It’s safe to say, I just did not get this movie. But I preface this by saying this third in the trilogy is the first one I have watched. In doing some research, apparently in the first of the movies, the Liddle family is fairly dysfunctional and super annoying. In the second, they lose their maniacal tendencies but retain their penchant for stirring up chaos.
In “Baby”, everyone is super chill, even Jacquie who apparently used to be a real control freak. She is pregnant with a very big round baby and is on the couch with her husband and hoping for a peaceful Christmas (for a change.) Her family descends, but they are nice and normal! They are gorgeous and handsome with great clothes. Jacquie’s house is beautiful if a little sterile. The kids were happy and spirited but well-behaved. I was confused by who everyone was and who all those children belonged to. I got the 3 sisters. And I got that Jacquie was marrying a man with two kids. Where is their mother? Is she dead?
It didn’t seem to have much of a plot. The second sister, Treena, played by Latonya Williams, who I have really liked in other productions especially A Glenbrooke Christmas, and her husband are about ready to adopt a baby boy. I think one of those kids may be theirs as well. The younger sister discovers she is pregnant and is struggling to tell her boyfriend. Meanwhile, he is struggling to propose to her. I think she has a child too. The best scene in the movie was when he was trying to propose while she almost throws up on him. Luckily he manages to propose to her before she tells him she is pregnant so we don’t have to go into all that “He only wants to marry me because I’m pregnant” scenario.
There is no real focus to the movie. We are just plopped down in the middle of this rich, nice, beautiful family and we just soak all the perfection in. There are some blips: The kids trying to get a reclusive neighbor to come out of his house, The family matriarch is stuck in Utah by an avalanche (while on a ski trip-of course), and the adoption is falling through. But it’s all unconnected. There is also a Christmas miracle at the end involving Jacquie’s pregnancy and it is as much a miracle as a Virgin Birth would have been. So that was Christmassy. I think I am really interested in seeing the first and second in this trilogy, but probably not The Liddle Family Christmas Vacation, if there is one.
As usual with non-Hallmark TV romances, this one strays from the formula just a bit. First of all, we have a lack of a festival or small town/big city conflict. This one is the “save the park or whatever” plot. Hey, I didn’t say it was a complete departure!
An indulged son of a real estate mogul has been drifting from one thing to another, while his father wants him to settle down and work with him at his company. He gives him an ultimatum that he has to find a job within a week or he will be cut off from his financial support. Leaving the building he runs into some protesters who are trying to rescue their beloved park from his father’s evil development plans. He conceals his identity and gets a job as a chef in the cute one’s food truck.
Of course, it is only a matter of time before it will be discovered that he is none other than the son of the person who is trying to take the park away. Thus the suspense and tension. The predictable story is enlivened by the cast. Siobhan Williams is a fresh face and is a perfect spunky girl next door type. Steve Lund, a Hallmark regular is as attractive and reliable as usual. And yes, Steve Lund, I saw you in that Allegra commercial. A little side hustle? Good for you. The secondary couple has a sweet courtship, complicated by a rival love interest. Both of the guys are appealing until one of them turns out to be a big phony.
There is a corporate-type other woman for our hero to provide some drama, and the Dad learns something about his own grandfather that leads to a happy ending for all. Of course.
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**