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. Which 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 in to 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.
A Wisp of a Plot with all of the Cookie Cutter Elements of the Typical Hallmance
This lame effort is saved by the appeal and the talents of the two stars, Autumn Reeser and Brennan Elliot. As always, their superior acting skills saved the day. They are very engaging with whomever they are paired with and it’s about time they were paired together. I was not disappointed. I just wish they had been given a better vehicle worthy of their talents. And I’ve got to say that “Admiral” character gave me the creeps for some reason. Also, a shout out to Christopher Russell, who played the romantic rival for Autumn’s affection. He was her leading man in one of my very favorite Hallmark Romances, Midnight Masquerade.
Would Have been Kind of Awful Except for the Great Cast.
Cindy Busby is one of my favorite Hallmark actresses, so I gave this one a whirl. She plays a journalist who has been given an opportunity to write a feature on the secret of a happy marriage. At first, her character, Noelle, is very annoying and does some really stupid things. Like buy a dog while living in her boyfriend’s apartment without consulting with him, taking the badly behaved dog to work without permission, and being incompetent writing her feature story. She is not likable at all. She is also snotty to her office mate, a handsome but kind of dorky fellow writer. And the dog is possessed by the devil. But, hey, Cindy Busby! I couldn’t stay irritated for long, and she finally starts to redeem herself. She is dumped by her commitment phobic boyfriend of 5 years, and, now homeless, is invited to spend a country Christmas with her super-nice and dog-loving office colleague.
The male leads were superb, which further bumps it up. Christopher Russell plays the bad boyfriend, for a change, and does a great job. Greyston Holt was very very attractive and the complete opposite from his rival. He played a bit of an eccentric with long hair and a beard. For a change, he also had a fiance who shared his outdoorsy and adventuresome spirit, which added some interest to the final happy ending. I also liked his quirky sister, and Cindy’s older friend.
Clichés, tired plot elements, and an unbelievable coincidences would normally doom a Hallmark movie. But this one is saved by the cast, some well fleshed out characters and a few unusual additions.
I am afraid I gave poor Danica McKellar a pretty hard time for her last Hallmark effort, A Crown for Christmas. She was too old for the part, she was not a good match for the fabulous Rupert Penry-Jones, and she wore too much make up. It was just awkward, including her performance. She was excellent in this. This one confirms that the casting of the two leads makes all the difference. She made a good match for Kavan Smith, who played her love interest. They were both age appropriate for the story and attractive enough, but not drop dead gorgeous. A very pleasant outing.
It was nice to have the drop dead gorgeous one (Christopher Russell) paired with someone else in the secondary romance. His love interest was a mismatch, and sure enough, to my mild surprise, they did not work out their problems, and split up in the end. Bruce Boxleitner was a pleasure to see, as usual. **8 stars out of 10**