The Christmas Contest

I Did Not See it Coming

This movie was a solid 7 until the inevitable emotional crisis of Lara (Candace) at the end which bumped in up to an almost 8, rounded up. This was shaping up as a light and fluffy typical Hallmark plot of 2 exes who begin to rekindle their relationship when they are reluctantly thrown together years after a painful breakup. They are both finalists in a contest over which one can be the most Christmassy. The winner gets $50,000 for the charity of their choice. It involves such things as trivia, baking, singing and dancing, and Christmas tree decorating all of which provide plenty of opportunity for some great physical comedy as well as some witty snarky dialogue.

Candace’s excellent comedic talents are on display throughout. John Brotherton as Ben overacts to the point of obnoxiousness, but at least we know his character is a good guy underneath the immature surface. There were some entertaining subplots involving his relationship with a lonely 12 your old boy, and his mother coming out of her shell. Lara’s mother’s barely concealed antipathy to Ben was very entertaining as well. Everything was pretty funny as Ben and Lara, along with their hand-picked teams try to outdo each other in their quest for the prize. I definitely chuckled. Things are looking up for their relationship as well until Ben breaks Lara’s heart once again. The swift and unexpected turn from comedy to drama was head swiveling. It’s not just a bump in the road as is usual in these things. Candace’s despair and anguish over her disappointment was one of the best pieces of acting in a Hallmark movie I’ve seen. She was heartbreaking. And then, just as we thought we were done with the dramatic developments, it exposes a dark side to her relationship with her mother, beautifully played by the apparently ageless Barbara Niven. Throughout the movie, Lara’s mother seemed to have an ideal relationship with her daughter: loving, supportive, and fun. Almost sisterly, but in a good way. I truly did not see the blowup coming.

Candace’s relationships with her mother and her ex are, of course, repaired by the end. They all vow to change. Even Candace, who all the while had come across as a really together person with her life on the right track. It was a thoughtful and unexpected way to get to the happy ending and with a good message to boot.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 1, 2021

Christmas in Evergreen: Bells are Ringing

One Actress Makes this Watchable

This was enjoyable due entirely to Rukiya Bernard. I’m pretty sure that this is the first Hallmark that she has been the principal character, although even in this one, there was an abundance of supporting players. There were also a lot of stories. But like I said. Rukiya Bernard. I have been a fan of hers ever since I first saw her in One Winter Weekend. I love her energy: she has charisma to spare.

The multiple plots were not that interesting. Holly Robinson Peete’s fiancé gets snowed in and can’t make it back to Evergreen in time for his wedding or worse, Christmas. The actor might have been busy and couldn’t make it to the set, but we did see him on Zoom. Peete’s sister arrives for the wedding that is not to be along with her father. Sister is mad at Dad and cold to his nice new girlfriend. Rukiya’s story is that Elliot, her boyfriend, is opening a branch of their store in Boston and they will be separated. He didn’t check with her first. The other story is that she is now the head of the Evergreen museum but the eccentric Cooper Twins’ brother never signed off on using the building which puts the kibosh on the museum. He was horrible and mean. Rukiya did absolutely everything to get his cooperation but to no avail. How anyone could resist her charm let alone be so mean to her, I just did not understand. His inevitable epiphany was very weakly supported. He saw a video of his twin sisters saying the same thing Rukiya (and they) had been telling him in person throughout the movie. His change of mind made no sense.

So the whole thing was weak, but I enjoyed you know who.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 5, 2021

Christmas in Evergreen

No Surprises Here. And that was OK in this Case

This one had every freaking Christmas cliché in the book. Country good/city bad, specious current boyfriend/fiancé versus Christmas-phobic single Dad, Save the festival, magical Santa, frolicking in the snow, Christmas Cookies, and Christmas-centric small town. And… the boyfriend who appeared like a jump-scare in a horror film. I still liked it. I am one of the majority that really likes Ashley Williams. The screen loves her and she is never less than a sweetie-pie. This entry also featured two other shining stars: Jaida Lily Miller and Rukiya Bernard. Young Jaida is a Hallmark regular for good reason. She is a great little actress and a charming presence. I wish Rukiya were more of a regular than she is. I have seen her as a supporting player in 3 other Christmas Hallmarks and she quite simply lights up the screen. She needs to move over to Lifetime, Hallmark mysteries, Up, or Ion and start starring in her own movies. Move over Tatiana Ali. All this goodness was marred by the irritating mother who was a little too dependent on her beloved daughter. She needed a little therapy, as does many of these Hallmark mothers. As did the town, which couldn’t seem to function without the capable heroine.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 5, 2019

Love on the Menu

Delicious!

This is how it’s done, Hallmark. Good Job! When you have two engaging and attractive leads who are good actors and have good chemistry, it already puts it far ahead of the majority of Hallmark offerings. Bravo Autumn Reesor and Kavan Smith. Add an interesting inside look at restaurant goings on and a agreeable restaurant (and chef) makeover plot and you have a definite winner. Kudos for the beautiful and authentic food photography. The love story built slowly and realistically. The leads did not have silly misunderstandings or antics. When there was a bit of conflict at the end, it was resolved quickly with a very nice groveling scene and a deserved abject apology. There was a tough boss who turned quite evil at the climax for some drama and tension.

I also want to compliment the wonderful young actress who played our hero’s teenage daughter. Jordyn Ashley Olson is lovely and a very promising young talent. Latonya Williams also adds sparkle, as usual.

I only mark it down for two aspects. The gourmet breakfasts that our chef-hero cooked for his daughter and were meanly rebuffed by her were so over the top, the scenes were cringe-inducing. Also, the ending was a little sudden and needed another scene to tie the loose ends up nicely. Maybe they are planning a sequel. I’m in.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 3, 2019

A Christmas Detour

On the Road Again

A high-strung writer gets hooked up with an irreverent laid back fellow and a seemingly happily married couple on the way to visit their families on Christmas. They are thrown together when a snowstorm cancels their flight and they decide to share an automobile to get to their destinations. The Candace Cameron character is traveling to the Hamptons to meet her fiancée’s family for the first time. It is a road movie in which romance blossoms, true character is revealed, and secrets are uncovered. The fiancé and his parents are deliciously evil, Cameron-Bure, while always reliable, is quite likable and funny, and the married couple and the hero are well played, interesting, and nice to look at.

What I really want to address, and this movie is a perfect example, is Hallmark’s penchant for casting 40 year-olds in the roles of 20 or early thirty-year-olds. Aren’t there any promising young actors and actresses out there?. I am tired of seeing the same faces over and over. It is particularly absurd in this one. The older experienced couple who have a 20-year relationship and a daughter old enough to have a beautiful old home, are played by actors who are the same age, if not younger, than the couple they are meant to be mentoring! **8 out of 10 stars**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 1, 2015