An Unexpected Christmas

Unexpectedly Overwrought

Jamie and Emily have broken up their long-term relationship. Jamie has headed home for Christmas in small-town Fulton, Illinois. Coincidentally, Emily is also heading there for work. They arrive at the terminal at the same time and Jamie’s family, who love Emily and haven’t been told of the break-up, are thrilled that Jamie has brought Emily home to spend Christmas. Emily needs a place to stay and Neither wants to ruin the family’s Christmas so they continue the deception that they are still together.

There were some good things and not-so-good things with this one.

The Good:
Bethany Joy Lenz and Tyler Hynes performances and their chemistry together. Bethany was very funny in the comedy parts and very touching in the emotional parts. Tyler Hynes performance made an essentially weak and troubling character tolerable.

The script had some unusual aspects and was witty. The banter between Jamie and Emily was good.

Emily’s wardrobe. Bethany Joy Lenz’s characters always seem to have fun and fashionable outfits.

Tyler’s new hairstyle.

The cameo walk-through blink and you might miss it of Bethany’s frequent co-star, Andrew Walker.

I like the scope big families provide in Hallmarks and this one had one.

The Bad:
That big family? They were so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o energetic, loud, and overbearing that it became exhausting.

Jamie’s character. He dumped Emily because she was more successful than him and he didn’t want to hold her back. OK. But his self-esteem problem was rooted in his need to be perfect in everything and vice versa. Even though we are told that his Grandfather also was a perfectionist, He grew up in a happy, stable, and supportive family. This debilitating complex did not seem to be founded on much. It also causes him to be afraid of being honest with his family about his break-up and why. BTW he never does get the backbone to be forthright about it. And he’s a liar.

Jamie’s struggles with writing the governor’s speech. He was unable to write a word. His paralysis (again, it had to be perfect) was like a big depressing specter over the whole movie.

The plot was all over the place. The Christmas play his sister directed was needless and was a distraction. Bethany’s project came to nothing. The lightening-bolt like lesson of the newlyweds’ rocks in the fountain was not used in the governor’s speech, or Emily’s theme for her project (what it was-I am unclear) the speech itself was short and lame. All that angst over THAT?

Some of the happenings were too silly. The Christmas play and the scene in the restaurant with the waiter. I don’t mind silly sometimes, but silliness is not comedy.

A lot of negatives were outweighed by the acting and appeal of the two leads, and strong production values. I did not approve of Jamie’s actions or inactions, but it did lend some depth and complexity to his character. I’m just not sure I want all those problems in a Hallmark hero.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 28, 2021

Five More Minutes

No Beer, Trucks, Guns, or Jesus

I approached this one with a lot of misgiving. I mean, a story based on a country song? By Scotty McCreery? But to my surprise, it was pretty good. Nikki Deloach, who is good as always, is a dedicated Art teacher who is losing her job and is having doubts about her relationship with her boyfriend. She wishes she could have just five more minutes with her beloved late Grandpa who always gave her great advice.

When she goes home to celebrate Christmas(?) Thanksgiving (?) I don’t remember, she finds a journal written by Grandpa when he was a young man detailing his first lost love.  She gets together with an old ex-boyfriend, and they decide to try to find her. Or was that another movie, Christmas Together with You?  They’re already starting to run together a bit. At the same time, a young man shows up for a job at her store because he said her grandpa was going to hire him. He turns out to be a wonder and is the best employee ever. It’s pretty clear from the get-go that something spooky is going on. There are lots of clues, which I’ll keep to myself.

Sherry Miller plays Bonnie, Clara’s mom, who lost her husband about a year ago. She looks great. I always think of the actress with fondness because she was in one of my favorite TV romcoms, This Matter of Marriage, back in the late ‘90s when she was a young whippersnapper. Highly recommend. She has her own romance along with her daughter finding love with her ex, Logan, and dumping her current beau. I liked that Bonnie did not approve of the ex, who behaved badly dumping Clara when they were teens, and kept giving him the stink-eye. She came around though.

There were a couple of things I did not like. Despite both Clara and Logan being established as Hallmark paragons of niceness, they both behaved badly. Logan kept putting the moves on Clara even after she said she had a boyfriend. And Clara totally dumped Logan and canceled an invitation for the family-less guy to spend Thanksgiving (?) Christmas (?) with her family just because he was called back to active duty. This was really low behavior and hardly patriotic or compassionate. Also contrary to the Hallmark ethos.  The third thing I didn’t like was the under-use of Leanne Lapp who played Clara’s sister and a favorite of mine.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 22, 2021

Christmas in Evergreen: Bells are Ringing

One Actress Makes this Watchable

This was enjoyable due entirely to Rukiya Bernard. I’m pretty sure that this is the first Hallmark that she has been the principal character, although even in this one, there was an abundance of supporting players. There were also a lot of stories. But like I said. Rukiya Bernard. I have been a fan of hers ever since I first saw her in One Winter Weekend. I love her energy: she has charisma to spare.

The multiple plots were not that interesting. Holly Robinson Peete’s fiancé gets snowed in and can’t make it back to Evergreen in time for his wedding or worse, Christmas. The actor might have been busy and couldn’t make it to the set, but we did see him on Zoom. Peete’s sister arrives for the wedding that is not to be along with her father. Sister is mad at Dad and cold to his nice new girlfriend. Rukiya’s story is that Elliot, her boyfriend, is opening a branch of their store in Boston and they will be separated. He didn’t check with her first. The other story is that she is now the head of the Evergreen museum but the eccentric Cooper Twins’ brother never signed off on using the building which puts the kibosh on the museum. He was horrible and mean. Rukiya did absolutely everything to get his cooperation but to no avail. How anyone could resist her charm let alone be so mean to her, I just did not understand. His inevitable epiphany was very weakly supported. He saw a video of his twin sisters saying the same thing Rukiya (and they) had been telling him in person throughout the movie. His change of mind made no sense.

So the whole thing was weak, but I enjoyed you know who.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 5, 2021

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

Harvest Love

Nothing to Offer except Ryan Paevey

Nothing. Happens. Move on, Nothing to see here unless you are a Ryan Paevey fan, which on the strength of his charming performance in Unleashing Mr. Darcy, I am. Jen Lilley, the actress who plays the female lead is very pretty with huge eyes. Huge. Unfortunately, her performance is distracting to the max. I might attribute this to the vapid script, but she has a smile plastered on her face throughout the movie, usually accompanied by an irritating titter. Someone should do a spread sheet on how often she completes a sentence by tittering. I doubt it was scripted. I understand her embarrassment, but she made a bad movie worse. Add to this, instead of real scenery we get fake back drops that look like they have been painted on velvet by Thomas Kinkade. I gave it a 4 due entirely to Ryan Paevey’s futile efforts. Choose better next time, Dude. My patience will not last forever. **4 stars out of 10**

Rating: 2 out of 5.

October 7, 2017