Anyone who looks at Hallmark movies or their copycats to any great degree gets used to questionable plot points, plot holes, and many opportunities to suspend disbelief. But this one had more than the usual problems you just have to ignore and move past. Going in, I was hopeful and curious to see Sarah Ramos, because I remember her as Lauren Graham’s daughter on Parenthood. Carlo Marks usually gives a likable performance.
Sarah is a prominent children’s author who has to return to her hometown to reward the winner of a contest promoting her new book. Of course, as is required of fictional Hallmark authors, she is suffering from writer’s block and is having trouble finishing it. It turns out the little winner is the daughter of Travis the boy next door she had a teenage crush on and had been avoiding for over 10 years. After humiliating herself by bursting into his wedding and declaring her love, she has never returned home because of the bad memories. Yeah, it was pretty embarrassing. But why did Travis even answer the door in the middle of his vows? Was this lout raised by wolves? And how did Sarah not know her friend and next-door neighbor was getting married?
Here’s the second problem. Her beloved grandmother Mia (Marilu Henner) still lives in the house across the street. Are they telling me Sarah never visited Grandma Mia when she is supposed to be so devoted to her? 10 years of phone calls, emails, and Hallmark Cards, I guess.
She meets Travis because he lives in his parents’ old house now and gets to know his little girl,(who hugs everyone all the time. I’ve never seen such a huggy little girl) and a rekindled romance ensues. But where is the wife? Is she dead? Divorced? On vacation? I was expecting her to pop up any minute. We find out after a great deal of flirting has been going on that they are divorced and she travels with her band a lot. Whew!
And why did grammy stop making the beloved Christmas cookies again? She taped up the recipe after Sarah ripped it up. Sarah finds it hidden away behind a wall, and she goes ahead and whips up a batch of 12 cookies. These cookies have been missed greatly by the community because they have the magical power of revealing your true love in a dream.(this is what got Sarah into all that trouble) Yet, we are told there was a line out the door for them. How could there have been “a line out the door” for 12 cookies, especially when at least 4 were already given away?
As usual, there was an unnecessary conflict at the end which was more fake than usual and made no sense. She runs away when Travis suggests that she stay in New Britain to explore their relationship and buy Grammy’s house. Why? After she has a convo with Benny, her agent, in which nothing she didn’t already know is imparted, she changes her mind. She also realizes that the cookies really are magic because she and Travis now love each other as adults and, Yay! He is now single.
The script was not a challenge for good actors: no great emotional highs and lows, but the whole cast of seasoned Hallmark actors did an excellent job. All handled the good humor and banter with aplomb. I particularly enjoyed Matty Finochio as the assistant, Stanley.
Tracy, played by Alison Sweeney, the third woman in the triumvirate of Wedding Veil owners begins her story by breaking up with her boyfriend, Finn. It is handled very maturely. He has gotten a great job across the country, and Tracy does not want to leave New York or her own great job. They are sad to part ways, but as we have gathered from the previous two installments, they have grown apart lately anyway.
Tracy takes the veil to a tailor(?) to have a snag repaired and meets Victor Webster getting fitted for a tuxedo. There is some good-natured raillery. Allison is planning an important party for her job and is in the market for a new caterer. Her search brings her to a new restaurant accompanied by Autumn and Lacey. Lo and behold Victor is the head chef and part-owner with his family. The meeting between the women and Victor is chuckle-worthy thanks to the three actresses’ comic timing and easy rapport.
The side story of Tracy’s mission to obtain a newly discovered early draft of the famous Emma Lazarus poem for the museum where it can be enjoyed by the public is interesting. It adds some suspense and provides the pretext (Victor might know an investor), along with picking out art for the new location of Victor’s restaurant, fun with food, and rug hauling around, for the promising couple to spend more time together. Alison and Victor make a good pair both age-wise and in physicality.
Unlike the second installment, the plot is tightly written. There are quite a few little stories, but the focus remains on the couple and their developing relationship. Every individual side element gets tied into the whole, including the Emma Lazarus poem welcoming immigrants to America. The continuing mystery of how the veil got to San Francisco is well incorporated into this final chapter and provides a satisfying conclusion involving a lovely coincidence and a twist. After the veil does its job of finding husbands for the three likable friends, it finds its own happy final home.
Of the three movies, I rank the first one the best for its humor, this one second for the well-constructed plot, and the second one my least favorite. 7 1/2 stars
Hallmark’s best crier meets Hallmark’s most gloomy sourpuss. Yes folks, this is a real holly-jolly one! For her son’s sake, Alison Sweeny, the sad widow, braves coming home for Christmas to her small town where she lived with her now killed husband. And she saves a bakery! And no murders are involved. She also meets Lucas Bryant, who lately has been cornering the market on sullen doleful damaged characters. He has also come to her hometown to finally return the pocket watch of a mysterious soldier who saved his life. A snow fort is built, a snowball fight is had, clumsy ice-skating occurs, a festival is held, baked goods are consumed, a tearful kiss happens and our heroine “moves on.”. This one does not miss a trick.
On the positive side Sweeney and Bryant have good chemistry, and Sweeney is usually pretty appealing. She does what she was hired for: brave tears. Lucas Bryant is very attractive. The productions values are good, and the story had a little mystery to keep interest going. The young son was adorable and I hope to see him in other productions. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood for this very popular entry in the Hallmark repertoire of Christmas movies.
Nothing special here. Same old same old story partially redeemed by the character of Johnny Blake played by a well-cast Trevor Donovan. The secondary characters were played by Hallmark perennials, though the 2 female leads were relative newcomers to the Hallmark stable. Emily Tennant, the bride, who provides the #2 lead was fresh and appealing. I see Hallmark in her future. I wish Hallmark would steer away from extravagantly beautiful heroines toward more down-to-earth girls. I just can relate to cute more than impossibly gorgeous. All though this is a backhanded compliment to the physical beauty of Rachel Skarsten, I was distracted throughout most of the movie by her over-processed long ringlets. What is this? 1989?
The success of these things, for me, depends on the existence of some dialogue with some snap to it, some humor, some surprises(a little suspense?), appealing casting, good acting, enough non-phony not-needless conflict to provide some catharsis or the comeuppance of evil-doers. Do I ask for all of these things at once? No, that would be asking too much. (though it has happened, rarely). But I need at least 2. The “supercute” (gag me) snowball fight kicked off a big fail for me.
On a side note, when, oh when, is Hallmark inc. going to get on the bandwagon and start starring a few of the talented and numerous black actors and actresses as the romantic leads? And I’m not talking about black bosses, black millionaire clients, or black best friends. A.) It seriously calls into question their values, and B.), It’s super stupid business-wise. The most popular and profitable romances and dramas in the theatres today feature black people in the leads. Tyler Perry anyone? What about Malcolm D. Lee and his Best Man movies? There are dozens of examples. Come on. I have more than a few black women friends who would jump on such a Hallmark movie like a duck on a junebug. I can’t believe they have seldom been called on this. WTH?!**4 stars out of 10**