business for generations. We get to know his large loving family, which was nice. But he wants to expand the business, and his father is too cautious and conservative. One of the stories, about the young student who couldn’t afford the tuition came out of left field and was basically a time-filler since it was completely untethered to anything else going on in the stories. Since we didn’t have baking shenanigans, ice skating, or snowball fights? With the extraneous details given about the boy’s situation, it seemed like they were going to hook it in somewhere, but in the end, they just didn’t get it done.

Although the male lead was handsome and likable, the romance was just so-so, and more than a little routine. But I liked the meet-cute and the meet-cute part II. And when the final scene showed them getting married I admit I had an “Awwhh” moment. Maybe there was just too much other stuff going on.

I just want to add that Autumn’s wardrobe in this was beautiful and well-chosen and she looked great. I questioned a lot of the choices for (or by?) Lacey Chabert in part I, but the only thing that was a little questionable in this one was her choice of shoes to go sightseeing in. She looked very uncomfortable. Part 3 featuring the cynical unromantic Alison Sweeney character was well set up and I’m looking forward to it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

February 15, 2022

Time for Them to Come Home for Christmas

A Road Trip to Remember

Amnesia stories usually provide rich material for a nice story, and this one is no exception. Jessy Schram, a favorite of mine, plays a young woman who gets dunked in a river after being bumped by a car. We next see her in the local hospital near the Canadian border with amnesia. Her luggage has been lost. The only clue to who she is is an ad for a Christmas Tree lighting in Charleston, SC that she left behind at a local diner. It has a handwritten message on the back saying “Please Come” and signed “Mark”.

“Jane Doe” is an immediate hit at the hospital due to her friendly, spirited, and outgoing nature. Jessy conveys all of that with the underlying vulnerability that she is so good at. She makes a friendly connection with a nice nurse, Paul, who offers to drive her to Charleston as it is on his way to his family’s home. It is almost immediately apparent that Paul is hiding some secret pain as he is very conflicted about going home. Jessy and Brendan are perfectly cast and their performances are spot on. I like that they made Paul a nurse instead of a doctor, thus it made sense when he drives her in an old dilapidated car that conveniently breaks down on the way. A doctor would have flown.

On their road trip, they have a positive impact on all of the people they meet along the way. Including Alison Sweeney in a brief cameo appearance! This is a real thing this year. This is the third movie I have seen in which other Hallmark stars appear briefly in another movie not their own. I think it’s really cool. And very smart given the competition other networks are giving them for the attention of the Christmas movie viewing public.

The movie keeps you engaged at all times what with the mystery behind Paul’s sadness and conflicted feelings going home and Jessy’s real identity. Jessy starts having flashbacks which hint that she may be married and have a child! Why would she leave a husband and child? Is she a bad person? Is he a bad person? It won’t be a spoiler to reassure you that she is not a bad person and her future lies with the nice and attractive Paul.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

November 29, 2021

Dashing Home for Christmas

Happy Ending? I Hope So…

I loved the romance and humor in this. First of all the two leads were in each others company almost non-stop throughout the movie which led to lots of interaction and realistic relationship building. I loved their chemistry. They had two very distinct and quirky personalities which at the same time were polar opposites from each other. So the journey from indifference to friendship and then love was interesting and full of twists and turns.

I have to say the male lead was certainly not the typical leading man type. Dorky, with glasses, but handsome underneath it all.

He over shared with all and sundry and was pretty irritating to his co-star and the viewer as well. But as we and she come to see, it is because of his warm, kind and generous heart. I generally prefer the non-traditional underdog type hero to the too handsome to be real types anyway. If this is not your jam, you probably will not like this.

The “girl”, on the other hand was not interested in anything but her own business, and would not get off her phone. She was snotty and entitled, but yet she loved her family and wanted nothing else but to get home to them before her sister had her baby. She was an exotic beauty, as opposed to the hero’s looks.

So it was an interesting matchup and romance. Very much out of the typical box. My only doubt is if they can sustain the relationship past the “honeymoon period,” they were so different. So in the interest of happy endings, it’s probably a good thing it ended when it did.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

November 23, 2020

Road to Christmas

Some Special Touches

Very pleasant. Nothing super special, but nothing to make you want to throw your remote at the TV set either. The acting was definitely above average by Jessy and Chad Michael Murray. I like the actress who played the mother, Teryl Rothery. She is in many Hallmark films and always very reliable. I liked the plot with the three adopted Brothers finally reunited as a surprise for Christmas. It added an emotional Depth that’s been missing in many of these Hallmark Christmas stories. I love the graphics that showed the journeys of the two protagonists! One normally does not see such creativity and cuteness in a Hallmark movie. It took me by surprise.

One final comment that I hope isn’t too mean but just needs to be said. Jessy Schram has lost way too much weight and looks a good bit worse for wear. If she’s been sick I hope she gets better soon because she really is a top-notch Hallmark actress.**7 out of 10 stars**

Rating: 1 out of 5.

November 7, 2018

The Christmas Train

The Stars and the Setting Put this one Over

A lower-tier Hall of Fame-caliber movie, but Hall of Fame worthy nonetheless. The cast was strong and the main actors were well known and respected. Dermot Mulroney and Kimberly Williams Paisley made an attractive and likable couple. I personally find Danny Glover incredibly annoying, but I love Joan Cusack and enjoyed her role in this movie. The setting on the train to California? I loved it, but I’m prejudiced. I was lucky enough as a teen to travel from Chicago to Los Angeles on the El Capitan and The City of Los Angeles and back again during the Christmas Season. The plot was OK and benefited from being based on a David Baldacci book. The twist at the end really saved the story, though. After reading another reviewer’s comparison to the book, I really am considering reading the book upon which this was based.

Reviewing Hallmark Christmas movies is kind of a stupid hobby of mine, and I like to review the dreadful ones and the enjoyable ones or if I think I have something valuable to point out. I am jotting down a little review of this one because it’s a cut above the usual. **8 out of 10**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 5, 2017

One Starry Christmas

I Hope They have Fun while it Lasts. A week? Maybe?

I turned this on 15 minutes in and thought it looked pretty good. Attractive hero, cute heroine, a bus trip. then I looked it up on IMDb and saw that I had seen it before, and that I had given it only 4 stars. Hmmm. By the end of the movie the little annoyances and irritations added up and I understood. My main complaints echo some of the other reviewers.

1.) How many times does she flirtily call him “Cowboy”? a hundred?

2.) The boyfriend was unquestionably a jerk. He did not handle the competition well to say the least. and that proposal was cringe-worthy. But my lord, I kind of felt sorry for him. He was so painfully desperate.

3.)She flirted with “Cowboy” right in front of said boyfriend. Not nice. In fact she was kind of a h0. She shows up at the breakfast table in a nice outfit to show cowboy New York City. Takes one look at him after he’s had a chance to take a shower, and goes back to put on a sexier outfit and smack on some lipstick. Need I ask what her game was here?

4.) The horse ride through New York and New Jersey. Stupid Stupid Stupid. Yes, it was super corny. But it made absolutely no sense. Why didn’t he take a cab? So here’s the main thing:

5.) So she had a big problem with moving away from Chicago due to her position as an award-winning professor of astronomy. (don’t get me started on that.) Yet she wants to hook up with a rancher in Texas, who can hardly compromise at all as to where he lives for the rest of his life. So what’s the inevitable result? I guess Hallmark didn’t think that through.

It wasn’t all bad. I liked the parents, and the boyfriend’s acting was great. Damon Runyon as cowboy made a romantic hero. But her incredibly shallow behavior, the impossibility of a long-term relationship, the needless stupidity of the premise, and the corny clichés prevent me from giving it more than 4 stars. Nice coat wardrobe though.**4 stars out of 5**

November 17, 2017

Journey to Enchantment

by Patricia Veryan

** spoiler alert ** Journey to Enchantment is another deft mix of Veryan’s signature adventure/romance. Like its predecessor, the emphasis is on the adventure. In the second in the series, we follow Geoffrey Delavale, Penny’s brother she thought dead in Practice to Deceive. He is a dying man, but still manages, masquerading as Ligon Doone, to rescue Jacobites fleeing from Lord Cumberland’s savagery. There is a shade of The Scarlet Pimpernel in this one, as Prudence, our Scottish heroine, idolizes Ligon Doone, while thinking contemptuously of Geoffrey Delavale, a Sassenach she suspects of being a spy. He is recovering from his war wounds at her family’s estate on the banks of Loch Ness by virtue of the fact that though fighting against Bonnie Prince Charlie, he is an old friend of her brother Robbie. The second half of the book is a chase through the highlands, as Geoff, Prue, and their compatriots are running from soldiers, bounty hunters, and paid assassins. It ends with a tense nail biter of a showdown between Geoff and Prudence and the evil and greedy Uncle Joseph, the wanton Aunt Sybil, Roland Otton, and the Captain who has been pursuing them. I did enjoy this one a bit more than the first of the Golden Chronicles as I found the hot tempered Prudence more funny and engaging than Penny, and the brave and noble Geoffrey much more mature than the sometimes not-too-bright Quentin Chandler. **3 out of 5 stars**

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 28, 2016

Practice to Deceive

by Patricia Veryan

The first of the Golden Chronicles, this is one of Veryan’s more adventurous, swashbuckling titles. It is full of derring-do and one of her many picaresque/chase type adventures. There is some humor, but not as much as most of her novels. It is probably too long and could easily been shortened a bit, but it does serve to introduce a number of characters, male and female, which will make a number of appearances in later novels in the series, and even in her later Jeweled Man series. In this way, the more you read her books, the more you are invested in the characters and their fates. She weaves a very complex plot in an enchanting way. Sometimes one just has to pause and read a description or a scene again just for the quality of the writing. I understand how people might be disappointed if they are expecting another Georgette Heyer, because their books have little in common. What they do have in common is how they both create a beguiling world peopled with very well-rounded, lovable and hate-able characters. What Veryan has over Heyer is that you meet them or hear about them again and again as your read through the series.

It’s 3 stars because her other books are so much better! Although I will say it has one of the most effective and withering scoldings of a hero (by his father) that I can remember. It is so on point and cringe producing that I felt sorry for him even though he deserved every scathing word.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

October 13, 2016