Last year, and especially this year, Hallmark started to push the envelope as far as venturing out beyond its safe and standard bone-tired plots, and this one is no exception. A secretly color-blind teacher meets an ophthalmologist, the single mother of one of his students, who sees through his lifelong tricks and strategies to disguise his disability. She enters him into a clinical trial without his consent after he tells her he is not interested once his subterfuges have been discovered. Although most definitely unethical and an invasion of privacy I can almost give her a pass on this because he doesn’t fully understand what he is missing in life. See, he is not only color-confused (red and green or blue and yellow being indistinguishable from each other,) but totally unable to see any color whatsoever. Also, it’s stupid he is not interested. Why wouldn’t he be interested? He’s a science teacher. Just because nothing has worked before, trying on a pair of glasses is hardly a surgical procedure or taking an untested drug. But it was wrong of her, it must be said. The way the whole color-blindness thing is handled is lazy and irresponsible. His condition is very rare, while the other is a fairly common condition that indeed can be mitigated by special glasses of the sort that are provided by this clinical trial. Monochromia would be impossible scientifically to correct with glasses due to the cause of the condition. Maybe this could be partially excused by deeming this cure part of a “clinical trial” but it is as far-fetched and as far from being science-based as a pill to cure alcoholism would be. In other words, the idea was interesting but the execution and details lacked authenticity to put it kindly. It is another example of Hallmark seeming like they have contempt for their viewers by glossing over unrealistic plot points that actually could potentially be harmful, hurtful, and deceitful if taken seriously.
To make matters worse this movie is sponsored by a company that makes the aforementioned glasses that mitigate color confusion in some people with lots of emotional videos of people acting like they once were blind and now can see. So they’re using the emotions that might be generated by this movie to burnish and exaggerate the benefits of their product that has nothing to do with the disability portrayed. Or maybe they were not aware of the nature of the color blindness depicted in this movie and got manipulated to buy ad space. Whatever, someone did wrong.
Once he finally tries on the glasses and his world is changed, there really isn’t anywhere else to go with it, other than going around looking at colorful scenes. Featuring mostly red and green. So it falls back on the usual tropes once the color-blindness thing is out of the way leading to the inevitable big misunderstanding. In this case, an over-eager wanna-be girlfriend and a more psycho and controlling stalker ex-boyfriend whom both leads are too nice and patient with. The good doctor even agreeing to him inviting himself to her child’s Christmas pageant. The ex-boyfriend bit could have actually been a lot more entertaining if he had gotten punched in the nose by our hero when he crudely twitted him about his pay as a middle-school teacher. However, instead, our hero chose to deliver a lecture that seemed to suggest that teachers did not need fair pay, cuz it’s “a calling” and they don’t care about the money. Very noble, but I know a few teachers that would disagree with that.
It’s not a secret that I have a soft spot for Christopher Russell. But I have to say, in some ways he was the wrong choice for this one. Of course, he fit the profile of the super nice super handsome school teacher who has all of his fellow teachers and single mothers falling all over themselves. I think I can safely theorize this aspect was added to the script when CR was cast. Because his pulchritude cannot be ignored and left unaddressed. Anyway, he should stick with the Cary Grant or Clark Gable-type roles where charm and good looks are more important than range of emotion. When he put on those glasses and saw color for the first time a lot more was required as far as an emotional reaction. On the positive side, Katrina Bowden was very good as the caring but over-stepping doctor, and her daughter was also very good. CR was believable and endearing as a committed teacher who was definitely overqualified for his job. Best of all though was Joanna Douglas as Heidi, the lead’s supportive sister. Hey Hallmark! Lock this girl in and promote her from supportive sister/friend to head girl. STAT!
After being away for work, Olivia returns to New York City and finds her best friend and roommate, Amber, engaged to a guy she’s only known for a few months. Olivia disapproves. Amber is a city girl and a ditz. Her new fiance is a rancher and Amber will be following him to the boondocks. Olivia thinks (rightly) that Amber does not know what she is getting into. In the guise of a “bachelorette retreat,” She takes Amber to a working Dude ranch along with their other best friend, Jason, to give her a taste of what is in store for her. Olivia selfishly does not want to lose her best friend and roommate, but she also is genuinely concerned.
What follows is kind of a hoot. First, the trio arrives at the ranch dressed in New York City’s idea of what is proper ranch wear. It is a cute visual. They are greeted by the ranch owner and his son, played by Christopher Russell. Christopher’s natural fallback position in his roles is laid-back and easy-going. He was perfectly cast in this role as the strong but silent cowboy who is unhappily roped into taking care of the “citidiots” and showing them a good time as well as a taste of authentic ranch life. The “Dude” part of the dude ranch is just until his Dad makes the extra money to pay the back taxes. It’s all wacky fun while the three take on Getting up at the crack of dawn, camping, horse riding, egg-gathering (and breaking), fence repair, cattle herding, barn dancing, wolf and bear avoiding, etc.
To Olivia’s surprise and frustration Amber is game for everything and her enthusiasm never flags. Except when she is attacked in a river by a leech. And who can blame her for that? Cowboy Travis is exasperated but is very good at hiding his annoyance at the situation, and it’s not long before the trio’s good humor and effort earn his respect and liking. The actress who played Olivia really grew on me and had great chemistry with Christopher Russell. Amber and their friend Jason were funny, and Christopher was in his element. And when CR is on point, he is the bomb-diggity.
This was a very boring story with a good cast. I usually like Cindy, but as usual, she doesn’t have much to work with here. And unfortunately, she seemed very stiff with Christopher Russell who is gorgeous as usual but really needs some spark with his co-stars to bring him to life when the script does not give him anything else to work with. She did have a good scene on the phone with her boss though.
Speaking of the script, how do I count the ways that this fell off the cliff (pun intended)? One line comparing a mythical waterfall to a unicorn was used twice. Speaking of which, she found this legendary waterfall which is so elusive explorers believe it doesn’t even exist without even breaking a sweat. It turns out was within a few hours hike from a busy lodge. She led the world of waterfall enthusiasts to another hard-to-find fall that she promised to keep secret. Her boss betrayed her and put in the GPS coordinates with the photographs she published in the magazine. We never find out what the outcome of that was. Do the sightseers leave a trail of litter, or do they respect the sacred place? She doesn’t quit in anger, like she should have, and is going on to her next assignment. If she changes her mind, we never know about it. Will she continue on with her dream of being a professional photographer, or will she quit and stay with Christopher and his daughter now that he’s not mad at her anymore? He was about to send a chopper to the secret location of the mythic waterfall, by the way, when they talked about how secret it was throughout the movie. Another silly lapse in the writing.
Nice scenery though. And in a first for Hallmark, at the end, they are planning to spend the night together in the same tent. We have to assume, since it is Hallmark, that this means she is going to quit her job and be a wife and mommy (since his ex travels and leaves their daughter with him most of the time. And why should he take on another one of those situations?) It all ends very vaguely.
This was dreadful. Jen Lilley seems doomed lately to playing contemptible characters. And contemptible characters that are written poorly. Mackenzie is a top marketing executive in New York City who is losing her clients to a shiny new rival. She is stressed out about that when her best friend moves her wedding up and needs her help to pull it off in their old hometown. She hasn’t been home since her mother died and did I hear right that it’s been 10 years? Her father has health problems and his maple syrup business is failing because he stubbornly refuses to modernize despite the financial support and advice of his “employee”, Mackenzie’s old boyfriend played by Christopher Russell. It doesn’t help that the trees he is tapping are not Maple trees.
Her friend wants a simple hometown inexpensive wedding because that is the kind of down-to-earth person she is. Mackenzie basically hijacks her wedding to promote herself to her rapidly departing clientele. The kicker is that she knows she is doing wrong, but just continues to do it. Her actions are contemptible but Jen Lilley plays it with a sugar coating that only makes her seem like the ultimate phony. She uses her friend’s easygoing nature to run roughshod over her while being on the phone almost constantly to her New York assistant talking about her career problems. She browbeats the bride into going with an ugly over-the-top designer dress instead of the flattering simple gown she loves and gets the lovely little country church trashed by the famous D. J. she hires and his followers who also deface a tree that has a sentimental history to the bride and groom.
Meanwhile, even though she finds out her father’s farm is in foreclosure, she makes no attempt to help or find out what’s going on. She is just too busy and important unless she is flirting with Christopher. Near the end, she goes to the banker/lawyer who tells her that Christopher actually has her father’s power of attorney. That finally gets her attention and she somehow concludes that CR is trying to steal her father’s business when he was really financing it to save it. She pouts and sulks when she isn’t looking panic-stricken and is just generally an A-#1 jerk to lovely Christopher as well as everyone else. But does she try communication? Heck, no. In fact, when Christopher tries to set her straight, “she doesn’t have time” to hear it. No idea why her career is on a death spiral. I don’t mind a character who starts out very flawed but has a character arc over time. Jen Lilley is horrid throughout the whole movie until she ruins everything and she has nowhere to go but up.
To make it all worse, Jen Lilley delivers many of her lines so quickly and incoherently it’s like she wants to get them over with instead of actually acting. She has no connection whatsoever with Christopher Russell. The fact that he, her father, and her friends put up with her throughout the whole movie just made this viewing experience even more unpleasant. The only one who finally stands up to her is the bride. Nelson Wong, (for once not named “Kenny”) who usually is a charming presence in any movie, is annoying and horrible in this, and the ending and resolution made no sense whatsoever. This production is populated with many regular Hallmark supporting players but even they cannot prop this one up.
Christopher Russell plays against his usual type as a big city corporate big wig. He usually plays rugged back-to-nature types. He has come to Maggie Lawson’s small town to open a big box store, which threatens to put the local Mom and Pops out of business. Most especially Maggie’s Christmas Tree lot. They meet and are immediately attracted to each other without knowing who the other is. Disaster looms.
Christopher Russell is excellent in this: funny and sincere. Maggie was OK, although her character comes across as trying too hard with the hot new man in town. But really, who can blame her? He is gorgeous and nice. If not handled well, however, this enthusiasm can come across as desperation. Unfortunately, the story was dull with nothing on the horizon that could remotely be of interest. When she learns his true identity, she turns on him and will do anything to beat him at his own game. She commences to cut off her nose to spite her face. Christopher remains good-hearted and easygoing as well as good at his job which makes her antics all the more unattractive. When her little brother explains to this genius that she has bankrupted the business with all of her expenses outstripping their sales, it finally comes the inevitable sad end. Did she just blame Christopher for her own stupidity?
But wait! Thanks to her sudden inspiration of turning her farm into an event venue, the farm is miraculously saved. Like the next day. When very clueless (but still lovable) Christopher learns that the corporation he works for is based on lies, he decides the small-town life is more his speed, and the romance is saved as well. I really like CR without whom I probably would not have finished this movie.
If Christopher Russell is paired with the right female lead, and he has a script that takes advantage of his GQ worthy handsomeness and the kindness that you can see behind his eyes, he can be great. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. It does in this one. The script explores the phoniness behind reality series and how untrustworthy and false they can be. I didn’t much care for the heroine, but Christopher made up for that and had charm enough for both. I did like that they had a fairly sizzling love scene as opposed to the usual chaste kiss at the end of the movie.
What is the Title? High Flying Romance or Kite Festival of Love?
So kites. That’s a new one. The awkward alternate title is Kite Festival of Love. This is probably why this very recent Hallmark slipped under my radar. Still, it’s surprising considering it featured two of their biggest stars: Jessica Lowndes and Christopher Russell. They are not the most talented actors, but they interest me. Jessica because she started off so badly in the talent department with nothing but her beauty to recommend her, and Christopher because he is so handsome and likable despite sometimes walking through his part like he is asleep or on drugs. When he’s paired with the right female co-star, he does a great job.
Christopher plays Gavin, a widowed father of an eight-year-old who returns to his small town upon the death of his wife to be near family. He meets Hannah (Jessica) a childhood acquaintance and neighbor who is a music teacher. They start a relationship because why not? She is gorgeous, super sweet, has a cute dog, loves kids, loves his kid specifically, his kid really likes her, his parents love her, and she’s single. As for her, come on, Christopher Russell. As a loving father. What could be more adorable? Oh. They both love kites. It was meant to be. Unfortunately, there is very little chemistry or spark between the two. They are very stiff and awkward around each other.
All proceeds very boringly with no conflict, suspense, or problem to solve until about three-quarters of the way through. That’s when brazen hussy ex-girlfriend starts to get jealous and commences to stalk him and manipulate him into dates and tries to make Jessica think they are a couple. I thought things might get interesting, but right off the bat, she tells him she doesn’t like children and suggests his daughter, ably played by Amelie Will Wolf, is being manipulative when he wants to go home to tuck her into bed! Can you imagine? What a dummy. Not that she had a snowball’s chance in Hell anyway. Even though Christopher’s too nice to tell her to get lost.
Christopher is average in this one. Jessica has plateaued as far as her acting is concerned. She’s not bad, but another actress could have done so much more with this part. Her delivery is still a little strange with a California girl cadence and she sometimes slips back into her habit of not enunciating and talking too fast. She is miscast in these girl next door parts. It is simply not believable that, with her glamorous beauty, she would have anything to fear from the only above average looking ex-girlfriend who’s not very nice to boot.
Finally Hallmark teamed Christopher Russell up with an actress he had some chemistry with! He showed a lot more personality than he has in some of his recent roles. The best he’s been since Midnight Masquerade. Although I seem to be the lone ranger here, Cindy Busby is one of my favorite Hallmark actresses and she did not disappoint in this one. The basic plot isn’t anything much but the two leads really played off of each other well. It was a straight up romantic comedy with no festivals or save the— fill in the blank— gimmicks to prop up a tired plot and fill in the 2 hours. Plus, there was a lot of good information about the weather.
Christopher Russell seems fated to be paired up with pregnant co-stars distractingly striving to hide their condition. But that’s neither here nor there. What we have here is a by-the-numbers Hallmark plot unredeemed by interesting character development, outstanding acting, or sparky writing. In fact, the writing was cringeworthy. Will is touted as some big expert/consultant in conservation, but no university education is even mentioned. Katie is the daughter of a corporate lawyer and university professor yet she acts very ignorantly and the samples of her writing we are treated to are inane and insipid. Her behavior is childish. I think she’s supposed to be perky and funny, but she comes across as just silly. Also still another case of too many cosmetics for the type of role. As for chemistry, it’s not good when you want to look away when the leads are having “a moment.”
Christopher Russell. What can I say? He is so handsome that it’s like he stepped off the cover of a paperback romance. Unfortunately, It seems like he always plays mellow, rather passive romantic heroes. In most if not all of the roles I’ve seen him in, He seems detached and like he’s just going through the motions. Maybe that is because Hallmark just plugs him into roles where hunkiness is more important than personality. I’d love to see him in another type of part. It’s too bad if they are just taking advantage of his good looks because in real life he seems like an authentic, nice, and private happily-married-for-years father of two. In fact, a real life Hallmark hero 10 years down the road.
Even Vanessa, Nana, and a Cute dog Couldn’t save this One
Other than the charming Vanessa Lachey and a cute doggie, this entry in the Hallmark sweepstakes has nothing much else to recommend it. Big City girl comes home to her small town for Christmas with her beloved pooch that she kind of co-owned with her hunky ex-boyfriend. The boyfriend is the local vet, who also owns a mountain top property which is also a rescue facility. He is also wealthy due to his invention of a revolutionary wheelchair for dogs. My God, this guy is fictionally perfect. Christopher Russell plays the boyfriend and he is so handsome he looks like he stepped out of the pages of a Vanity Fair Men’s Cologne ad. Unfortunately his mesmerizing looks are not matched by his acting talent. His expression never changes. The only thing I see behind his eyes is bemusement. “Where am I? What am I doing?” At least in this effort. I’ve seen him really shine.
The story is boring and repetitive as the dog leads the two to place after place that were milestones in their courtship in an effort to reunite them. Also cheering for the happy reunion is the vet’s annoying mother (let’s follow them!) and Vanessa’s Nana. Nana is the only other bright spot in this effort. I love the actress who plays her. She never fails impress.