The Love Club: Sydney’s Journey, Lauren’s Dream, and Tara’s Tune.

Sydney’s Journey

I said in my review of the first one in this series of 4, Nicole’s Pen Pal, I was not going to seek out any of the follow-ups because that one was fraught with problems. Fraught.  But #2, Sydney’s Journey was the weekly Saturday Hallmark movie, and it was the highest-rated of the 4. I also saw that the final two were unusually both showing in succession this Monday (crazy!), so I went ahead and, Oh Well, I decided to review all 4 of them. I’m going to review all 3 together on this page, but will go ahead and will post this one now since I have it done.

Sydney’s Journey was not half as bad as Nicole’s Pen Pal, thank God. Yes, low bar, but it was quite pleasant. The two leads, Lily Gao and Jesse Hutch were both likable, and the movie was minus any bad behavior on their part and not any worth mentioning on the part of the other 3 women of “The Love Club.” (See previous review) All of the bad behavior was on the part of Byron, the jerk ex-boyfriend who is vain, self-involved, and fickle, but that is as it should be. Sydney, who was an athlete in college, is still hung up on Byron who dumped her for the fourth and last time on New Year’s Eve prior to graduation.  She meets him again by chance when the movie begins 10 years later. He is flirty, and she is interested against the advice of “The Love Club”, who are a little more involved in the proceedings than they were in the first one. Sydney definitely needs help because she still keeps Byron’s photo on her refrigerator despite the years, his terrible personality, and the fact that he is not all that attractive. Luckily, she is paired up with Theo (Jesse Hutch), a struggling and attractive restaurant owner, to train for a half marathon that Byron, has lured her into entering. Sydney is a successful blogger and something of a gourmand and she and Theo bond over food and his restaurant which she is interested in getting on the right path to success. The romance was engaging as they are both likable characters, despite Sydney’s cluelessness in the love department, and the two seemed to really connect. I also noticed that Lily Gao is a pretty good actress. There was tension involving the ex, who was very easy to boo and we know it is only a matter of time before she sees through him and gets together with the good guy. I would have liked the ex to have more of his share of just deserts but he ends up getting his “happy ending for now” with another girl, who at least has a bitchy streak. So we can hope that they will be each other’s punishment as things evolve. But before Theo and Sydney can seal the deal we have to go through the inevitable misunderstanding which is straight out of the “he/she witnesses a goodbye hug and thinks it is a yes I’ll marry you hug” playbook. So that and the fact I wanted Byron to suffer more knock this one down to a 6.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Lauren’s Dream

Without the two lead actors and the chemistry they had together, this one could have been a lot worse. Both Chantel Riley and Andrew Bushell acted their parts very well, especially Andrew. He was pretty charming. But it had a lot of potential to be better. A lot of things did not make sense. After the New Year’s Eve Party where the 4 girls meet and form The Love Club, we pick up on Lauren’s story 10 years later when she only has to sign on the dotted line to finalize the divorce from her husband. This pivotal plot point just did not make sense. Why are they divorcing? They are two attractive nice, intelligent parents of a lovely young daughter. They get along great and have a fun and friendly rapport. Throughout the movie, they are always laughing together. Supposedly she has always put her husband’s needs before her own and has put her lifelong dream to own an art gallery on hold for her family. It would make sense if he insisted on her staying home and being the little wifey and raising their daughter. But this is not the case. He is supportive and respectful of her interests throughout. There seems to be no reason why she has to divorce him to be her own person (because this was her idea 100%). They are obviously still in love. If we don’t buy the divorce, we can’t really buy the movie.

Then we have Hallmark’s (even though this really isn’t a Hallmark production, I am pretty sure) seemingly always ignoring the realities of retail commerce. I have a name for this Hallmark tendency. I call it “bad business.” First off, she is pursuing her “dream” by unsuccessfully applying for curator positions. This is not her dream so why is she doing that? She needed to bust up her family for what is not her dream? It’s only when The Love Club comes to the rescue that she is convinced to do the “own her own art gallery” thing. Within a matter of days, DAYS, I tell you!, she has leased a building, constructed her website,  and gotten her art.  For example, she steals a painting, excuse me, “borrows” a painting she gave her husband as a gift to display in her gallery. She has been collecting local artists for years (she complains that hubby never took her “art collecting” seriously, calling it a “Hobby” which I guess is quite the insult)  and has them on her walls at home and also stashed away somewhere presumably. This is the art she is going to open her gallery with and re-sell. At a profit? Really? These are not obscure 50-year-old discoveries, they are by well know local artists and are not even 10 years old. Why would anyone buy them from her at what has to be a huge markup for her gallery to be viable? Need I add that she and her soon-to-be divorced husband are very very wealthy thanks to his hard work. So all of this independent art collecting and chasing her dream is thanks to him and is totally bogus.

The other strike against this movie is the phony and oily (but handsome!) rival for Lauren’s affection. He is a Spanish(?) sculptor, Carlos, who says things like, “It’s like [the painting] is screaming at me from the canvas” and “It is challenging us. Daring us to look away, knowing it’s impossible!”  And he is serious! She replies, “ I’ve never known an artist who so just captures my soul!” Sorry, I just couldn’t. And the painting is just a bunch of pastel shapes.  To be fair, there is a funny part that’s supposed to be funny.  On a date, he declares,  “his use of color makes me want to weep!” and she starts laughing loudly and hysterically (because she just spotted her husband and wants him to notice she is on a date.)

Well, those are the three main things that put me off this movie.  I won’t go into everything, but “Nic” is almost as insufferable in this one as she was in the first one. There were some good things. One was when the daughter wants her Mom and Dad to plan her birthday party together, but she doesn’t want Unicorns or Ninjas. She wants, “an inclusive gender-neutral party with no stereotypes.” Very cute. I wanted to see what that looked like exactly, but unfortunately, it just looked like any other rich kid’s party.

They are brought back together by her daughter’s original painting called “My Family” (which keeps changing dimensions, by the way.) “The Love Club” really doesn’t do anything except comment like a Greek chorus on all of the events and babysit little Stephanie. I guess Lauren and Peter will have to hire a Nanny when they leave, which if they had just done that in the first place….

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Tara’s Tune

Will try to get to this, but can’t right now. Watched most of the movie, but really not interested in it for a few reasons, mostly having to do with Tara.

Christmas in Toyland

Evil Wins

This one was kinda depressing. Charlie is a Data Analyst for a failing toy company, Big Teddy Toy Company. First off, no wonder they are failing. Their name makes it seem like they only sell Teddy Bears. And their stores don’t have any toys in them, just gaily wrapped boxes piled all over the place and a ton of Christmas decorations. In a big meeting, she learns that they will be closing all of their locations and selling their toys online only. Charlie is horrified and saddened over all of the people who will be losing their jobs right before Christmas. Also, as we learn later,  she had a very tough childhood with her single mother having to work 3 jobs and her spending a lot of time being babysat in a toy store which provided her with a safe, wholesome, and fun atmosphere in her depressing life. But hold on. Being the ace data analyst that she is, she points out that there is one small town location a short trip from New York City that is logging steady sales increases month after month, year after year. What is their secret? Charlie will go to that location, learn their mysterious ways, and hopefully replicate what they are doing and save their brick-and-mortar stores. She is promised that she will have until Christmas Eve to present a plan of action to save the stores, much to the displeasure of her rival, the rat fink evil Dave.

There is a heavy doom and gloom feel to this one despite its relentless surface cheeriness, We know in our hearts that despite what she learns from the little store that could, The already in motion plans of the corporate bureaucratic suits will not be stopped. Winter is Coming. Especially when we find out that despite their promise to Charlie, all of the west coast stores are closed a week before Christmas. But Charlie forges on despite the betrayal. She becomes close to the little store’s employees and especially its unconventional manager, Grant. She proposes that corporate make the shop its flagship store and save the east coast stores by using Grant’s successful methods as their model. To that end, she throws a Christmas Eve party there and invites all of the bigwigs. The whole town pitches in, and all of the big city businessmen have a great time. They are wowed by Charlie’s idea of the flagship store, but they ignore her advice and go with Evil Dave’s proposal of building it in Las Vegas! Sin City! And close all of the remaining locations throwing everyone out of work! I told you this was depressing! And apparently, the suits don’t understand you can’t have a “flagship store” unless you have other stores to go with it! Idiots.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Despite the bad guys winning and hundreds of nice people losing their jobs at Christmas time, it turns out that Charlie didn’t want to be a data analyst anyway, she wanted to be a toy designer. And Grant did not want to be a store manager, he wanted to re-open his Grandfather’s old toy store, Tinker Town. So they decide to do that and they kiss.

This show sorely needed an epilogue. We hope that Charlie and Grant will be successful in realizing their dreams but don’t know that and we don’t see it. We hope that Grant’s own store will actually have toys in it instead of just a ton of red and green boxes and Christmas decorations. We also needed Dave and the other corporate bureaucrats to get what was coming to them for their bad behavior and stupidity. We needed some Gosh Darn good triumphing over evil! Especially at Christmas in July time.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

July 31, 2022

My Birthday Romance


The fake boyfriend romance trope is one of my favorites and has resulted in some of the funniest and most romantic Hallmark movies made. Among them, My Fake Fiancé, Holiday in Handcuffs, Holiday Date, Snow Bride, Surprised by Love, Holiday Engagement, and many more. I was really looking forward to this one. What a bust.

This movie was completely ruined by Callie’s dysfunctional parents. And dysfunctional in a not humorous way. They were smothering, overbearing, and controlling. They were on her every. single. minute. to get a boyfriend even when she flat out told them that she didn’t need a man to be happy and that she was concentrating on building her business. She is constantly set up on blind dates by them and her sister. Usually, in these romances that feature inappropriate over-involvement in grown children’s lives, one of the spouses is the voice of reason and provides some balance and common-sense advice to the other parent. Not so in this one. I don’t know which of the two parents was more offensive. Possibly the mother, because she made a big point of confiding to Callie that she made her husband wait to marry until she finished grad school. Her desperation to get Callie married did not make sense. And it was made more annoying because Callie, our heroine(?), did not nip it in the bid like any other 35-year-old woman would have. She should have quit being so nice and told them flat out to BACK OFF. If they refused, cut off communication until they get the message.

Instead, she finds a fake date to her birthday party to get her parents off her back, but instead, the parents are on them like vultures. They treat them as if they are madly in love, making them kiss, and immediately act like marriage was right around the corner, instead of just a date she has only known for a week. They publicly toast the happy couple at the Birthday in front of everyone. They make her make a speech when she doesn’t want to and she ends up spilling the truth in a way that humiliates her whole family and herself as well.

She actually declares she wishes that she really was Will’s girlfriend because being his fake girlfriend was just so awesome. By the way, Will is mysteriously absent from most of the party and later Carrie starts looking for him after the debacle and is surprised and disappointed he had left. Then 5 minutes later, when he told her he heard her speech, she says she thought he had gone by that time. So did she know he was not there when she gave her speech, or was she surprised and disappointed at his absence? Lazy writing. Well, it all ends as you would expect. But it was just such a painful journey.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

March 8, 2021