An Unexpected Christmas

Unexpectedly Overwrought

Jamie and Emily have broken up their long-term relationship. Jamie has headed home for Christmas in small-town Fulton, Illinois. Coincidentally, Emily is also heading there for work. They arrive at the terminal at the same time and Jamie’s family, who love Emily and haven’t been told of the break-up, are thrilled that Jamie has brought Emily home to spend Christmas. Emily needs a place to stay and Neither wants to ruin the family’s Christmas so they continue the deception that they are still together.

There were some good things and not-so-good things with this one.

The Good:
Bethany Joy Lenz and Tyler Hynes performances and their chemistry together. Bethany was very funny in the comedy parts and very touching in the emotional parts. Tyler Hynes performance made an essentially weak and troubling character tolerable.

The script had some unusual aspects and was witty.

The banter between Jamie and Emily was good.

Tyler’s new hairstyle.

The cameo walk-through blink and you might miss it of Bethany’s frequent co-star, Andrew Walker.

I like the scope big families provide in Hallmarks and this one had one.

The Bad:
That big family? They were so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o energetic, loud, and overbearing that it became exhausting.

Jamie’s character. He dumped Emily because she was more successful than him and he didn’t want to hold her back. OK. But his self-esteem problem was rooted in his need to be perfect in everything and vice versa. Even though we are told that his Grandfather also was a perfectionist, He grew up in a happy, stable, and supportive family. This debilitating complex did not seem to be founded on much. It also causes him to be afraid of being honest with his family about his break-up and why. BTW he never does get the backbone to be forthright about it. And he’s a liar.

Jamie’s struggles with writing the governor’s speech. He was unable to write a word. His paralysis (again, it had to be perfect) was like a big depressing specter over the whole movie.

The plot was all over the place. The Christmas play his sister directed was needless and was a distraction. Bethany’s project came to nothing. The lightening-bolt like lesson of the newlyweds’ rocks in the fountain was not used in the governor’s speech, or Emily’s theme for her project (what it was-I am unclear) the speech itself was short and lame. All that angst over THAT?

Some of the happenings were too silly. The Christmas play and the scene in the restaurant with the waiter. I don’t mind silly sometimes, but silliness is not comedy.

A lot of negatives were outweighed by the acting and appeal of the two leads, and strong production values. I did not approve of Jamie’s actions or inactions, but it did lend some depth and complexity to his character. I’m just not sure I want all those problems in a Hallmark hero.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 28, 2021

If I Only Had Christmas

Interesting Effort

There sure are a lot of mean reviews for this movie. Sounds like some are trying to knock the ubiquitous Candace off of her Hallmark throne. I am not a huge Candace fan, but she’s harmless and she has never looked lovelier than in this tribute to The Wizard of Oz. I thought it was very cleverly done with the names, the characters, and the situations. There wasn’t much of a plot, but at least it wasn’t a stale rehash of the same old Hallmark set-pieces. I watched it to the end with not fast-forwarding, and that’s worth at least a 6 or a 7. I’m not sure why she got so mad at “Glen Goodman” (Glenda the Good witch, Ha Ha) at the end, but that’s just standard Hallmark procedure to provide some tension and to set up the happy ending.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

December 1, 2020

You’re Bacon Me Crazy

Mismatch

I don’t feel this couple was very well matched. Beside looking very much younger than Michael Rady, the character of Cleo acted like an immature and spoiled High School girl as opposed to Gabe, who responded to her antics in a mature level-headed way. She pulled a dirty trick on him by ordering all that food she didn’t need while she could see that he was being slammed. What a brat! And then, when he successfully delivered it, he didn’t even charge her for it. Did she even apologize? I don’t remember. And then, when he offered to drop out of the competition, she had a tantrum because he was being egotistical instead of taking it kindly the way it was meant. Was he being egotistical? Maybe. but so what? That was his problem.

I’ve always liked Michael Rady, but have been unimpressed by Natalie Hall. She is just another over made up pretty face, and brings nothing special to the table. The story was actually pretty interesting and I did like that there were no big misunderstandings. A nice epilogue at the end further justified the half-hearted “7” that I gave this effort.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

April 8, 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

A Brush with Love

Pretty Good!

At first I thought Nick Bateman was TOO Handsome, if that is possible, but he grew on me. Kebbel was gorgeous yet down to earth and I thought she had good chemistry with the hero, and zero chemistry with the red herring. The movie was beautifully shot with gorgeous and colorful flowers and paint. It had a real romantic and professional crisis that really actually worried me for about a second. The downside was that Kebbel’s character did a real stupid thing near the end which I couldn’t even believe, and her paintings were kind of sickeningly sweet

Rating: 3 out of 5.

April 7, 2019

Marrying Mr. Darcy

Well Done!

I think I enjoyed this one more than the first one, Unleashing Mr. Darcy. Loved the 2 leads, although Ryan Peavy’s role in this sequel was just to be loving and supportive. The acting of Cindy Busby and Frances Fisher was superb and took center stage here. Cindy really made you feel how torn Elizabeth was between people-pleasing and asserting her own dream of the wedding she wanted. You were with her every step of the way as frustration with Aunt Violet and the way she was subtly taking over the wedding plans built and built. On the other hand, Frances’ acting was such that one felt a little empathy for her point of view as well. You couldn’t really hate her too much. She wasn’t painted as the evil aunt like she was in the first one. You understood how much she loved Donovan Darcy and his sister, and knew that she meant well. And this was due to Fisher’s acting. Another actress might have made her the stock wicked witch character. I loved it when Elizabeth finally rebels during the choosing of the reception details and asserts her own authority. I loved Aunt Violet’s state of shock, and her appreciative “Well Done!” as Elizabeth storms off. The relationship of Jenna and her “Bingley,” Henry Robson, added a nice layer to the principal romance. They were down-to-earth and clear-eyed. They reminded me of the Carrie Fisher/ Bruno Kirby characters in When Harry Met Sally. The romance took second place to the drama of Elizabeth becoming acquainted with the realities of Donovan’s life and his responsibilities, her inner conflict, and the outward drama of Aunt Violet’s influence. And that was more than fine.**9 out of 10 stars**

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

June 4, 2018