Big Sky River

A Parable for Step-Parents.

This was a low-key pleasant way to pass the time while also serving as a cautionary tale for loving step-parents. There’s not a whole lot of action, but then again it also avoided a lot of tired tent pole scenes and tropes that Hallmark is famous for. This was on Hallmark Murders & Mysteries, and those usually have something a little more to offer than the usual stuff that Hallmark churns out like an assembly line.

Tara is a recent divorcee whose ex-husband wants to distance her from his daughter, her step-daughter, Erin, so she can bond with his new girlfriend without Tara in the way. Tara and Erin love each other dearly. Of course they do. Tara is the only mother Erin has ever known, and Erin has been Tara’s daughter for 10 of her 13 years. But Tara has no rights now that she is divorced from Erin’s father. This is a sad and scary situation for both of them, but being a mature, reasonable woman Tara respects James’ wishes (not that she has much of a choice) and is leaving for the summer. As a young girl, she spent a vacation at a dude ranch in Parable, Montana with her parents and she has always thought back on that time fondly. No, surprisingly, this is not a Dude ranch story. The dude ranch is now defunct but she is renting a house nearby.  

While in her summer home she takes care of the resident chickens, rides horses, makes friends, and dances, but more importantly meets a handsome next-door neighbor who is also the local sheriff, and his two boys. They form a connection right away, but being parents they are cautious and careful. And, as they both know, Tara will be leaving at the end of the summer. Meanwhile, the ex-husband, Hallmark’s longstanding never-the-romantic-lead-and-also-director Peter Benson, is not having a smooth time with his daughter. She has chased off 4 nannies and the agency won’t send anymore. He basically wants to just get rid of her and she won’t go to camp. He calls Tara and asks her to take Erin for the rest of the summer. Both Tara and Erin are thrilled and Erin happily joins her mom and makes herself at home in Parable.

And that’s about it until the big crisis. I won’t go any further, but it results in Tara finally putting her foot down with James and James caving in immediately. It was the highlight of the movie.  By the end, Tara and Erin will be together in Parable with Tara and Boone pursuing their promising relationship and hopefully forming one big happy family.

I appreciated late 30 and 40-somethings dealing with age-appropriate situations. Too often, Hallmark has their 40-year-old actors dealing with life situations more common to twenty-somethings. The moral, or parable, if you will, of this story is, that if you’re the loving parent of a stepchild, better go ahead and adopt them. Marriages are not always forever but parenthood is. Don’t lose your rights to your child.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

August 18, 2022

Time for Them to Come Home for Christmas

A Road Trip to Remember

Amnesia stories usually provide rich material for a nice story, and this one is no exception. Jessy Schram, a favorite of mine, plays a young woman who gets dunked in a river after being bumped by a car. We next see her in the local hospital near the Canadian border with amnesia. Her luggage has been lost. The only clue to who she is is an ad for a Christmas Tree lighting in Charleston, SC that she left behind at a local diner. It has a handwritten message on the back saying “Please Come” and signed “Mark”.

“Jane Doe” is an immediate hit at the hospital due to her friendly, spirited, and outgoing nature. Jessy conveys all of that with the underlying vulnerability that she is so good at. She makes a friendly connection with a nice nurse, Paul, who offers to drive her to Charleston as it is on his way to his family’s home. It is almost immediately apparent that Paul is hiding some secret pain as he is very conflicted about going home. Jessy and Brendan are perfectly cast and their performances are spot on. I like that they made Paul a nurse instead of a doctor, thus it made sense when he drives her in an old dilapidated car that conveniently breaks down on the way. A doctor would have flown.

On their road trip, they have a positive impact on all of the people they meet along the way. Including Alison Sweeney in a brief cameo appearance! This is a real thing this year. This is the third movie I have seen in which other Hallmark stars appear briefly in another movie not their own. I think it’s really cool. And very smart given the competition other networks are giving them for the attention of the Christmas movie viewing public.

The movie keeps you engaged at all times what with the mystery behind Paul’s sadness and conflicted feelings going home and Jessy’s real identity. Jessy starts having flashbacks which hint that she may be married and have a child! Why would she leave a husband and child? Is she a bad person? Is he a bad person? It won’t be a spoiler to reassure you that she is not a bad person and her future lies with the nice and attractive Paul.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

November 29, 2021

The Mechanics of Love

Dude, Run for the Hills!

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.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

June 28, 2020