Where Your Heart Belongs

Dreadful

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.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

January 2, 2022

A Lot Like Christmas

It’s a Lot

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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

December 10, 2021

Forever Christmas

See it for Christopher Russell

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.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 20, 2020

High Flying Romance or Kite Festival of Love

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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

September 14, 2020

Love in the Forecast

Yay Teamwork!

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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 15, 2020

Love & Glamping (Nature of Love)

Cringeworthy, but Gorgeous Scenery

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.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

April 20, 2020

Christmas Unleashed

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.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

December 10, 2019

All Summer Long

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.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

August 27, 2019

A Puppy for Christmas

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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 23, 2018

Wedding Bells

Good Comeback for Danica

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 makeup. 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**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 6, 2016