Inventing the Christmas Prince

Opposites Don’t Attract. Until They Do.

The best thing about this movie was the acting. Tamera Mowry-Housley plays a widowed mother of an adorable little girl. She is a rocket scientist and the team’s supervisor. The manager of the company is Evan, played by Ronnie Rowe, Jr. Now Evan is a very interesting character. To say he is not a people person is putting it mildly. He is brilliant but cold and uncaring of his employees. He cannot seem to understand or have empathy toward others. He almost behaves as if he is “on the spectrum.” 3 valuable employees have resigned, citing his management as the cause and because of that, he is in trouble with the board of directors. They tell him not to be such a demanding taskmaster and get a life, essentially. If one more employee quits, he will be fired. Yet right after that, due to a deadline, he informs his employees that they will have to work Christmas Eve and possibly Christmas. He is just clueless and disconnected. It is too much for Tamera, and she tells him off and quits on the spot. But that day, she had to bring her daughter Grace to work for a few hours, and the little girl, nicely played by Isabel Birch, takes one look at her mother’s hateful boss and believes he is the “Christmas Prince” from a story passed down through her family. She believes this fantasy figure, who picks out one little girl or boy every Christmas to grant 12 wishes to, is real. Tamera knows what’s up with her boss’s bosses and tells him she will return to work if he poses as the Prince through Christmas. If she doesn’t he will lose his job. He is horrified but has no choice. Yes, she probably should have told her daughter the truth and not blackmailed her boss, but then we wouldn’t have a movie, would we?

As Evan spends more time with Tamera and her little girl, he starts to open up and warm up. His communication skills improve as well. During their first dinner, for example, his conversation is like, “I see you eat carrots. Do you eat carrots often?” Scintillating! But soon they are opening up to each other, confiding, and empathizing. He learns she is a widow. Three years ago, when her husband died, he approved her bereavement leave but didn’t even care enough to ask who died! When she reminds him of this, he is shocked. It causes him to see himself clearly and make an effort to change his ways. Besides his personal relationship developing with Tamera and Grace, By the end of the movie he becomes a great boss, and even gets promoted, instead of fired!

That Ronnie Rowe Jr. makes his character sympathetic is little short of a miracle. His transformation is slow and subtly done, even changing his body language and the way he stands. Fantastic Job. Mowry-Housley was so funny, warm, and charming in this. The Maitre d’ scene was a stand-out. The secondary characters are entertaining as well. She has a support group she started to help her cope with her husband’s death. It includes Caitlin Stryker, a Hallmark veteran who is always good. I’ve never seen Nathanael Vass who plays Lorenzo, her “work husband” but he was a treat as well. I hope I see him again. Definitely Hallmark Hero material. Even the other little kid actors did well, especially “Sherman.”The actual plot was cheesy as heck, but the writing was bright and amusing, and considerably elevated by the actors’ talents.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Campfire Christmas

Too Campy.

This one was just silly despite the rapport and charm of the two leads, Tori Anderson and Corbin Bleu. Unfortunately, they are overshadowed by the hammy performances of approximately half of the secondary actors. Since they all over-act in the same way, I blame the director. Tori is an aspiring writer who has been working as an assistant in a publishing firm. Unfortunately, every attempt to have any of her manuscripts published by her firm is shut down by her heinous boss. She grew up with a group of friends that attended her parents’ Christmas-themed summer camp. Her parents tell her that they are selling the camp and are going to throw a week-long farewell celebration for all of the two generations of former campers who strangely all seem to be the same age. Weird.  She has kept in touch and sees all of her good buddies except one, her camp romance, Corbin Bleu. When they tried to make their long-distance relationship work outside of camp, it didn’t and Corbin dumped her, breaking her heart. Besides Corbin and Tori the friends include a married couple that met at camp and two contentious gay actors who got the show-biz bug there while competing for the same roles in  “the pageant.” The 3 couples all have misunderstandings and issues to iron out before their Christmas dreams come true and love wins. So there’s nothing new here, including the “big misunderstanding” 20 minutes before the end of the movie. This one is of the “only half the conversation is heard” variety and is particularly dumb.

What makes this one below average is the sheer boredom of watching all of the campers running around like maniacs doing fun activities like they are 10 years old and on sugar highs cheered on like their lives depended on it by Tori’s grinning parents. The one scene that got my attention was provided by Tori’s boss. Besides Corbin and Tori mending fences and discovering the old spark is still there, we have her still trying to get published, this time by writing a history of her family’s beloved camp. Her boss had rejected her latest manuscript because it needed more passion and a more personal connection.  Her boss loves her pitch but then to her horror, asks her, “who are you going to get to write it?” What???!!! I mean, I was floored. Imagine how Tori felt. When her boss goes so far as to hire a writer and asks for Tori’s notes and personal diaries, Tori quits on the spot. She learns later that her boss kept rejecting her manuscripts because she didn’t want to lose Tori as an assistant. This somehow makes her feel better, and in the 6 months later epilogue, we learn that she wrote a children’s book out of the story illustrated by her soon-to-be fiance, Corbin, who is an art teacher.  The married couple are now pregnant and the gay rivals are now a happy couple. Situation normal in Hallmark-Land. It has gotten a pretty harsh reception on IMDb and not just because of all of the diversity.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

July 29,2022

It Was Always You

Good Hair!

Elizabeth is engaged to a fellow dentist, safe boring George, a childhood friend. They go to their old island neighborhood to throw a party for George’s mother and to prepare for their upcoming wedding. George’s brother David with whom she has had a stormy relationship with is also there. When George is stranded on the mainland, Elizabeth and David are thrown together planning the party.

I did not like the relationship between Tyler Hynes (David) and Erin Krakow who played Elizabeth. Tyler Hynes was his usual rough around the edges attractive self. I really usually like him. But his character in this one was irritating. He was out of line about things that were none of his business. The whole relationship bordered on the inappropriate and stalkerish. She was engaged to his brother and he needed to lay off and leave her alone.

And why did the fiance brother not just get a boat over to the island when the bridge was under repair? Ridiculous.

I disagree with the apparent majority opinion about Erin’s hair. I liked the different cut from the way her fans are used to seeing her on When Calls the Heart, which I’ve never seen, (with the inauthentic modern flowing locks in 19th century Canada). It gave her an edge that improved her usual placidly wholesome look.

I did like the end. I’m a real fan of the “One year later” endings. I like that Erin followed her dreams of travel. Tyler’s childhood note to Erin was really sweet and romantic. And I liked that the stick-in-the-mud brother had finally loosened up with the right woman.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

March 2, 2021

Time for You to Come Home for Christmas

Not Cheerful.

Hallmark’s best crier meets Hallmark’s most gloomy sourpuss. Yes folks, this is a real holly-jolly one! For her son’s sake, Alison Sweeny, the sad widow, braves coming home for Christmas to her small town where she lived with her now killed husband. And she saves a bakery! And no murders are involved. She also meets Lucas Bryant, who lately has been cornering the market on sullen doleful damaged characters. He has also come to her hometown to finally return the pocket watch of a mysterious soldier who saved his life. A snow fort is built, a snowball fight is had, clumsy ice-skating occurs, a festival is held, baked goods are consumed, a tearful kiss happens and our heroine “moves on.”. This one does not miss a trick.

On the positive side Sweeney and Bryant have good chemistry, and Sweeney is usually pretty appealing. She does what she was hired for: brave tears. Lucas Bryant is very attractive. The productions values are good, and the story had a little mystery to keep interest going. The young son was adorable and I hope to see him in other productions. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood for this very popular entry in the Hallmark repertoire of Christmas movies.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 29, 2020

Sealed with a Kiss: Wedding March 6

All Good Things Must Come to an End, Hopefully.

But I Doubt It. This is the one where Olivia and Mick finally get married. But not before dealing with the wedding of another couple. There was an interesting dynamic going on with them. At first, the guy, who is a fast-rising movie action star(the actor was miscast), seems like an exemplary nice guy and totally devoted to his down-to-earth bride-to-be. As the movie goes on, though, we see that he is a manipulative passive-aggressive jerk while putting self-promotion before his wedding despite promising faithfully to keep it low-key with no hype or publicity. His favorite trick is to tell his increasingly frustrated and unhappy fiancé that this is a one-off and if he doesn’t do the interview/photo-op/magazine spread it will be harmful to his career. And then he tells his bride: “But you decide. It’s all up to you.” Knowing full well that she will go along with it or be the mean selfish bitch.

The sensible bride probably would have drawn the line in the sand long before she did except that at the beginning of the movie, Josie/Olivia advises her to be more flexible to her future husband’s career needs or risk a break-up. And then, after giving her that piece of questionable advice, she lets her twist in the wind while meekly putting up with the groom’s nonsense and continual changes of plan. Olivia couldn’t have taken her aside to amend her advice to “flexible within reason?”

Other than the step-by-step descent of the groom from nice guy to stupid jerk, the rest of the film was the usual string of disasters with flowers, cake, dress, caterers, vows, etc. I think many viewers are tired of this series, including Olivia and Mick’s two daughters who I guess were too busy to attend, or weren’t invited. Plus, the age difference between Jack and Josie is starting to get noticeable. It would have been fine except that they are supposed to be the same age.

I am happy to report, however, that Josie Bisset finally has gotten her hair situation, which has been a source of suspense and amusement throughout the previous 5 movies, somewhat under control. Luckily though, in the end, we are treated to a series of flashbacks from the previous movies which highlight her struggles.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

August 17, 2021

A Valentine’s Match

Plot: Boo! Actors: Yay!

The plot wasn’t anything much. It follows the usual formula:1) successful career-woman with useless boyfriend gets fired and goes back to small hometown to recharge. 2) Meets Old Boyfriend she has been avoiding for 10 years due to misunderstanding. 3) 2 interfering mothers, sensible father 3) A festival is saved after the 2 exes are forced to work together. 4) they fall in love again only to have another blow-up which sends heroine back to the big city with terrible boyfriend. 5) they come to their senses and reunite for a happy ending. Not to mention: 6) black actors relegated to the best friend zone. So why does this get high marks from me? The Acting and Appeal and Chemistry of Bethany Joy Lenz and Luke McFarlane. Luke has long been a favorite of mine and they both breathe life and humor into unremarkable lines that in less talented actors’ hands would result in a snooze-worthy cookie-cutter romance. The 2 love scenes were emotional and steamy, especially the slow dance near the end. Their break-up was tense and sad, and in-between, they were funny both together and apart. The end scene was cheesy in the extreme but at least it didn’t end with the smooch, and some loose ends were tied up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

February 3, 2020

A Feeling of Home

Humdrum Story saved by Male Leads

The story in this one was pretty lame, but I loved the male leads: Nathan Parsons at the male lead was very sexy and appealing. Loved his voice. It was so great to see Robby Benson again. He has certainly aged well and is even more attractive than he was in his youth. Both of these actors are responsible for the relatively high rating from me. Although, sometimes Robby Benson delivered his lines like he was a trifle constipated. Sorry Robby, I saw what you were trying to do there character-wise, but…. I also liked the acting of Shannon Chan-Kent as Gina. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with the character of Abby. She struck me as needy, whiny, and not too bright. I don’t think it was the actress so much as the way her character was written. As others have mentioned, the depiction of farm life was silly and ignorant. Talk about lazy. But it did provide some laughs.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

May 26, 2019

Harvest Love

Nothing to Offer except Ryan Paevey

Nothing. Happens. Move on, Nothing to see here unless you are a Ryan Paevey fan, which on the strength of his charming performance in Unleashing Mr. Darcy, I am. Jen Lilley, the actress who plays the female lead is very pretty with huge eyes. Huge. Unfortunately, her performance is distracting to the max. I might attribute this to the vapid script, but she has a smile plastered on her face throughout the movie, usually accompanied by an irritating titter. Someone should do a spreadsheet on how often she completes a sentence by tittering. I doubt it was scripted. I understand her embarrassment, but she made a bad movie worse. Add to this, instead of real scenery we get fake backdrops that look like they have been painted on velvet by Thomas Kinkade. I gave it a 4 due entirely to Ryan Paevey’s futile efforts. Choose better next time, Dude. My patience will not last forever. **4 stars out of 10**

Rating: 2 out of 5.

October 7, 2017