Christmas Class Reunion

A Class Act

The movie starts with the Winter Prom of 2007 featuring 6 stereotypical teen “types.” The smart and popular achiever, both male and female versions, the class clown, the in-love inseparable couple, the popular jock, and the class nerd. The mean girl is missing. They are part of the class deemed “cursed” due to disasters at prom, graduation, and other class events. They used the same early 30-something-year-old actors to play themselves as teens. And may I just say that as much as Botox, collagen injections and fillers do not work for 30-somethings, that goes double if they are playing teens. I speak of one of the secondary actors in particular.

Cut to 15 years later and the “achiever”, Elle, short for Noelle, played by Aimee Teagarden is in charge of planning the class reunion. We know that she is the focus mainly because her name is Christmassy. She indeed has fulfilled her potential, having made quite a name for herself as the Chief Technology Officer of a successful and important company. She leaves Silicon Valley for Hartford CT, looking forward to seeing her old friends again, particularly Kam the male version of herself whom she had a crush on when she was in high school. We next meet Devin the class clown, very appealingly played by Tanner Novlan. At the 2007 prom, he flooded both Aimee and the school gym with his malfunctioning snow machine. Tanner is the male lead and his chemistry with Aimee was amazing.

She is very wary of him because he was her complete opposite in high school and always getting into trouble. She is surprised that the irresponsible screw-up is now the loving father of a 13-year-old tech prodigy and running a successful event supply business. He has always had a crush on her though. The young actress that played his daughter was a star and a scene-stealer, by the way. As father and daughter, the two actors have an easy and natural rapport. She is very impressed that her tech-phobic Dad knows the famous Elle Chamberlain.

As the reunion plans come into shape we also reconnect with the inseparable couple whose marriage is falling apart even as their real estate agency is booming. The Nerd Girl is now an attractive and successful TV host up for a big promotion to a national morning show. She still lacks self-confidence despite her success and is inseparable from her best friend who is also her very flamboyant stylist. When the popular jock makes an appearance we think we spy a love interest for our likable TV host, but sadly he is attracted to her gay best friend instead! Aimee is very happy when her old unrequited crush, Kam, shows up. He is just like her: career and success-focused and very very busy. Too busy and important to help with the reunion, so she finds herself partnering with her old nemesis, Devin.

Of course, the inevitable catastrophes start to happen with a fire breaking out at their fancy venue and Aimee’s company being the target of a federal investigation putting her whole career in jeopardy. As she works with Devin in finding a new venue and tackling all of the challenges, she realizes that her worth is not what she does for a living, but what she is inside. She and all of her friends’ lives are happily sorted, which we learn in one of my beloved “one year later” epilogues. Hallmark is delighting fans by casting other popular Hallmark stars in cameo roles. This time was Chris McNally’s turn in a cute performance as an Elf-garbed photographer. I tend to like movies using ensemble casts and this one was no exception.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Autumn in the City

New York is so Nice!

This was fairly watchable despite a few troublesome aspects. One of which was the mismatch in the casting. Aimee Teegarden is an attractive and relatively youthful Hallmark leading lady and Evan Roderick as her love interest was a fresh new face and did well. Unfortunately, together, the pair didn’t work. Aimee is in her early 30s playing an almost 30-year-old. Evan Roderick is 6 years younger and could pass for 17. So, for me, the chemistry was off.

Piper has escaped from her hometown and her over-protective parents to pursue her dreams in New York City. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any dreams other than escaping from her dead-end life in Iowa or Omaha or whatever. This leads to a series of temp jobs where she hopes that her destiny will hit her “like a bolt of lightning.” She is almost 30 years old. Honey, if lightning hasn’t struck by now, it’s not going to. The thing is, her passion is right in front of her, but she is totally oblivious. Big Clue: She is constantly drawing and coloring in her sketchbook which is never far from her side. So, Piper, art? Maybe? While waiting for her bolt out of the blue, Piper waves aside several amazing opportunities that most young ambitious *20* somethings starting from scratch would kill for. I could neither sympathize, understand, nor relate. She turns down a supervisory position in a museum, which I’m pretty sure would be snapped up by most master’s degree holders in the field just to get their foot in the door. She takes a job as the personal assistant to a Broadway star. But she is about ready to go on a national and international tour, including London. Piper doesn’t want to go (why not?????!!!!!!!) and quits or is fired. Then she gets a job in an art gallery where she promptly sells a painting they have been trying to get rid of for months and earns a 10% commission which the owner has to insist she accept. New York certainly is the land of opportunity and New Yorkers are all just waiting to give nice mid-westerners cool jobs. But not cool enough for Piper. Despite being a closerthanthis match to her artistic talents, she quits to go back home to her boring life and suffocating parents even ditching her own birthday party. (She is sad because her boss told her her cute sketches weren’t quite gallery show material.) Spoiler alert. She changes her mind at the last minute.

While all this is going on she gets to know Austin, the son of a world-famous journalist and Piper’s next-door neighbor. He is writing a  children’s book about Nathan the Squirrel rather than following in his egotistical mother’s footsteps. His mother won’t let up and she gets him a job he doesn’t want as a reporter and instead of just turning it down, he is a waste of space, acts like a petulant child, and gets fired. Both of these two lead charmed lives, however, even for Hallmark. Austin submits his manuscript to a publisher, thanks to some shaming from Piper, and, even without an agent, it gets accepted. And not only accepted but they want a whole series about Nathan! He had talked Piper into doing the illustrations for his pitch. Lightening Bolt! By the end, after a lot of “tragedy” and triumph, she has her dream career and a boyfriend. There were no pumpkins in this one (pumpkin spice lattes don’t count) but lots of leaves. Attention young midwesterners! Life in New York City really isn’t like this!

Rating: 6 out of 10.

My Christmas Family Tree

Too Many Questions


Overall, this was a very good Hallmark. A young 30-year-old woman does a DNA test along with her best friend and discovers she has a paternity match. Her mother had died when she was 9 years old, and she never knew her father. She and her father decide to meet. The casting and the performances were excellent and the plot was compelling. First of all, there was no Hallmark Christmas set piece that wasn’t crammed in somewhere. I know some people enjoy the obligatory clumsy ice-skating scene and the gingerbread house making, etc. But I find them to be just filler most of the time: tedious and lazy. I’ve learned to live with them though.

There were several aspects, however, which took it down a notch or two for me. The idea that a DNA matching company would mix up the DNA results just because the two clients had the same name is way over the line. Did they also have the same birthdate? Same place of birth? Same social security number? And then according to the story, their desperate phone call to Vanessa was just another big oopsie, they were right the first time, and Vanessa really is Richard’s daughter? Not because of another phone call from the DNA company admitting their mistake, but just because he finally had the revelation that both “Patty” and “Trisha” are both nicknames for “Patricia.” OH, and he found a picture of the girlfriend in question and she bore a strong resemblance to Vanessa?

And what about that? So Richard had completely forgotten what his girlfriend looked like until he found her picture? A girl whom he was in love with, had meaningful sex with, and whom he had tried to find after he got back from his tour of duty? Whose picture he had kept in a box for 30 years? Because as soon as he saw Vanessa, wouldn’t the phrase, “you look just like your mother?” been uttered as soon as they met? Apparently, when he first met Vanessa, she didn’t even look vaguely familiar! What about the other Vanessa? Is she going to show up at some point? As another reviewer pointed out, didn’t Richard and the other Vanessa get the same phone call from the DNA folks that Vanessa got?

And how cruel to reveal that she wasn’t Richard’s daughter in front of the whole extended family. If she just couldn’t take it anymore, leave the room and ask to see Richard and Mrs. Richard privately so he could maintain some dignity. And so he could break the news gently to his young children. She is not twelve, she is thirty.

They should have had a “1 month later” where all these dangling loose ends were made palatable with some kind of explanation and closure, no matter how lame. I didn’t care about the romance, it was definitely secondary to the main story. The script gave Andrew Walker very little to work with.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 16, 2021