A Fabled Holiday

Pretty Packaging

I wavered between a 7 and an 8 for this one. I liked the trappings and the framing of the story but the basic plot of strangers coming together to repair what is wrong with their lives was tired. None of their arcs had a lot of substance or originality. Or, failing substance, humor, suspense, drama, or engaging romance. On the positive side, it did have Brooke D’Orsay and Ryan Paevey as the main couple. Their performances were charming as usual.  I like them separately, and they were OK together, but just OK. Maybe they are both just too nice to generate much romantic tension with each other.

It all starts out with a little girl and her father reading a fairy story about a magical town called Wunderbrook. Sadly the Dad dies and the little girl and her mother move away. Before she goes, she gives her storybook to her best friend Anderson and she promises to send him her stories as she writes them.

When next we see her, she owns a bookstore. Her aspirations to be an author have died on the vine due to her lack of self-confidence and fear of failure. Meanwhile, we catch up on her childhood friend Anderson who is now a surgeon who is questioning his calling due to losing a patient. We also meet a married couple who have grown apart and are on the verge of divorce and an old man who is very lonely since his beloved wife died.

Through various magical means (a detour on a road, a wrong number, getting lost, and a flooded basement) they find themselves together in Wunderbrook. It is the magical town of the storybook come to life. It turns out that they all had the book as children, but for some reason, it is only Brooke that starts to make the connection between the story and the real-life town they find themselves in. She is poopoo-ed throughout the whole movie, almost. As they spend time with the owners of the B&B and their daughter (really the King, Queen, and Princess), and the other denizens of the place, including the wicked witch, they start to get cured of what ails them. The hostile bickering couple starts to repair their marriage and the old man finds a friend in the owner of the bar/restaurant who is also bitter and lonely (the witch.) The two childhood friends start to fall in love as well as, in the end, get over the fears that are holding them back from fulfilling their dreams. It all comes together at the end with not only our friends on a happy road to love and success but Wunderbrook itself being saved, thanks to a certain aspiring writer.

Their individual stories of love and learning are told by a storyteller as if they were characters in a storybook. This was a new path for Hallmark to take and I liked and appreciated the creativity. Christmas Magic is a common trope but usually has to do with Santa and time travel. This was something quite different and, again, I appreciated it. Unfortunately, they forgot to find engaging stories to put in all that creative framing. It was, to paraphrase one of Brooke’s publisher’s rejections, “cute” but not entirely enough for me.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Wedding of a Lifetime

A Breath of Fresh Air

Jake and Darby have known each other for 15 years and engaged for 10. Yes, I know. But there was a career-derailing skiing accident and Nana ( the wonderful Paula Shaw) had health issues. It will be no surprise that they are in a rut and have lost that special spark. In fact, they are about ready to call it a day and break up when their parents and friends enter them in the “Wedding of a Lifetime” competition on national television. Rather than hurt their loved ones’ feelings they decide to enter and lose on purpose. Unfortunately, they both are pretty competitive and hate to lose.

This was a breath of fresh air.  Even though we all knew where this was going, the plot was new and fresh, not one of the usual in the Hallmark grab bag. The acting by Jonathan Bennett was top-notch both in comic scenes and dramatic scenes.  Brooke D’Orsay is always very appealing and lends sweetness and authenticity to any production, but this one gave her more to work with than usual.  Her scenes of heartbreak were very affecting and her comedic ones were amusing. She is one of the best criers at Hallmark, the other being Allison Sweeney.

The couple acted like rational mature adults. Even though they have an argument, they don’t flounce off in a snit.  Darby gets great news via text right in the middle of it, and the argument is forgotten and Jake is happy for her and supportive. The next day, they apologize to each other. What a concept!

Thanks to working together as a team they find their way back together and decide to give their relationship another chance. They win the competition, and “The Wedding of a Lifetime”. But it’s not over yet! When Darby has to deal with a hilarious wedding dress from hell (see picture but with braids like Heidi), and Jake is given fake groomsmen, they both quit in despair and walk out at the same time. Is it the notorious “Big Misunderstanding?” It’s about 15 minutes til the end, after all. NO! They embrace in solidarity in the middle of the street. Damned if it’s not the opposite of “Big Misunderstanding!”

With the gratifying side story of their failing businesses saved by the publicity from the show, this would be an 8 out of a 10. But I’m adding a point for the cute graphics, the funny bickering TV hosts, and the excellent cast of secondary characters. Not to mention a pretty hot scene on a balance beam.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

September 20, 2022

A Dickens of a Holiday

With the Two Lead Actors, It Should Have Been Better

I love Kristoffer Polaha. He is one of my Top 3 Hallmark actors. I have never seen him in a role where he did not elevate the material with his appealing attractive self. And I like Brooke D’Orsay in almost every role I’ve seen her in. There was one I didn’t like her in but we won’t talk about that. She always brings a natural sweetness and heart to her performances. I was looking forward to seeing them together and they did not disappoint.

The story wasn’t much. It wasn’t bad. But it did kind of drag in the middle only providing a stage for the two actors’ acting talents. Jake is a Hollywood action star who wants a sensitive dramatic role in a new film based on his late mother’s favorite book. No one wants him for the part because they don’t think he can do it, including his agent. He agrees to go home to his hometown to play Scrooge to prove he can play a complicated dramatic part. And partly because he had an unrequited high school crush on the director, Cassie. It starts out very intriguing and funny because he is spoiled and pampered and he is terrible in the part. His playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge like he was John Wick was pretty funny, and I wish they had made more of this. Unfortunately, Cassie, as the director, gets him on track way too quickly. I was looking forward to the character development, but he changes into a good guy way too fast for it to be an entertaining journey. This also takes the interest out of a side plot, which is his estrangement from his brother. One heart to heart and all is well.

The crisis comes when, thanks to his loyal and talented assistant, he is about to be offered the dream role but to get it, he has to go to a party thrown by a bigwig. Surprise surprise-On the same night as the big performance. Will he revert to his old self and chuck the play in favor of his big break? None of how this is played out made a lot of sense. At one point Brooke D’Orsay gets ready to step into the part of Scrooge in full glamor girl make-up with lipstick, eyeshadow, and her flowing golden locks tumbling from her nightcap. That would have been another fail for the Hallmark make-up department but it would have been pretty funny watching Scrooge in drag.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

December 12, 2021

Nostalgic Christmas

Stupid Toy Store

Brooke d’Orsay. She is a real charmer and I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything in which she wasn’t the shining star. Everything else was mediocre. The Father and his store got my back up right away with the declaration that if it wasn’t made of wood, it wasn’t a real toy. Absolutely ridiculous. There are thousands of old-fashioned homey nostalgic toys that are made of plastic and don’t plug in or have a battery. Old fashioned board games, watercolors, crayons, etch-a-sketch, rubber balls, but no. Wood or nothing. And his store maybe had 5 toys in it! Then Dad kept passively-aggressively pressuring her and trying to guilt her into giving up a successful toy career she loved in New York City to take over his stupid store that couldn’t have cleared $20 a day in profit. On top of all that, they gave away for free Brooke’s hand-carved Santas that could have retailed for $100.00 each easy. My free enterprise and capitalistic soul was crying out in pain. Obviously, most of these Hallmark writers have never had to earn an honest day’s wage in a retail environment.

But Brooke d’Orsay has saved worse than this unworthy effort.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 28, 2019