Five Star Christmas

Perfect Set-Up for a Sequel

Hallmark will have SERIOUSLY disappointed me considering the comparatively weak movies that they do build on if they don’t follow this one up. It is very rare that I give 10 stars to a Hallmark movie. This deserved every one of them. The highest praise I could give is that this almost could have been a regular theatre movie. I said almost. It was laugh-out-loud funny while being heart-tuggingly touching. And without being manipulative like the “soldier’s sad widow who finds a new love” movies are. There were multiple engaging story lines and a nice romance. Lucy and her siblings meet at home for Christmas only to discover that their Dad has turned it into a B&B and is making a mull of it. They all join forces to help their Dad turn it into a success. When who they think is an influential B&B reviewer drives up, they all pretend to be staff or happy guests, as there are no real ones, and that would not be a good look. The direction was awesome by veteran Hallmark director, Christie Will Wolf. She has not always helmed good movies, but in this case, the good script was made something special. The acting by most concerned fills the bill.

Once I got used to Bethany’s new eyebrows and Victor Webster as her love interest, it did not put a step wrong. I like Victor, but he was a little miscast. And can you believe no flour throwing scenes or snow-ball fight or snow angels to be found?! Instead, there was a Taffy-Pull! What a concept!

Each cast member had a very engaging story, and any one of the characters could be the focus of a next spin-off or two. Or Three.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

November 28, 2020

Roadhouse Romance

Lauren and Lockheart

This was very enjoyable thanks to the charisma and southern charm of Lauren Alaina and her chemistry with Tyler Hynes. The plot wasn’t much, but I do love a fish out of water story and two loves being from different worlds. Lauren is back home from her stint in the army and is upset to find that things haven’t stayed the same as when she left her small southern town of Lockheart, Tennessee. Her boyfriend has found someone else, and her family’s charming barbecue roadhouse is on the verge of failure. If that weren’t enough, her dead grandfather’s barbecue sauce recipe has been lost and they now use store-bought (!!!) Because it’s Hallmark, only a festival can save them, but ticket sales have been slow. Enter Tyler Hynes as a Hollywood TV director who gets stuck in town while driving his girlfriend’s birthday present to her in Nashville. Tyler’s gradual thawing to the ways of a small southern town, and coming to appreciate Lauren, was involving. The shallow girlfriend threatening from the background kept up the tension and suspense.

Unfortunately, the conclusion left a lot of loose ends and questions. Bad girlfriend agreed to give the festival a social media push in exchange for Tyler directing her movie. She holds up her end, but he welshes on the deal! Not Good. Another thing that bothered me was the dissonance between the plot and the theme. The moral of the story seemed to be that change brings good opportunities as well as sadness and disappointment. Yet instead of developing her own recipe for BBQ sauce, which would have symbolized moving forward and a fresh outlook, she just finally finds her grandfather’s. And finally, how are Tyler and Lauren going to make their relationship work when they live in different worlds? Will Lauren leave her small town to develop a singing career? Or will Tyler give up his successful profession to hang around Lockheart Tennessee? Neither option was given any time at all. Like Lauren’s own BBQ sauce, and Tyler’s lack of integrity,  it was left dying on the back burner.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

September 15, 2021

Love at First Bark

Boring and Banal

Love at First Bark is one of Hallmark’s more mediocre offerings. Other than some cute dogs and the odd dog-training tutorial, this one has nothing at all to recommend it. It is a very lazy effort with a cookie-cutter script and unremarkable leads. Usually one can find something to like in these things: a little unexpected twist, appealing actors, some cute lines, an old favorite star in a secondary role, some genuine chemistry between the leads, a villain you love to hate, a heart-tugging moment, etc., etc. This one was a complete waste of time.

The heroine is particularly annoying. She stubbornly refuses a handsome and sweet dog-trainer’s help in getting her new pooch under control until she finally changes her mind. She is very immature about her business and her love life. When she sees her new boyfriend who is obviously and unaccountably in love with her being nice to his ex-wife, she goes to pieces. He has outright told her he no longer has any interest in his ex and why. She sees his ex give him a smooch in the middle of a crowded party. Not a hidden alcove, a crowded party. This is so upsetting to her that she offends a valuable and much-needed client and petulantly breaks up with the dog trainer on the spot. She shuts him down when he literally begs her to listen. Very mean and unreasonable. He is very confused and doesn’t understand. She passive-aggressively tells him that she needs to focus on her new business (after she just dissed a potential client, mind you) and doesn’t have time for a relationship. Unfortunately for him, she apologizes soon after and he stupidly takes her back. That is all. As another reviewer noted, and adding to the irritating nature of this Hallmance, are Julia’s false eyelashes. They are so thick and long that she could literally sweep the floor with them. They deserve a cast credit of their very own. It gets 3 stars from me because the dog trainer/love interest (Kevin McGarry) was a super nice guy and very good-looking. The rest of the cast, including Leanne Lapp, was also very competent. **3 stars out of 10**

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

April 13, 2017