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.

Yellowstone Romance

Wacky Fun

After being away for work, Olivia returns to New York City and finds her best friend and roommate, Amber, engaged to a guy she’s only known for a few months. Olivia disapproves. Amber is a city girl and a ditz. Her new fiance is a rancher and Amber will be following him to the boondocks. Olivia thinks (rightly) that Amber does not know what she is getting into. In the guise of a “bachelorette retreat,” She takes Amber to a working Dude ranch along with their other best friend, Jason, to give her a taste of what is in store for her. Olivia selfishly does not want to lose her best friend and roommate, but she also is genuinely concerned.

What follows is kind of a hoot. First, the trio arrives at the ranch dressed in New York City’s idea of what is proper ranch wear. It is a cute visual. They are greeted by the ranch owner and his son, played by Christopher Russell.  Christopher’s natural fallback position in his roles is laid-back and easy-going. He was perfectly cast in this role as the strong but silent cowboy who is unhappily roped into taking care of the “citidiots” and showing them a good time as well as a taste of authentic ranch life. The “Dude” part of the dude ranch is just until his Dad makes the extra money to pay the back taxes.   It’s all wacky fun while the three take on Getting up at the crack of dawn, camping, horse riding, egg-gathering (and breaking), fence repair, cattle herding, barn dancing, wolf and bear avoiding, etc.

To Olivia’s surprise and frustration Amber is game for everything and her enthusiasm never flags. Except when she is attacked in a river by a leech. And who can blame her for that? Cowboy Travis is exasperated but is very good at hiding his annoyance at the situation, and it’s not long before the trio’s good humor and effort earn his respect and liking. The actress who played Olivia really grew on me and had great chemistry with Christopher Russell. Amber and their friend Jason were funny, and Christopher was in his element. And when CR is on point, he is the bomb-diggity.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

May 18, 2022

The Nine Kittens of Christmas


The sequel to the Nine Lives of Christmas starts out with a shocker! Marilee and Zachary have broken up! And she’s with another guy! In Miami! And she looks happy! AAAAAIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!! HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? Well, it turns out that she wanted more (marriage) and he didn’t want to “ruin a good thing”. She enrolled in a veterinarian school in far away Miami by way of a wake-up call, and he didn’t stop her or come after her. So yes, it was totally his fault.

But there’s hope. She goes home for Christmas, as one does, looking forward to spending time with Miles (her boyfriend) and her family. But he prioritizes their veterinarian practice over family, they have a fight and they break up over the phone. She remarks sadly to her sister that she thought Miles would have fought harder for their relationship. Poor Marilee burned again. But she doesn’t get a complex over it, she goes on and reconnects with Zack over finding homes for 9 adorable kittens. The chemistry is still there.

Kimberley Sustad is great as always. Beautiful in an accessible way, charming, and funny. Brandon Routh is very handsome and does a good job. He works well with Kimberley. She gets some good digs in. She steals the Christmas tree he and Sam (Gregory Harrison the Fire Chief) had their eye on. When he protests she tells him “Well think of it as a teachable moment. The next time you find “the one” don’t drag your feet.” Thanks to good acting, the banter is entertaining.

The only quibble I have with this one is that she seems to do all the work in the relationship. He is very passive. At one point, she grabs him and kisses him and then apologizes and walks away. He lets her. He admits to Sam that the break-up was his fault and it was the worst mistake of his life. Sam asks him whether he ever told her that. Uh, No. He sees her with her ex (yes Miles shows up in Oregon all contrite) and he jumps to conclusions and runs home. She has to call him. He doesn’t answer his phone. When his cat answers it for him, she confesses her love, but he has to think about it and remains silent. Paul Campbell, Kimberley’s frequent partner in past Hallmarks, makes a cameo in this one. At this point, I’m thinking she missed the boat.

Finally, in the end, he says and does everything he should and even puts a ring on it. I am making the decision to have faith that this relationship has a future because I like the couple so much. Plus, breaking up with her now that they’re engaged would take some initiative on his part, so I think Marilee is safe from another heartbreak.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

November 26, 2021

The Christmas Pact

I Guess She Didn’t go to London

The attractive and very diverse young cast is a plus. At first, since the story started in the 80’s when the H/h were only 8 or 10 years old or so, I was afraid this was going to be another one of these Hallmances where they would end up in their late 30s and still be romantically unfulfilled and still struggling with their careers, acting like teenagers or in their 20’s instead of mature adults established and successful in their careers. Thank goodness most of the action concludes when they are still in their very early 30’s or late 20’s, with the epilogue in the present day. The main problem I had with the story was the unlikely development of the heroine giving up her exciting almost fairy-tale-like dream career as a photographer who travels all over the world in order to settle in a small town with her guy who runs a garden center. I mean she kisses away a presumably very well-paid editor job in London? Big Lifestyle change, there. Huge. That decision needed to be dealt with upfront and seriously instead of happening off-screen.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

January 29, 2019

The Last Bridesmaid

Bad Vibes

I am a fan of Paul Campbell so I thought I’d give this a re-watch, even though I didn’t remember being overly impressed the first time around. Paul was fine. Rachel, Rachel, Rachel. I used to like her all right. She used to be one of the go-to Hallmark actresses. The more I have seen her in recent years, the less I like her. She has a real stagey acting style. She says her lines like she knows there is an audience watching her. No matter what role she plays, beneath the smiles and niceness, she kind of comes across like she knows she is kind of superior to everyone else. This is just the way she comes across to me. I know she has her fans, and that is fine.

I found that her interaction with Paul Campbell came across as borderline hostile especially at the beginning. And it wasn’t due to the story. Her eyes were so cold when she looked at him in a few scenes, I actually got a little freaked out. I wish I knew what was going on there, if anything.

The story wasn’t all that bad, hence a semi-respectable 6 1/2 stars from me. The script seemed well-written and had some cute and clever lines. I liked that she was playing her age not an almost 40-year-old actress playing a young inexperienced girl just starting out in her career. The jewelry-making subplot was interesting and added a lot to the usual love story. The message was a good one: Follow your dreams, do what you love, but stay sensible and grounded. The romance as scripted did not come out of nowhere, the relationship developed naturally and realistically.**6 1/2 stars out of 10**

May 26, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.