The Christmas Promise

What About the Leftovers?

This was a straightforward story of a young woman struggling to recover from the shock and grief of her fiancé getting killed during Christmas a year ago. She is provided tons of support and counsel by her “squad” of good friends and her father, ably played by Patrick Duffy. But it’s not until she becomes friends with the carpenter whom she hired to finish up her and her fiancé’s remodel of their old house that she begins to move forward. Also, in a nod to You’ve Got Mail and its predecessors, she pours out her heart one night via text message to her fiancé’s old cell phone # and she gets an answer. No, it’s not his ghost. This is not “Tales from the Crypt.”

There were some definite redeeming features in this show as well as some lazy writing that detracted from my enjoyment. First the positive. In a break with their usual policy of not showing dead former true loves (wouldn’t want anyone to get depressed during a Christmas movie) the doomed fiancé had a considerable role in this show. I liked this mature decision on the part of Hallmark, and they got a Hallmark familiar face (Giles Patton) to play him. I liked that Torrey DeVitto did not play the brave but po-faced grieving girlfriend. She was pretty cheerful and upbeat throughout. Although this might have been because of her lack of range, rather than a conscious creative choice. The carpenter/love interest was sexy and nice when he stopped coming across like a stalker. That awkward scene when he was in the Toy Store goofing around with the costumes trying to make Torrey laugh was just jaw-dropping. But he recovered. There is an adorable kissing scene towards the end which is one of the cutest and most surprising kisses I’ve ever seen on a Hallmark. Her friends and sister were loving but sometimes obnoxious, insensitive, and awkward in the face of the tragedy. I liked that. Just like real friends.

Now for the bad. Mostly, Torrey DeVitto had little to do in this acting-wise. But at the beginning, her reaction to the tragic and shocking news of her fiancé’s death was more like how someone would react to stepping on something disgusting. They mercifully cut the scene short and went right into “One Year Later.” Perhaps with another actress, they would have made a different choice. As part of her healing process, she goes to a field to decorate a lone Christmas Tree which is at least 50 ft. Tall. (Not like on the poster.) She puts a few ornaments on at a time. By the end, we have a scene showing the huge tree fully decorated with huge ornaments. How did she do that? Did she hire a crew and a cherry picker? Also, her sister has been cooking casseroles all year for her and Torrey has dozens of casseroles in the freezer. It’s kind of a running joke. One night, carpenter guy comes over, and she cooks them all at once! They’re sitting at the table with about 10 casseroles on it, and dipping into all of them! First, It must have taken her hours to cook all those. “Oh, you must try the Broccoli and Cheese-It’s delicious!” It made no sense. I was so concerned with what they were going to do with all those leftovers, it just took me right out of the movie.

Now, these were scenes that were not necessary to the plot or character development. You can just laugh and shake your head. But they show just slap-dash bad writing, directing, or editing and a lack of respect for your audience. So, a mix of the pretty good with the pretty stupid, but not enough good to entirely ignore the silly stuff.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 3, 2021 (My birthday!)

Secret Millionaire

A Park, A Food Truck, and a Secret Identity

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 fathers 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 have 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 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.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

September 14, 2021

Love Under the Olive Tree

At Least You Can Learn About Olive Oil

Even though this Hallmark has a relatively high rating all of the reviews seem to be very negative. So I feel like it’s my duty to give it a good review. First of all yes, yes, yes, it does incorporate many many many of the Hallmark clichés and stock storylines. What a shocker! Alert the media. First of all, I liked the Olive Oil making plotline. It was certainly different and I enjoyed the fresh setting other than chocolate, wine, and cupcakes. It was interesting, unlike blueberries or pumpkins. The two leads had good chemistry. The family conflict and rivalry kept my interest. I liked that the grandfathers who started the feud were actually more reasonable than their offspring. It was realistic. I also loved the secondary romance of her best friend and the coffee shop owner. It was sweet. I was invested in the outcome of the olive oil judging and wager and happy that there was a clear winner and it was the one I was rooting for.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

June 27, 2020

The 27 Hour Day

Chill!

**spoilers**

This was a very calm Hallmark with the usual shenanigans showing up only briefly. A highly successful A-type personality who is an efficiency expert has the rug yanked out from under her when she is not invited on a speaking tour with an Oprah Winfrey-like self-help guru. “Oprah” tells her that her life is efficient but meaningless. Lauren, played by Hallmark fave, Autumn Reeser, is annoying but thanks to Autumn’s charm and acting talent, not intolerably so. She goes on a prescribed retreat in Montana where she learns to calm down and sit still for a minute. She and the son of the family who owns the retreat share an attraction and become friendly. And that’s about it. He is having some easily solved financial problems and is sort of starting to regret his decision to give up veterinary school. There is a honey fest, a super-cute pig instead of a dog, and there is a group cooking scene where no food is thrown(!), but brownies are burnt. Also there is a kiss between the two 30-somethings that is not interrupted by a rainstorm, a snowball, or a busybody, but fades to black. Do we see them waking up together the next morning? No. But I think Hallmark was testing the waters here. If the “family-friendly” crowd doesn’t rise up in protest, this type of scenario may be in the offing at some point for two mature adults.

By the end, Autumn, her work life balance back in balance visits her mother and turns down Oprah’s invitation because a speaking tour would throw things back out of balance. The retreat owner returns to veterinary school in upstate New York which is just a “short plane ride” from Autumn’s home-base, New York City. There is only a vague hint and hope that their relationship may turn into something more significant. Another interesting take for Hallmark.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

August 8, 2021

A Twist of Christmas

I Want More Vanessa Lachey

Vanessa was a shining star in this one. She was funny and appealing. And those dimples! Her chemistry with the hero, who had a little bit of edginess to him, was really good. He was a bit of a jerk at first, which added to the dynamic between them, because she was not intimidated. Good solid plot and writing. If this is an example of Vanessa Lachey’s talents, I hope she becomes a regular for Hallmark or Lifetime. Whatever. Time to put some of the old warhorses out to pasture. Ooh. that was mean. But no names.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

December 9, 2018

The Christmas Train

The Stars and the Setting Put this one Over

A lower-tier Hall of Fame-caliber movie, but Hall of Fame worthy nonetheless. The cast was strong and the main actors were well known and respected. Dermot Mulroney and Kimberly Williams Paisley made an attractive and likable couple. I personally find Danny Glover incredibly annoying, but I love Joan Cusack and enjoyed her role in this movie. The setting on the train to California? I loved it, but I’m prejudiced. I was lucky enough as a teen to travel from Chicago to Los Angeles on the El Capitan and The City of Los Angeles and back again during the Christmas Season. The plot was OK and benefited from being based on a David Baldacci book. The twist at the end really saved the story, though. After reading another reviewer’s comparison to the book, I really am considering reading the book upon which this was based.

Reviewing Hallmark Christmas movies is kind of a stupid hobby of mine, and I like to review the dreadful ones and the enjoyable ones or if I think I have something valuable to point out. I am jotting down a little review of this one because it’s a cut above the usual. **8 out of 10**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 5, 2017

Wish Upon a Christmas

A Charming Fantasy

A widower’s son asks Santa in a letter for someone special for his dad. Meanwhile, his Dad’s old high school sweetheart, now a successful corporate actuary, comes to town to shut down his factory and the major employer in the charming old-fashioned town. With a little help from a distinguished old man with a white beard mysteriously come to town looking for a lost bauble, everyone gets their happy ending. This is one of the better entries of the season, thanks to some charming performances by the main actors. Aaron Ashmore and the young actor who plays his son are particularly winning. Amelia is well played as well, as is Mr. Tomptey (alias Santa Claus). The only weak link is Allan Thicke who has an unnecessary role as her father. He delivers his lines like he has been nipping at the eggnog one too many times. **8 out of 10 stars**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 16, 2015