Widow Jamie, played by Jennie Garth, is inspired to become a Secret Santa to her town. With a seemingly limitless pocketbook, she successfully provides a Christmas Tree to the town, replenishes the local food bank’s coffers, and provides a needy family with the Christmas of their dreams. Her good works catch the attention of a local anchorman who makes it his business to unmask the do-gooder. Jamie has admired him from afar and is thrilled yet nervous to have gotten his attention. He unsurprisingly is attracted to her as well. Jennie does very well in this. She is warm, amusing, and relatable as a shy older woman getting a second chance at love. Emily Tennant is good as her married daughter, who along with Jamie’s employee, Colleen, figures out their mother and boss is the mysterious Santa. They work together to help Mom in her mission and also to help her avoid exposure.
There were some serious problems with the male lead character played by the normally likable Cameron Mathison. Anchorman Scott, like Jamie, has some mysterious source of limitless income. Local anchormen do not make a lot of money. Yet he buys out a whole expensive restaurant in order to dine alone with the winsome Jamie. Given the theme of this movie it seemed wasteful and indulgent given all of the good Christmas causes the money could have been spent on. Second, he is thoroughly taken in by an obvious imposter who falsely confesses to being S. S. He is really a gullible idiot in this scene, compounded by the fact that he is supposed to be a seasoned journalist.
The third strike is his harsh reaction when Jamie finally confesses that she is the Secret Santa. He turns on her on a dime screaming at her “You lied to me!” and acts like a crazy jerk. His change of personality comes out of nowhere, is totally out of character, and is shocking. He even accuses the modest and reticent Jamie of “doing it all for the publicity,” which makes zero sense. To make matters even weirder, the next day he provides a trip to Paris for her daughter’s honeymoon. I mean, why? when he seemingly now feels betrayed by her mother and Emily confessed she was all part of it? (And again, where is all this fundage coming from?) Jamie ends up apologizing and groveling when it should have been the other way around. All of this honestly ruined the integrity of the movie and brought a sweet story way down in my estimation. It would have been at least a “7”
I’m used to dumb stuff to choose to overlook when I am looking at Hallmark or Hallmark-style movies. But this one takes the cake for the most petulant, stupidest, most incompetent bride ever. With about a week to go before her wedding, Emily Tennant plays the bride who hasn’t done her seating arrangements, hired a caterer, purchased flowers, decided on a cake, or chosen her colors yet. All she does is sit around and whine about how her wedding is “out of control” as far as complications, guest list, and expense. All things she has complete control over. Oh and she’s an artist, so it’s not like she has an inflexible 48 hour a week time-suck of a career.
She viciously turns on her sweet fiance who had the utter gall to give her a fun jokey gift of muffin tins for a surprise extra gift for getting their marriage license. She sulks for days over this and almost cancels the wedding. She is petulant and unreasonable over everything. She selfishly and thoughtlessly disappears on her wedding day throwing her family and her fiance into a panic just so she can sulk some more.
Luckily, the engaged couple was not the main couple. The main lead, her sister, Shenae Grimes, arrives to save the day and while she is back home, dump her bad boyfriend, quit her engineering career as the head of design to become an auto-mechanic, and find a new boyfriend. Tyler Hines is as reliable and attractive as the new guy who has loved her since middle school.
The only thing I loved about this disaster was the bride’s headdress which was gorgeous and very unusual. Yes, unfortunately for the groom, the wedding took place.
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 toward 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 a duck on a junebug. I can’t believe they have seldom been called on this. WTH?!**4 stars out of 10**
This one was actually not bad at all. The chemistry between Jack Wagner and Josie Bissett was good. They were both age-appropriate despite numerous comments about Jack Wagner being 11 years older than Ms. Bissett. They looked fine together. At least, at 45, she was playing a woman with a college-age daughter instead of a toddler. Same for him. I liked that they did not try to follow the usual Hallmark formula and manufacture a secondary romance between their 2 kids. Instead, casting two talented young actresses who became instant buddies. Jack’s daughter looked like a tall and thin Scarlett Johanssen. The one wrong note was Josie’s god-awful wig. Why? Surely, if she needed a wig, Hallmark could have afforded one that looked natural. This one was so ugly, I am surprised Miss Bissett herself didn’t speak up. I have seen more flattering wigs in a Halloween costume shop. It was all very strange, especially since her make-up looked quite pretty instead of being laid on with a trowel like many of the Hallmark makeup artists do. **8 out 10 stars**