Plot-wise, this was a garden-variety example of the royal/commoner romance plot. Danica McKellar is a new author with one successful novel who is being pressured to submit her second romance novel per her contract. Predictably she has writer’s block and is given the opportunity to be a caretaker at a remote lodge in the mountains to write in some peace and quiet. No, it’s not haunted and she doesn’t turn into a homicidal maniac. Sorry to disappoint. It’s a teeny-tiny little lodge (or very large cabin), hardly The Overlook Hotel or a “Winter Palace” per the rendering on the poster. The owners are European and haven’t been there for years. All she has to do is knock the icicles off the eaves, take care of the furnace, and find her inspiration to honor her contract. The owner shows up unexpectedly and it’s a prince with his two minions.
This was watchable thanks to Neal Bledsoe who played the prince. He was very attractive and had a lot of charisma. He also had a personality, starting off snooty and entitled and loosening up slowly but surely while becoming enamored of Danica. The two actors had a nice rapport going throughout. Danica was not bad in this one. Despite the usual, and I do mean usual, roadblocks, it all proceeds to a happy ending and I liked the resolution to the “how can an American romance novelist find happiness with a Concordian King” dilemma.
Danica Mckellar plays Christina, a department store manager extraordinaire. She is loyal, hardworking, tough yet popular with the staff, and #1 in sales. Victoria is the owner of the chain who is making the rounds of the locations and announcing that she is taking the chain international and will open a branch of McDougal’s in Paris. In addition to being the best store manager on the face of the earth, Christina’s dream has always been to return to Paris where she once lived. She even speaks fluent French. So you would think she was a lock, for the Paris transfer, right? Wrong. Despite all of Christina’s overwhelming qualifications, Victoria announces that the store manager who creates the best Christmas display will get the job! Whether they want it or not, I guess. Somewhat paradoxically, she is also worried about ambitious Christina’s work/life balance because she doesn’t have fun or a family. She is too busy working her fingers to the bone for McDougal’s department store! Luckily, that part is being taken care of, because she is falling for a divorced single father who used to work for McDougal’s before Christina fired him for spilling white paint on her black dress. Unfortunately, Christina is drawing a blank as to what to do for a boffo Christmas display, even after re-hiring the single dad who is also an artist. And Victoria is really turning the screws on her. The woman is a nightmare.
Danica McKellar does her usual thing, which is not always a plus. The child is whiny and spoiled. The actor has a strong resume, so, as usual with unintentionally annoying child performances, I blame the director. David Haydn-Jones is a non-entity as the love interest, and Deirdre Hall is mean and foolish in treating her excellent manager so harshly and unreasonably (“I expect this window display to be the best window display in the history of time and the universe!” or words to that effect.) She gets her comeuppance for not just doing the smart thing and offering the job to Danica right off the bat. Because by the time she finally stops toying with her and offers her the job (as long as she can pick up and move halfway across the world within 24 hours and on Christmas Eve) Danica has learned the true meaning of Christmas and wants to stay home and be a wife to the struggling artist and a Mommy to his son.
I’ve never been a member of the Danica McKellar fan club except when she was Winnie on The Wonder Years. I also like her advocacy for girls and math in real life. I’m a little troubled about why she signed an exclusive contract with GAC Family. A network that, apparently, is an alternative for those who are uncomfortable with Hallmark’s new commitment to diversity, and their more inclusive view of “family values”. Personally, I like Hallmark’s more friendly view of “Family” better these days. We’ll see. Anyway, Danica always looks troubled or worried about something or other. She has a resting frowny face. Although I recognize that she is accounted to be very attractive, her looks have never appealed to me.
Danica aside, this was a big miss for me. Although the science was kind of interesting at first, the whole process drew out way too long. Do your scientist thing, solve the problem, and move on from the rather boring problem of falling tree needles. Both of the leads’ crises were of their own making. I mean, his only use for his land was to grow evergreen trees which had no monetary value except at Christmas time? What did he do the rest of the year? It’s not like trees need a lot of care. He kept saying he did not want to diversify because the advice from his father was to do one thing well rather than many things poorly. Well, he didn’t do his “one thing” very well, did he? Farmer Ben Ayres did not have a backup plan, as Danica relentlessly pointed out, and Danica was not open and honest with her mother, preferring to be a victim, I guess. I admit Danica is pretty good at conveying victimhood. I do usually like Ben Ayers. He is very good at playing masculine, kind of grouchy men. So he was pretty well-cast as a stubborn loner-type farmer whose Christmas Trees were dying right before Christmas.
Taking a page from a trend of reuniting actors from old shows, Jason Hervey, also, like Danica, of The Wonder Years, played the bad guy. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
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**