Nothing special here. Same old same old story partially redeemed by the character of Johnny Blake played by a well-cast Trevor Donovan. The secondary characters were played by Hallmark perennials, though the 2 female leads were relative newcomers to the Hallmark stable. Emily Tennant, the bride who provides the #2 lead was fresh and appealing. I see Hallmark in her future. I wish Hallmark would steer away from extravagantly beautiful heroines towards more down-to-earth girls. I just can relate to cute more than impossibly gorgeous. All though this is a backhanded compliment to the physical beauty of Rachel Skarsten, I was distracted throughout most of the movie by her over-processed long ringlets. What is this? 1989?
The success of these things, for me, depends on the existence of some dialogue with some snap to it, some humor, some surprises(a little suspense?), appealing casting, good acting, enough non-phony not-needless conflict to provide some catharsis or the comeuppance of evil-doers. Do I ask for all of these things at once? No, that would be asking too much. (though it has happened, rarely). But I need at least 2. The “supercute” (gag me) snowball fight kicked off a big fail for me.
On a side note, when, oh when, is Hallmark inc. going to get on the bandwagon and start starring a few of the talented and numerous black actors and actresses as the romantic leads? And I’m not talking about black bosses, black millionaire clients, or black best friends. A.) It seriously calls into question their values, And B.), It’s super stupid business-wise. The most popular and profitable romances and dramas in the theatres today feature black people in the leads. Tyler Perry anyone? What about Malcolm D. Lee and his Best Man movies? There are dozens of examples. Come on. I have more than a few black women friends who would jump on such a Hallmark movie like white on rice. I can’t believe they have seldom been called on this. WTH?!**4 stars out of 10**
Love at First Bark is one of Hallmark’s more mediocre offerings. Other than some cute dogs and the odd dog-training tutorial, this one has nothing at all to recommend it. It is a very lazy effort with a cookie-cutter script and unremarkable leads. Usually one can find something to like in these things: a little unexpected twist, appealing actors, some cute lines, an old favorite star in a secondary role, some genuine chemistry between the leads, a villain you love to hate, a heart-tugging moment, etc., etc. This one was a complete waste of time.
The heroine is particularly annoying. She stubbornly refuses a handsome and sweet dog-trainer’s help in getting her new pooch under control until she finally changes her mind. She is very immature about her business and her love life. When she sees her new boyfriend who is obviously and unaccountably in love with her being nice to his ex-wife, she goes to pieces. He has outright told her he no longer has any interest in his ex and why. She sees his ex give him a smooch in the middle of a crowded party. Not a hidden alcove, a crowded party. This is so upsetting to her that she offends a valuable and much-needed client and petulantly breaks up with the dog trainer on the spot. She shuts him down when he literally begs her to listen. Very mean and unreasonable. He is very confused and doesn’t understand. She passive-aggressively tells him that she needs to focus on her new business (after she just dissed a potential client, mind you) and doesn’t have time for a relationship. Unfortunately for him, she apologizes soon after and he stupidly takes her back. That is all. As another reviewer noted, and adding to the irritating nature of this Hallmance, are Julia’s false eyelashes. They are so thick and long that she could literally sweep the floor with them. They deserve a cast credit of their very own. It gets 3 stars from me because the dog trainer/love interest (Kevin McGarry) was a super nice guy and very good-looking. The rest of the cast, including Leanne Lapp, was also very competent. **3 stars out of 10**
I gave this one a “10” on my special scale for Hallmark movies. This one is set apart by the writing, the enjoyable characters, and most especially, the casting. There are probably 5 or 6 basic plots for these things. This one is the closed down/sad widower with a child who needs our heroine (Gwen) to reawaken him and save his relationship with his kid. No the plot is not original, but I judge the good writing in the little details. The relationship between our heroine’s sister (the wonderful Beverley Mitchell-so glad to see her again!) and her husband was fleshed out and added to the enjoyment. The appearance of the Mom at the end was a nice touch and added to the depth (don’t laugh) of the story. Gwen was cute, funny, charming, quirky, and so very likable. The actress(Meredith Hagner) was another Meg Ryan at the height of her romantic comedy powers. She was an absolute delight. Don’t ever change. The Dad was handsome and appealing, making his journey from cold and hostile to warm and open fun to watch. The villainess Anna Van Hooft) was very scary. What more could one ask for? Great chemistry between the two leads, that’s what. And yes, it delivers there as well. **10 stars out of 10**