Christmas Class Reunion

A Class Act

The movie starts with the Winter Prom of 2007 featuring 6 stereotypical teen “types.” The smart and popular achiever, both male and female versions, the class clown, the in-love inseparable couple, the popular jock, and the class nerd. The mean girl is missing. They are part of the class deemed “cursed” due to disasters at prom, graduation, and other class events. They used the same early 30-something-year-old actors to play themselves as teens. And may I just say that as much as Botox, collagen injections and fillers do not work for 30-somethings, that goes double if they are playing teens. I speak of one of the secondary actors in particular.

Cut to 15 years later and the “achiever”, Elle, short for Noelle, played by Aimee Teagarden is in charge of planning the class reunion. We know that she is the focus mainly because her name is Christmassy. She indeed has fulfilled her potential, having made quite a name for herself as the Chief Technology Officer of a successful and important company. She leaves Silicon Valley for Hartford CT, looking forward to seeing her old friends again, particularly Kam the male version of herself whom she had a crush on when she was in high school. We next meet Devin the class clown, very appealingly played by Tanner Novlan. At the 2007 prom, he flooded both Aimee and the school gym with his malfunctioning snow machine. Tanner is the male lead and his chemistry with Aimee was amazing.

She is very wary of him because he was her complete opposite in high school and always getting into trouble. She is surprised that the irresponsible screw-up is now the loving father of a 13-year-old tech prodigy and running a successful event supply business. He has always had a crush on her though. The young actress that played his daughter was a star and a scene-stealer, by the way. As father and daughter, the two actors have an easy and natural rapport. She is very impressed that her tech-phobic Dad knows the famous Elle Chamberlain.

As the reunion plans come into shape we also reconnect with the inseparable couple whose marriage is falling apart even as their real estate agency is booming. The Nerd Girl is now an attractive and successful TV host up for a big promotion to a national morning show. She still lacks self-confidence despite her success and is inseparable from her best friend who is also her very flamboyant stylist. When the popular jock makes an appearance we think we spy a love interest for our likable TV host, but sadly he is attracted to her gay best friend instead! Aimee is very happy when her old unrequited crush, Kam, shows up. He is just like her: career and success-focused and very very busy. Too busy and important to help with the reunion, so she finds herself partnering with her old nemesis, Devin.

Of course, the inevitable catastrophes start to happen with a fire breaking out at their fancy venue and Aimee’s company being the target of a federal investigation putting her whole career in jeopardy. As she works with Devin in finding a new venue and tackling all of the challenges, she realizes that her worth is not what she does for a living, but what she is inside. She and all of her friends’ lives are happily sorted, which we learn in one of my beloved “one year later” epilogues. Hallmark is delighting fans by casting other popular Hallmark stars in cameo roles. This time was Chris McNally’s turn in a cute performance as an Elf-garbed photographer. I tend to like movies using ensemble casts and this one was no exception.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Love Strikes Twice

22 Going on 37

What did I just see? It was on the Hallmark Channel but was it really a Hallmark movie? It was a time-traveling romantic comedy but that is all it had in common with the usual Hallmark. No pageant-worthy hair, wardrobe, and make-up here. Just great writing, attention to detail, talented acting, and fresh faces.

We enter this rare territory zeroing in on a 37-year-old childless corporate lawyer, whose marriage is about to fail because her main priority is to make partner in her firm so she can “swim with the sharks”. She is troubled about her marriage and confides to a friend that the crossroads in her life seemed to be when she worked with a childhood friend, now her unhappy husband, to try to save the local library building. After an unexpected encounter with her old  boyfriend, now one of the “sharks” she yearns to swim with, she wonders if she should have chosen him rather than the humble high school teacher she is now married to and has so little in common with. If only she could go back in time and with her sophisticated skills and knowing what she knows now about the law, be successful in saving the building. That would certainly change everything for the better and set her life on the path it was meant to be on.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of what happens, because there is so much that happens both personally and professionally. The details and the authenticity make the movie complex, heartfelt, funny, and very entertaining. It is tight and action-packed. There is not a boring minute in it. No usual meaningless filler or tired tent pole scenes. It borrows from many other time travel romantic comedies too numerous to list, but I was most reminded of the delightful 13 Going on 30. Needless to say, when she goes back 15 years to save the library, she also saves her marriage, her husband’s career, her father’s health, and turns her brother’s and her best friend’s lives around. It all culminates at her parents’ 25th anniversary, when she hits her head again and she shoots forward to their 40th, and her real, now transformed, life.

The acting is great all around, but the star of the show is Katie Findlay , whose looks and talent brought even more life and charm to the role that was already well-written. Had she not been cast, the movie still would have been wonderful, but she made it a 10 out of a 10. I fear she will soon be going on to bigger and better things. Sadly for Hallmark-land, I predict we will not be seeing her again on this Channel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

October 4, 2021

Follow Me to Daisy Hills

Another Delusional Store Owner Without a Lick of Business Acumen or Common Sense

Cindy Busby, a small-town girl, runs her dead mother’s general store which is going bankrupt. Her Dad calls her ex-boyfriend, a New York City wunderkind who specializes in saving businesses from failure, to come home and help them keep the store from failing. For free. Cindy resists all of his sensible advice until she doesn’t. She won’t even move the candy away from the front door where shoplifters and moochers can reach in and steal it. Because God forbid the elderly patron has to step into the store, pass what tempting merchandise there is, and go to the register to actually pay for her candy. Oh no, her not having to cross the threshold to get her Snickers is the “highlight of her day.” How dare he suggest customers have to pay for their merchandise?! He is a hard-hearted capitalist and all he cares about is money and profit. I kid you not. This store owner’s father has a heart attack from the financial stress and he is about ready to use his life savings to keep the store afloat. She is totally unaware that there is not enough cash to pay the bills, college for her young sister costs money, and an online presence is not an instrument of the devil. She is a menace to her family and the business.

It is easy to see that it didn’t take a marketing genius to save the store, which had little to offer customers except for the 10 bags of Cheetos and 15 cartons of oatmeal that were skillfully arranged on the otherwise empty shelves. What finally saves the store is her getting hit with a clue-stick that her fellow townspeople can use the store to sell their own homemade products from BBQ sandwiches to baked goods to art. Let’s hope she understands that she gets to take a cut of their revenue without being a greedy moneygrubber. A real go-getter of a business owner would have realized this years ago. An energetic ten-year-old playing with their “Little Tykes Let’s Go Shopping” play store would have done a better job of merchandising.

I usually like Cindy Busby, but her character in this one was so technophobic, ignorant, unpleasant, and stubborn my eyeballs practically fell out of my head from all of the eye-rolling.

The only other aspect I want to comment on is the weirdness of the way they groomed the hero. His colorless hair was slicked back from his pale forehead in a way that would only be acceptable if he had had a ponytail. but since men with ponytails are verboten on Hallmark, He looked like a dang Nazi. He’s probably a nice enough-looking guy in real life, but he was downright creepy-looking in this.

Also, this movie is in IMDb under Hearts of Down Under. I think someone confused this with another Cindy Busby Hallmark that actually was set in Australia, Hearts Down Under, now called Romance on the Menu. Somebody really screwed up.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

September 21, 2020