A Cookie Cutter Christmas

Watch this for One Hilarious Scene

There is one scene in this movie that makes it worth watching despite its problems. Or better yet, when it comes up again on TV, fast forward to around the last 45 minutes.

Two elementary school teachers have been engaged in a rivalry since childhood when one horned in on the other’s song solo. Whatever one does, the other one has to better it. Each cannot stand the other to be in the spotlight. It’s fairly harmless until a handsome widower with a daughter comes to town. The story is mostly told through Erin Krakow’s character, so we know that she is the one we are supposed to root for with the actress’s trademark sweet, gentle, and sincere demeanor. Despite her questionable behavior throughout, we know she is a good person at heart. Her rival is effectively played by Miranda Frigon best known for playing the grumpy police chief in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries.

Skipping to the scene in question. Miranda has invited all of the festival (there’s a festival) volunteers to a party at her home and is forced to invite Erin (“Your invitation will be shoved in your In-box”) Miranda is very proud of her singing ability and announces that she is going to favor the group with her solo rendition of Silent Night, snagging the handsome widower to accompany her on the piano. She has no shame, but as soon as she starts singing Erin starts sneaking up to her side as if she is under the Confundus charm and joins in. I’m like, “Oh no she is not going to….” But she did! Silent Night gets louder and louder as the two try to drown each other out, to the total befuddlement of all the guests, and the horror of Erin’s mother. When they get to the last line “When Chri-ist was born”, “Christ” comes out so loudly and aggressively as each of them vies for supremacy, that it’s almost sacrilegious. Then Miranda ends with a pose like she is the Madonna cradling Baby Jesus in her arms. It is the most irreverent and intentionally funniest performance I have ever seen in a Hallmark movie.

It provides the turning point in Erin’s journey. She walks out of the party with her deer-in-the-headlights look thoroughly shocked at her own behavior. She has finally gone too far. After some skullduggery on Miranda’s part to get through, the two former friends make up, and Erin gets her man.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

November 5, 2021

Sense, Sensibility, and Snowmen

A Defiant 10

I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s books and seen all of the films and series based on her books numerous times. I’ve read a lot of Austen-based modern interpretations as well. I am drawn to the numerous modern riffs on Austen and enjoyed many of them. My favorites are Clueless and Bollywood’s Bride and Prejudice. So of course I’ve seen the previous attempts Hallmark has made to capitalize on Austen’s current popularity. They were shameless exploitations because neither the plot nor the characters had anything to do with Jane’s works.

This one was different. Like Sense and Sensibility, we have two sisters who have an “Us against the world” mentality. One is flighty and starry-eyed, and one is practical and down to earth. They run a party planning business together. They are a believable version of what a modern Marianne and Eleanor might be. The love interest is a reserved button-down and shy corporate head who is dominated by an over-bearing parent and romantically linked to a childhood sweetheart. There is also a secondary love interest called Brandon. But here’s where the scriptwriter wisely mixes it up. Instead of All-business practical Marianne (they also switch the names of the two sisters) being paired off with the Corporate stick-in-the mud, It is the lively Ella who takes him by storm and shakes up his life and attitudes. It is a very cute and more suitable to the modern Rom-com. The chemistry between the two couples and and the sisters was romantic and touching. The acting was some of the best I have seen in a Hallmark lately. Erin Krakow was wide-eyed, energetic, and outgoing as her character called for. Erin surely has been doing these Hallmarks for 2 decades, but she hasn’t changed a bit. She was charming. Kimberley Sustad, a Hallmark stalwart, made Marianne likable and understandable despite her buzz-kill personality. Even though the two characters had conflicts and conflicting world-views, their love and loyalty to each other was touchingly done and affecting. Luke McFarlane was superb. He usually plays a cardboard cut out romantic hero. In this one he started out as a real pill who slowly and realistically melted and opened up. I was very impressed by the job he did with the Edward Ferrar personality. He was funny. I loved the chemistry between Luke and Erin, and couldn’t wait for the final chaste clinch.

So yes, I give this a 10. Overgenerous? Perhaps. But with this one, I’m grading on the Hallmark curve against a singularly lackluster couple of years of Hallmark Christmas movies. I’m amazed at some of the sour and overwrought reviews this one has gotten. I can only think that their experience with modern Austen takes is pretty limited.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

December 3, 2019