Bottled With Love

Bethany Bottles Charm

This is another take on You got Mail, which was a new take on In the Good Old Summertime, which was a new take on The Shop Around the Corner. That’s OK because it is a  sure-fire and enjoyable trope for a romantic comedy. Closed off  Abbey is disappointed in love again, and on the advice of her aunt pours out her heart in a letter which is found by Nick. He emails her and they start a correspondence. They really connect on a deep level.

Meanwhile, free-spirited Nick is summoned from his vagabond life by his father and sister who want him to temporarily help with the family corporation. Their star employee is none other than focused, efficient, no-nonsense workaholic Abbey who is paired up with Nick, who definitely marches to a different drummer. They strike sparks off of each other because they are so different, but as they get to know each other, they see the other’s value, and become attracted.

The pen pals finally agree to meet, but before that can happen, Nick realizes that his soulmate pen pal is none other than uptight Abbey. He freaks out and stands her up. She blocks him on email.

On a mission for the company, which is a whole other story, Abbey and Nick continue to bond and fall in love especially since Nick now knows Abbey’s business self is so different from her personal self. Nick finally confesses that he is her secret pen pal and humbly apologizes for not telling her sooner and crying off from their big date. Now here is where the Hallmark version differs from its predecessors. Instead of being thrilled that her pen pal soulmate is the same guy she is falling in love with in person, she gets mad! This is because the Hallmark formula demands a conflict and misunderstanding that has to be resolved in the last 20 minutes of the show. In addition to resolving the romance, Nick’s shaky career prospects are taken care of quite nicely as well.

Bethany Joy Lenz is a joy as always and she teams well with talented and attractive Andrew Walker. The scene where she blisses out over her beloved pancakes Nick surprises her with is delightful.  I just can’t say enough about Bethany Joy Lenz. She elevates every show she is in.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

October 15, 2021

Sweet Autumn

No Cliché Left Untouched

Soooooooooooo Boring. I’ll have to disagree with most of the reviewers here. I usually like Nikki Deloach and Andrew Walker. But Nikki had a weird hairdo and no opportunity to shine because of the dull script and Andrew was just meh in this one for the same reason. It all centers on the over-used-to-death plot of the successful woman’s having to return to her small town to run a business she inherited but has to share with a handsome man who she conflicts with. Lord, I almost fell asleep typing that. Throw in the obligatory festival and a frolic and there you have it. This one, however, is made worse by the dead aunt from whom she inherited the candy store (SWEET Autumn, get it?) reaching back from the grave by leaving cloying and hackneyed words of advice for the couple in order to bring them together. This was a lazy effort and unworthy of the talent.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

October 23, 2020

The 27 Hour Day

Chill!

**spoilers**

This was a very calm Hallmark with the usual shenanigans showing up only briefly. A highly successful A-type personality who is an efficiency expert has the rug yanked out from under her when she is not invited on a speaking tour with an Oprah Winfrey-like self-help guru. “Oprah” tells her that her life is efficient but meaningless. Lauren, played by Hallmark fave, Autumn Reeser, is annoying but thanks to Autumn’s charm and acting talent, not intolerably so. She goes on a prescribed retreat in Montana where she learns to calm down and sit still for a minute. She and the son of the family who owns the retreat share an attraction and become friendly. And that’s about it. He is having some easily solved financial problems and is sort of starting to regret his decision to give up veterinary school. There is a honey fest, a super-cute pig instead of a dog, and there is a group cooking scene where no food is thrown(!), but brownies are burnt. Also there is a kiss between the two 30-somethings that is not interrupted by a rainstorm, a snowball, or a busybody, but fades to black. Do we see them waking up together the next morning? No. But I think Hallmark was testing the waters here. If the “family-friendly” crowd doesn’t rise up in protest, this type of scenario may be in the offing at some point for two mature adults.

By the end, Autumn, her work life balance back in balance visits her mother and turns down Oprah’s invitation because a speaking tour would throw things back out of balance. The retreat owner returns to veterinary school in upstate New York which is just a “short plane ride” from Autumn’s home-base, New York City. There is only a vague hint and hope that their relationship may turn into something more significant. Another interesting take for Hallmark.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

August 8, 2021

Love Struck Café

Textbook Hallmark

Nothing special at all. Not much to like here other than the reliable Andrew Walker. I am sure he appreciates the paycheck and the work as an actor, but if he is not careful, he is going to be labeled the Crown Prince of Hallmark movies. I mean, how many of these things has he been in? I didn’t understand the motivations of the heroine. Completely nonsensical. She is given the assignment to convince an old friend and neighbor to sell her property so her boss can encase a beautiful country lake setting in a concrete monstrosity of a residential development. She knows this is a horrendous idea, yet blithely does her best trying to get the nice lady to sign on the dotted line. Why? because of a vague promise of maybe she can be promoted to an architect? To keep a job with a firm that obviously is the lowest of the low? Why would anyone of any character put up with this? She compromises her integrity and endangers a bucolic picturesque ideal location for a resort. Of course she ends up designing a more suitable project, which her stupid boss (surprise, surprise) just loves. This one was kind of insulting, actually. **3 stars out of 10**

October 19, 2017

A Dream of Christmas

Another Hackneyed Plot Device, but…

Our heroine, Penny, (Nikki DeLoach) frustrated because her loving but frequently absent husband may not be home for Christmas, casually voices a random thought about how she wishes she had never been married. Voila! A busybody and eavesdropper behind her in line uses her Christmas Angel powers to grant her her “wish.” Except it is not a real heartfelt desire, it was just a momentary voicing of some mild frustration. She loves her husband dearly, and her husband is crazy about her. He is absent because he is a wildlife photographer, and it is now or never to catch the reindeer migration for his book, which is a mutual dream for the couple. She can no longer go with him because they decided she had to give up her marketing of his photos to get a paying job to support them until his business becomes profitable. And now she has to give a presentation that may lead to a big promotion.

Horrified and bewildered at her new life, she encounters the Christmas demon…er, angel again, but the cold rhymes with witch refuses to take back her thoughtless whim…er, sincere wish. It was nice to see Cindy Williams again, but the character she plays is really creepy, scary, and mean. I don’t think this was intended. I blame the director. She has the gall to blame Penny’s dilemma and tragic consequences (her happily married sister is now single and her children no longer exist) on Penny and then on God himself, refusing to see it was her grossly inappropriate and unasked for meddling that is at fault and it is her responsibility to fix all of the collateral damage.

Enjoying some of the perks of her rich and successful new life, Penny briefly flirts with just moving forward and forgetting her past. A very handsome new client wants to date her, she likes her VIP status, her important position and the work she does, and her Jaguar. Who wouldn’t be tempted? Luckily she and her husband never had children. So that is an important hurdle she doesn’t have to jump. Only two things are wrong. She misses her husband, and her sister is no longer a happily married mother.

It sounds like I didn’t like this movie, but I really did. It is based on a very weak premise, but Penny’s journey really is done well. Her flirtation with the client, who seems at first like a great guy, is tanked because she knows and feels like she is still married. She seeks out her husband, now a very successful corporate photographer, and sparks still fly. The chemistry between them is some of the best I’ve seen in a Hallmark movie. Andrew W. Walker, a Hallmark perennial, really touched my heart in this, as did Nikki Deloach, as Penny. Of course, all is settled in typical Hallmark fashion but this one had some intriguing qualities and even a few surprises. **9 out of 10 stars**

December 11, 2016

Bridal Wave

Dynamic Duo in a Valentine’s Treat

Spoiler alert to follow the letter of the law only. Come on, this is Hallmark: We all know how this is going to go down.

Arielle Kebbel and Andrew Walker team up again for another Hallmark Romance after 2012’s highly rated (for a Hallmark!) “A Bride for Christmas.” I didn’t think I’d like this at first because the heroine was too gorgeous and the story was crazy predictable. The characters were even more so. Stodgy but successful workaholic fiancé? Check. Snobby disapproving future mother-in-law? check. Cute rebel outside the lines rival for her hand? Check. Nice middle-class family of the bride worried that their oldest daughter is going to become an “Old Maid”? Check. Arielle, however, proved to be down-to-earth, irreverent, and funny. The script served her well. She was surprisingly relatable despite her beauty. The hero was very attractive with a lot of charm. Jaclyn Smyth added nothing. Still beautiful, she obviously has had some work done, but still looks fairly natural. She should have been more evil to get that tension and suspense ratcheted up a bit . Nice “One Year Later” epilogue: Very Sweet with some amusing little touches.**8 out of 10 stars**

January 20, 2015