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 Hint of Love

A Winning Recipe

Dennis Andres shines in this entertaining and well-written TV romance. This is the second time I have seen him and he is even better in this one. He plays a cookbook author and blogger whose cooking is aimed at busy single fathers who want to serve up a home-cooked meal in less than 30 minutes. In order to expand his brand he gets hooked up with our heroine who is a Cordon-Bleu trained cookbook editor who specializes in high-end hoity-toity fare. Hilarity, conflict, and romance ensue.

As the down-to-earth rough around the edges hero, Will, Dennis Andres overflows with charm and appeal. He is attractive but not GQ male-model handsome. His line delivery is natural whether funny or heartfelt. A few times it sounded like he was ad-libbing his lines. I guess that means he is a good actor. As his love interest, Debs Howard is well cast with her patrician looks. Her character has a good character arc. At first, pretentious, snobby, and self-righteous (as Will tells her to her face), we learn that all is not what it seems on the surface. We find out she is from Albuquerque, her parents are down-home “just folks” and her abandoned dream is to open her own restaurant. The “opposites attract” chemistry between the two is right on and the kiss at the end was…yeah.

The script has some wit and good banter: “Who hates Nachos?! That’s like hating Freedom!” Couldn’t agree more. The initial hostility between the two food-lovers is well balanced. They are at odds but both have some good points in their arguments. They gradually get on the same page through compromise and listening. There is some good conflict from a snooty boyfriend to a weasel of a boss, and cheer-worthy good triumphing over evil scenes at the end.

I will definitely be looking forward to more TV romances with this talented new-to-the-genre actor. Hope he isn’t “discovered” too soon!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

March 3, 2021

The Holiday Fix Up

All Fixed Up

Jana Kramer plays an HGTV type star who is being pushed aside by an up-and-comer whose social media presence is better. She is out of work until the new year and is at loose ends until she is asked by an old friend, Jack, to renovate and rebuild his Inn which was demolished by a tree. He asks her ex, Coop, to work with her to restore the building and save Harbor Fest.

I liked the chemistry between Ryan McPartin, Coop, and Jana Kramer. The conflict in their two styles pushed this along. Jana, used to taking shortcuts and getting the job done as fast as possible for television and not always using the best materials versus Ryan, who was all in for a quality product. His career was based on reclaiming wood and reusing it. He was all about the craft. He wins her over to his way of thinking.

She films the renovation project for social media, and people love the more personal input and especially like Coop and her together. They seem like a good team. Why did Coop dump her to begin with? When the truth comes out Jana gets even angrier with Coop and I can’t say I blame her. Eventually, Jana’s popularity wins over her bosses and they offer her a big opportunity. Coop thinks she was just helping with the renovation to boost her career. Yikes.

Will they ever get this mess straightened out? Not sure I liked the resolution but they seemed happy with it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 13, 2021

Do I Say I Do?

I Was Entertained

I enjoyed this one. Jessica is a successful author who is very happy to complete her second manuscript for her publisher which will complete her contract with him. She wants to move on as he is her ex-boyfriend and she does not want to work with him anymore. Becca Tobin deserves more roles in Hallmark movies if she wants them. I liked the plot which was a little different from the usual with some interesting dilemmas and character development. The two leads’ chemistry was very good, as was the chemistry between the leads in the secondary romances. The secondary romances added a lot of interest. They were very cute. The pace was good. Always something going on and it didn’t get repetitive or bogged down.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

February 21, 2021

A Wedding for Christmas

A Character You Love to Hate-And That’s a Good Thing

Haley is a Wedding Planner extraordinaire in Los Angeles working for an ambitious boss at one of the premier event planners in the city. She works hard and constantly. She has a boyfriend but on their dates, they both spend most of their time on their phones handling business. When her sister decides she wants to get married at their Grandpa’s Christmas Tree farm out in the boonies instead of Fiji, she asks her sister to be her wedding planner.

Haley goes to the small town to secure the venue of the farm which has since been sold to her childhood friend. Despite insulting him and his way of life, he agrees because her sister used to be his best friend. She turns her nose up at using the local caterer, baker, and florist in favor of her hoity-toity vendors who will come running at the snap of her fingers. Nope. They all turn her down due to the short notice and the holiday and it’s out in the sticks. She is forced to go back to the local hicks all of whom she has managed to insult and alienate with her snooty ways.

This girl is a real snot.

But Hey, this is all about Haley’s mellowing from snobby city-girl to being nice and appreciating the charm of small-town life. The character is well written and her character arc seems authentic and believable. It was a pleasure to see her learn her lessons and turn into a decent human being. Unfortunately, the actress was not very good and didn’t do her character justice. And the actor who played her city boyfriend was worse. It was a thankless role, but he was no better than a cardboard cut-out. Her boss was ably played by Vivica A. Fox, the hardest working actress on TV, who was demanding and unreasonable as most Hallmark-type bosses are. Why do Hallmarkian bosses treat their best most valuable employees so mean? Everyone, including the love interest, was excellent as well, especially the sister, who was a darling.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

January 2, 2022

Merry Liddle Christmas Baby

Family Scenes but No Real Story

It’s safe to say, I just did not get this movie. But I preface this by saying this third in the trilogy is the first one I have watched. In doing some research, apparently in the first of the movies, the Liddle family is fairly dysfunctional and super annoying. In the second, they lose their maniacal tendencies but retain their penchant for stirring up chaos.

In “Baby”, everyone is super chill, even Jacquie who apparently used to be a real control freak. She is pregnant with a very big round baby and is on the couch with her husband and hoping for a peaceful Christmas (for a change.) Her family descends, but they are nice and normal! They are gorgeous and handsome with great clothes. Jacquie’s house is beautiful if a little sterile. The kids were happy and spirited but well-behaved. I was confused by who everyone was and who all those children belonged to. I got the 3 sisters. And I got that Jacquie was marrying a man with two kids. Where is their mother? Is she dead?

It didn’t seem to have much of a plot. The second sister, Treena, played by Latonya Williams, who I have really liked in other productions especially A Glenbrooke Christmas, and her husband are about ready to adopt a baby boy. I think one of those kids may be theirs as well. The younger sister discovers she is pregnant and is struggling to tell her boyfriend. Meanwhile, he is struggling to propose to her. I think she has a child too. The best scene in the movie was when he was trying to propose while she almost throws up on him. Luckily he manages to propose to her before she tells him she is pregnant so we don’t have to go into all that “He only wants to marry me because I’m pregnant” scenario.

There is no real focus to the movie. We are just plopped down in the middle of this rich, nice, beautiful family and we just soak all the perfection in. There are some blips: The kids trying to get a reclusive neighbor to come out of his house, The family matriarch is stuck in Utah by an avalanche (while on a ski trip-of course), and the adoption is falling through. But it’s all unconnected. There is also a Christmas miracle at the end involving Jacquie’s pregnancy and it is as much a miracle as a Virgin Birth would have been. So that was Christmassy. I think I am really interested in seeing the first and second in this trilogy, but probably not The Liddle Family Christmas Vacation, if there is one.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

December 30, 2021

Joy for Christmas

The Mystery of the Lost Plot. Or Was it Kidnapped?

This movie began by ticking me off. Cindy Busby plays a publicist whose boss screws up a booking with their client leading to great embarrassment for her. Then he turns around and throws her under the bus when it was his fault. And apparently, it is not the first time. Now, most “Hallmark” heroines would suck it up and take one for the team, but not Cindy. She ups and quits on the spot! Her boss is horrified because she is his star employee. So as quickly as it made me angry, it immediately redeemed itself.

At a loss as to her next career move, the family business beckons. Her sister is a top executive with the family firm and she tells her that they need her desperately. All of the money meant to fund their big charity of the year has been swindled. Cindy left the firm after her father, under the apparent influence of his second wife and her son, had gotten away from the charity, community and people-focused ethos begun by her dead mother and is now solely focused on profits. So it’s the two sisters, “the Silver Belles” against the rest of the family. This is shaping up nicely into an interesting story involving more than a hint of family skullduggery with a dose of wicked stepmother and an equally wicked half-brother. And maybe even some justice served, groveling, and redemption on the horizon.

To save the charitable event she recruits a fellow victim of the charity swindler, Sam Page, a famous ex-baseball player. It isn’t easy because he eschews social events and is a famous scrooge. It seems like a high cost and low probability of benefit scheme, and it’s boring. But with only the support of her sister, she finally succeeds in getting his help. Romance proceeds but they fail in attracting enough donations to benefit the needy children. And disappointingly for the intrigue and plot, the stepmother turns nice and helpful all of a sudden.

Cindy and Sam have fallen in love and shared intimate confidences. At the end of the failed event her still wicked stepbrother spitefully twists her words about Sam to him which results in hurt, confusion, and a breakup.

Ok, it’s all shaping up as usual and I was all set for the misunderstanding to be cleared up, the charity saved at the last minute, and best of all for the bad stepbrother to get his comeuppance. Then the story just falls apart at the seams. I don’t know what happened but either the writers either lost the plot or the powers that be in charge of family values at GAC tampered with the script. Without warning or explanation, the stepbrother’s firmly established conniving bad guy persona gets abandoned and he’s suddenly all about goodness, family values, rainbows, and unicorns. The charity and the romance are rescued in a non-related plot development and the bad guy is as happy as the rest of the family. It was downright insulting. So this was an 8, got demoted to a 6 or 7 during the middle, and ended up a 1. I’ll be nice and up it to a 3 out of respect for Cindy Busby and Sam Page who were great together.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

December 29, 2021

The Christmas Ball

“May Your Feet always Bring You to Where your Heart isand Nevermind Your Commitments and Responsibilities

I enjoyed most of this for a couple of reasons. First of all Nick Hendrix from Midsomer Murders played the love interest! How awesome is that?! Second, I liked the Historic Englishness of it, particularly bringing in the old-timey waltz and the quadrille which harkens to Georgette Heyer which I always enjoy, and other historical romances which I sometimes enjoy.

It is “suggested” to a respected ballerina, Clare, who is unfortunately past her prime that she retire from professional dancing and take up teaching or some other adjunct to the ballet business. She is not quite ready to hang up her toe shoes and has to ponder this momentous and devastating change of direction. So she accepts her Aunt Bridget’s invitation to holiday in England. Her aunt has an ulterior motive. She and her history professor friend (Nick) are trying to get her home on the national register of historic buildings. To that end, they put on a Christmas Ball to woo the commission.

Her aunt also wants her to stay in England and take over her dance studio and things are looking promising in the love department as well. Nick almost kisses her under the mistletoe. “Don’t look at me with that tone of voice!” And Aunt Bridget has a promise of romance as well with Richard Lintern who I am familiar with due to his appearances in many British mystery and crime shows.

Clare has choreographed the ball and recruited and taught the volunteers who will demonstrate the dances. All is looking good when she gets a call from her ballet company in Boston. In an amazing stroke of luck, 2 ballerinas are hobbled and Clare is the only one who can fill in to dance the Nutcracker! She very wisely takes advantage of their desperation by negotiating a very sweet deal that will revitalize her career and ensure her future.  She leaves England before the Christmas Ball to save the Nutcracker in Boston and I don’t blame her. Good decision. This is her dream and she is set up for life as well. Everyone is a little miffed even though they are pretty much set to go without Clare, but Nick steps up and defends her like a hero. Alas, Clare’s choice is not an acceptable one in a Christmas movie. She changes her mind again and flounces back to England in time for the Christmas Ball, leaving her ballet company and the Nutcracker and all of the poor people who bought tickets in the lurch. I thought this was a very dirty trick. Not cool at all. So she was kinda wrong to leave her Aunt and the ball, even though I don’t blame her, but she was really wrong to leave Boston. But all that is not addressed. Clare gets her kiss at the Christmas ball and presumably stays in England for the easy life. The end brought it down a notch.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

December 27, 2021

Toying With the Holidays (The Holiday Train)

On Track

Workaholic Danielle ( Can we get a Hallmark heroine who is kinda lazy just one time?) is taking her son home for Christmas to experience the holiday the way she did when she was a child with all of the bells and whistles, including the town’s famous holiday train. At the last minute, her boss lays a project on her that she can work on through her vacation. She briefly stands up to him but when he frowns at her, she caves. When will we have a female employee who is a shining star for the company not give up her power and submit to the boss’s unreasonable demands? In this case though, she is not struggling with the project throughout the movie casting a pall on the family time and celebrations. She pretty much knocks out the project right away and we move on to the important stuff. How refreshing!

Dani is as energetic at home as she is at work and when she learns the Holiday Train which her late Dad took the lead on for the town is kaput, she is determined to set it back on track (no pun intended). To that end, she gets together with Chad Michael Murray who repairs her Dad’s Lionel train she found in the attic. He is a train enthusiast as well as a hobby shop owner. CMM is as lazy and disorganized as Dani is efficient and hardworking. He’s also a little grumpy and a slob. (“Sorry, It’s the maid’s day off.” “Are you sure she isn’t hiding under all that stuff?”) His business is suffering (surprise surprise) possibly because he leaves his store open with no one on the floor while he is in the back room repairing stuff with headphones on so he can’t hear if he has any customers who might would want to buy something but more likely just steal it and he would never know the difference. But opposites attract. Danielle whips his business into shape in no time with a website and a human presence minding the store. CMM embarks on restoring the holiday train and romance ensues, despite some competition from the frisky flower shop owner next door.

Cindy was well cast as the peppy smiley Dani and I liked the pairing with laidback CMM who can do “scruffy” like nobody’s business. Cindy looked great as did the actress who played her Mom who had a little promise of a romance of her own. The Lionel train aspect was interesting. I love trains. Also, I loved Danielle’s house, which looked like a real home in a real neighborhood.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 21, 2021

Christmas by Chance

Who is Dumber more uninformed? The Writer or Her Character? Or the Producer? Or the Director? Tough Call.

This has got to be the most idiotic script in the whole wide world.

Chance is the daughter of a prominent collector who has started a gift shop of rarities to honor her late father.

She is so dumb, she doesn’t even know what social media is or what “post” a story or picture means, so of course, her business is a failure. Luckily, her friend and employee does have some 21st-century know-how (20th century would have done) and starts an online presence for the store. Business is improved and maybe she can survive for another month.

She is hired by a wealthy, successful, and very pale businessman to help him court his longtime girlfriend during the Christmas season. Don’t ask. He is “in love” with the shallow but beautiful super-model even though he learns she hates puppies, lies about everything, and owning a tennis bracelet is her life’s dream present. She also hates charity work, or even giving to charity. She might as well hate World Peace, but he perseveres in his courtship even though they have nothing in common and he and Chance are soulmates and she is just as pretty.

For some reason, he thinks giving the book-hater a first edition of A Christmas Carol would be a good idea even though she hates old things. Chance has a copy but since it was a gift from her father, she won’t sell it. But she does have a copy of Jane Eyre she can sell him! By the way, her renowned book collector father defaced the rare Dickens by writing an inscription to his daughter in it.

She vows to find him another and makes a few phone calls. Now a first edition of A Christmas Carol is easily found, if you have $15,000 and know about The Google. OK, you may point out, 21st century challenged Chance doesn’t know about the internet. Except thanks to her friend saving her business by telling her about the internet 45 minutes earlier, she does! Or one of her colleagues she called would have told her. Or, more likely, bought one for $15,000 and sold it to the dopey dame for $16,000. Who probably would have sold it to the guy for $16,001 and apologized while doing so.

When she thinks she has found a copy, she opens the package and finds out she ordered a new biography of Carol Christmas. Oh No! How did that happen? Did she think a first edition of A Christmas Carol would cost the same as a brand new book? Or did she just pay thousands of dollars for a $5 used book? Anyway, she decides to give him her copy. She chunks it in a $2.00 gift bag and leaves the precious treasure in the hands of supermodel who doesn’t know a first edition from the Penguin paperback edition to give to him. In fact, she probably would have thought a new paperback was more desirable than the nasty old book and I’m surprised she didn’t throw it in the dumpster. And this girl is in the antiquities and collectibles business! See what I mean by idiotic? It’s too bad he didn’t want the Jane Eyre because she probably would have sold it to him for 50 bucks. It’s worth $45,000 to $125,000.

I won’t belabor the idiocy but the guy still wants to marry the puppy hater and she has to break up with HIM. Finally, Mr. Rich and Brilliant realizes Chance is the girl for him. The End.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

December 17, 2021