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

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

Journey Back to Christmas

Strong Ending Redeems a Lackluster Tale

***Huge spoilers****Unlike many, I am not a huge Candace Cameron Bure fan. I find her competent. The first ¾ of this movie left me rather cold, despite the wonder and mystery provided by the great concept of a miraculous Christmas comet. The main character, Hanna, was just a too sweet cardboard cutout. However, the time travel gimmick usually delivers stories that keeps me engaged, or at least semi-engaged, and this one was no exception. I did roll my eyes at the irrational behavior and attitudes of some of the townspeople and the police. Why all the hate and suspicion of nefarious motives on the part of the police chief, Her primary supporter, Jake’s, partner, and the town busybody? The conflict was too manufactured and not rational. When Hanna, fresh from segregated 1945, is examined by the black doctor, and interrogated by the black chief of police, why no surprise or incredulity? They missed a great opportunity to add a little depth to the story there, and it would have taken all of 20 seconds. Her one champion, Jake, a policeman, was nicely played by Oliver Hudson. Sarah, Jake’s partner, was foreshadowed to be the love interest, but for most of the movie, her cynicism and unfounded suspicions made her very unlikable.

The last ¼ of the show is more than redeemed by the appearance of the Tom Skerrit character. Now an aged and respected figure whose life was changed by Hanna by her kindness to him when he was a little boy, he validates her story. He leads the way to finding a solution to her predicament of which life to lead. Previously unknown ties between Hanna of 1945 and Hanna of 2016 are uncovered. The doubters are proved wrong and they are even a bit redeemed in the process. Both Hanna and the understanding cop,the two leads, find their happy endings, though hers was cheesy to the max. Oh well. Sometimes cheese is the way to go.

Everything was tied together beautifully. The last quarter of the film had me in tears. It was that good. I don’t think I have ever seen a Hallmark movie that went from “blah” to stellar with such whiplash speed!**8 out of 10 stars**

December 4, 2016

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

Just the Way You Are

Expensive Dates=Happy Marriage

This started off quite promisingly. Cameron Bure is always pretty reliable, and Ty Olssen was a good fit as her overly involved in work husband. Some good conflict was set up with the Dad missing their 15th wedding anniversary and forgetting his sensitive daughters audition for the school play. This guy had some major groveling to do. Seriously. Didn’t happen. All was forgiven after a couple of very expensive and elaborate dates. That was the movie: sum and summary. A potential problem was averted when the Dad, once again, showed his selfishness and lack of consideration when he agreed to move pack up his family and move from Seattle to New Orleans without even telling the much put upon Candace. Nope. He just called his bosses bluff and he ended up managing the project from Seattle. Problem smoothed over with a spa day for wifey and a wedding vow renewal. **4 stars out of 10**

May 19, 2015