Lights, Camera, Christmas!

Cute and Clever, but I Didn’t Buy the Love Story.

Hallmark had a little fun with this parody of Hallmark Christmas movies. And I had fun with it as well. Kimberley Sustad, who is a favorite with many viewers including me, plays Kerry, a formerly aspiring dress designer who now owns a dress shop in a small town. She lives with her mother and her shop is on the verge of failure. She is very self-effacing and lacks confidence. Hallmark, oops, excuse me “Dazzle”, comes to town to film their latest Christmas movie, My Favorite Santa, which is super-cheesy. We get to know the cast and crew including the male star and love interest, Brad “the King of Christmas” Baxter.  He embodies all of the cliches attached to a phony vain movie star, including his trademark flirty wink to the camera which caps off all of his movies. When the production’s costume designer quits, Kerry is dragooned into taking her place. She proves her worth time after time. As she gets to know  Brad, she realizes that beneath the Hollywood facade, he is a nice guy. They start to fall for each other.  There is a secondary romance as well between the producer and the director. They are exes who used to be the most successful movie-making team at Hallm…um, “Dazzle”. They go from only being able to talk to each other through an intermediary, a put-upon P.A., to mutual respect, and then re-igniting their love for each other.

Unfortunately, although very promising, it fell short for me. First of all, it was kind of boring. There was no drama, tension or suspense. The enemies-to-lovers conflict between the divorced showrunners was slow and predictable with a minimum of fireworks. I didn’t buy the Brad character. How could a truly genuine and nice guy act like such a dolt? His character is meant to be funny, but also mildly contemptible as well. He certainly wasn’t worthy of Kerry especially as played by the lovely and talented Kimberley Sustad. At one point, he offers Kerry a job as his costume designer after he gets a game-changing movie role in London. She takes a leap of faith and turns down her dream job in New York to go with him. But when he reads a piece criticizing his going against type to play a villain, he chickens out and backs out of the gig. He didn’t even think of his promise to Kerry. So Kerry lost her dream job and the London opportunity.  Thanks, Brad.

I give Hallmark props for parodying itself in an amusing and effective way. And the structure was unusual for Hallmark as well. It is told in flashbacks at the premiere with the principals taking questions from the audience. We learn that Brad changed his mind again and took the role in London (without Kerry) but she is now working in Hollywood as a costume designer for the re-married team with a 6 picture contract. Brad and Kerry get together at the end after Brad apologizes and vows to change, but I didn’t believe in the relationship. And, so far, I’m not a fan of John Brotherton. I have to add that the final scene was very funny. I chuckled.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Love, Classified

All About Emilia (or Trudy or Jan)

This one started off extremely well. The writing was intelligent, and Melora Hardin (A.k.a. Trudy Monk) delivered her lines with verve and vivacity. It was clear that this was going to be one of the Hallmark 2.0s that the network has been flirting with lately that eschews the usual fill in the template set-pieces and characters. Paul Campbell in a cameo appeared as a bartender who serves to introduce the main character, Emilia, played by Melora. So I was set to enjoy this. We later see an uncredited appearance by Ashley Williams and a welcome cameo by Michael Kevin Anderson. And Steve Bacic is a big favorite of mine as well.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the mother, Emilia’s, past abandonment of her children after the death of her husband. Yes, people make “mistakes”. But a 5-year absence is not a “mistake,” it is a heartless, selfish, cowardly choice. And while I know that health crises do cause people to rethink the importance of family and old ties, I thought it was significant that she didn’t come back to see her children until she felt personally vulnerable. Apparently, when everything was going well, her children were not very high up on the priority list. And as for self-centeredness, her hurt daughter was a chip off the old block. She was very unlikable. I don’t fault her for her feelings towards her mother, but I didn’t like her childish acting out, especially towards her very faultless and innocent love interest, Her mother’s doctor. Her son, on the other hand, handled everything perfectly. He was cautious about his mother’s reappearance in his life but willing to give her a chance. When she (predictably) was set to run away again, he called her out on her propensity to run from trouble and conflict instead of sticking it out. I liked his anger.

As the movie went on, Melora Hardin’s performance started to grate on my nerves more and more. Her over-the-top emoting was just hammy. Her speech at her book signing was just cringe-inducing. The self-involved airing of all of her bad behavior and embracing her children’s successes was not an apology to her children, it was another “all about me” TMI performance. So, what promised to be a more sophisticated (lesbian romance front and center instead of a brief hint in the background) version of family-friendly fare, just fizzled, for me. Stars for the good things about it.**6 out of 10**

Rating: 3 out of 5.

April 24, 2022

Forever Christmas

See it for Christopher Russell

If Christopher Russell is paired with the right female lead, and he has a script that takes advantage of his GQ worthy handsomeness and the kindness that you can see behind his eyes, he can be great. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. It does in this one. The script explores the phoniness behind reality series and how untrustworthy and false they can be. I didn’t much care for the heroine, but Christopher made up for that and had charm enough for both. I did like that they had a fairly sizzling love scene as opposed to the usual chaste kiss at the end of the movie.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 20, 2020

High Flying Romance or Kite Festival of Love

What is the Title? High Flying Romance or Kite Festival of Love?

So kites. That’s a new one. The awkward alternate title is Kite Festival of Love. This is probably why this very recent Hallmark slipped under my radar. Still, it’s surprising considering it featured two of their biggest stars: Jessica Lowndes and Christopher Russell. They are not the most talented actors, but they interest me. Jessica because she started off so badly in the talent department with nothing but her beauty to recommend her, and Christopher because he is so handsome and likable despite sometimes walking through his part like he is asleep or on drugs. When he’s paired with the right female co-star, he does a great job.

Christopher plays Gavin, a widowed father of an eight-year-old who returns to his small town upon the death of his wife to be near family. He meets Hannah (Jessica) a childhood acquaintance and neighbor who is a music teacher. They start a relationship because why not? She is gorgeous, super sweet, has a cute dog, loves kids, loves his kid specifically, his kid really likes her, his parents love her, and she’s single. As for her, come on, Christopher Russell. As a loving father. What could be more adorable? Oh. They both love kites. It was meant to be. Unfortunately, there is very little chemistry or spark between the two. They are very stiff and awkward around each other.

All proceeds very boringly with no conflict, suspense, or problem to solve until about three-quarters of the way through. That’s when brazen hussy ex-girlfriend starts to get jealous and commences to stalk him and manipulate him into dates and tries to make Jessica think they are a couple. I thought things might get interesting, but right off the bat, she tells him she doesn’t like children and suggests his daughter, ably played by Amelie Will Wolf, is being manipulative when he wants to go home to tuck her into bed! Can you imagine? What a dummy. Not that she had a snowball’s chance in Hell anyway. Even though Christopher’s too nice to tell her to get lost.

Christopher is average in this one. Jessica has plateaued as far as her acting is concerned. She’s not bad, but another actress could have done so much more with this part. Her delivery is still a little strange with a California girl cadence and she sometimes slips back into her habit of not enunciating and talking too fast. She is miscast in these girl next door parts. It is simply not believable that, with her glamorous beauty, she would have anything to fear from the only above average looking ex-girlfriend who’s not very nice to boot.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

September 14, 2020

Flip that Romance

Too much Fighting!

Yeah, maybe it was the mood I was in, but I got very tired very quickly of the constant bickering and over-competitiveness of the two principals. It was particularly egregious on the part of the woman, who let her emotions run away with her and bid more than she could afford and over the maximum she agreed on with her partner. Just to get one over her ex-boyfriend. She was too hostile for me. I was really frosted by the immaturity and foolishness. Julie Gonzalo was okay as the female lead, but I loved Tyler Hynes as her love interest. He’s responsible for most of the stars I gave this one.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

March 17, 2019