Campfire Christmas

Too Campy.

This one was just silly despite the rapport and charm of the two leads, Tori Anderson and Corbin Bleu. Unfortunately, they are overshadowed by the hammy performances of approximately half of the secondary actors. Since they all over-act in the same way, I blame the director. Tori is an aspiring writer who has been working as an assistant in a publishing firm. Unfortunately, every attempt to have any of her manuscripts published by her firm is shut down by her heinous boss. She grew up with a group of friends that attended her parents’ Christmas-themed summer camp. Her parents tell her that they are selling the camp and are going to throw a week-long farewell celebration for all of the two generations of former campers who strangely all seem to be the same age. Weird.  She has kept in touch and sees all of her good buddies except one, her camp romance, Corbin Bleu. When they tried to make their long-distance relationship work outside of camp, it didn’t and Corbin dumped her, breaking her heart. Besides Corbin and Tori the friends include a married couple that met at camp and two contentious gay actors who got the show-biz bug there while competing for the same roles in  “the pageant.” The 3 couples all have misunderstandings and issues to iron out before their Christmas dreams come true and love wins. So there’s nothing new here, including the “big misunderstanding” 20 minutes before the end of the movie. This one is of the “only half the conversation is heard” variety and is particularly dumb.

What makes this one below average is the sheer boredom of watching all of the campers running around like maniacs doing fun activities like they are 10 years old and on sugar highs cheered on like their lives depended on it by Tori’s grinning parents. The one scene that got my attention was provided by Tori’s boss. Besides Corbin and Tori mending fences and discovering the old spark is still there, we have her still trying to get published, this time by writing a history of her family’s beloved camp. Her boss had rejected her latest manuscript because it needed more passion and a more personal connection.  Her boss loves her pitch but then to her horror, asks her, “who are you going to get to write it?” What???!!! I mean, I was floored. Imagine how Tori felt. When her boss goes so far as to hire a writer and asks for Tori’s notes and personal diaries, Tori quits on the spot. She learns later that her boss kept rejecting her manuscripts because she didn’t want to lose Tori as an assistant. This somehow makes her feel better, and in the 6 months later epilogue, we learn that she wrote a children’s book out of the story illustrated by her soon-to-be fiance, Corbin, who is an art teacher.  The married couple are now pregnant and the gay rivals are now a happy couple. Situation normal in Hallmark-Land. It has gotten a pretty harsh reception on IMDb and not just because of all of the diversity.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

July 29,2022

A Bridesmaid in Love

“The Big Misunderstanding”

I really like Tori Anderson and her pretty smiley eyes. She’s been in at least two other Hallmarks I’ve seen, and she was the primary reason why those movies were at least watchable. In one, she was the only bright spot, and in the other, she was an important ingredient in a production that worked in several ways. In this one, everything was going along fine, until towards the end when we came to “big conflict” time.

Let me back up. Tori plays a freelance writer whose specialty is tips and advice for brides and weddings. She is kind of like a wedding planner, but she actually is a “professional bridesmaid” who solves problems or possible disasters that crop up and adds great ideas to make good weddings even better. She does this for brides in exchange for a healthy contribution to a worthy charity. Then she writes about it. When her childhood friend whose brother Matt was also once one of her best friends, is planning her wedding, Tori steps up. She has recently broken up with her loser boyfriend of 1 year, and Matt is her love interest. I really liked Matt. He was very attractive in a guy-next-door kind of way and was super sweet, like Tori. They were perfect for each other and were soon well on the way to googly eyes and true love, with Tori saving her friend’s wedding from disaster right and left. Venue, caterer, dress, you name it and Tori saves it.

Everything was burbling along fine, with a few side plots in addition to the wedding adventures. Her veterinarian ex starts to pop up as well, which added to the anticipation and suspense. We see that he is regretting his assholery, and we are seeing that Tori (along with the viewer) is wondering what the heck she saw in him in the first place. I mean, when he shows up at her Dad’s coffee shop on his way to the “Hamster Rehabilitation Conference” and her eyes start to dart around looking for escape, we know she has moved on. But he is clueless and he makes time in his busy busy Kitty and Puppy schedule to trap her alone so he can propose marriage.

And this is where the movie takes a turn for the worse. Nice Matt sees him getting down on one knee and, despite their burgeoning love, good times, soulful gazes, and intimate conversations, he turns his back and leaves the premises without bothering to see the outcome. Because of course if a guy gets down on one knee, there is only one conclusion one can make, right? The girl has to say yes. No. There are two possible outcomes, Matt. “Yes, I will marry you,” or “Thanks, but no thanks.” To make his insulting conclusion jump much worse, he acts like a total jerk to her for the last 20 minutes of the movie. He gives her the cold shoulder and is very rude. Tori is confused and heartbroken, and I was irate. It was a very very bad example of “The Big Misunderstanding”. The utter stupidity ruined a pretty decent movie.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

March 11, 2022

Spotlight on Christmas

Started off Very Promisingly, but Fizzled in the Last Half

This started off strongly with the great casting of Tori Anderson as a believable A-list movie star. I also liked the actress that played her little half-sister, though I was at first confused about the family dynamics. I found Victor Zinck just OK as the hometown love interest and was underwhelmed by the chemistry. I didn’t believe him in the role. I am apparently in the minority on this issue.

Olivia returns to her hometown after a long absence to escape from the paparazzi after a messy break with her country-western star boyfriend. Alas, she is followed. I immediately liked the character of Olivia, because she was so pretty and nice. Unfortunately, her story got slower and more boring as the movie went on. Interestingly I noted a small cameo by one of my favorite Hallmark actresses at the beginning of the movie, Kimberly Sustad. Had she continued her small contribution in the role of the conflicted paparazzo, it might have added a needed spark to one of the dull subplots. I also noted that it was directed by another favorite, Ali Liebert. Hallmark Actresses Unite! Good for her and better luck next time. I would like to see more of Tori Anderson in these Hallmark-type movies.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

December 24, 2020

Love Under the Olive Tree

At Least You Can Learn About Olive Oil

Even though this Hallmark has a relatively high rating all of the reviews seem to be very negative. So I feel like it’s my duty to give it a good review. First of all yes, yes, yes, it does incorporate many many many of the Hallmark clichés and stock storylines. What a shocker! Alert the media. First of all, I liked the Olive Oil making plotline. It was certainly different and I enjoyed the fresh setting other than chocolate, wine, and cupcakes. It was interesting, unlike blueberries or pumpkins. The two leads had good chemistry. The family conflict and rivalry kept my interest. I liked that the grandfathers who started the feud were actually more reasonable than their offspring. It was realistic. I also loved the secondary romance of her best friend and the coffee shop owner. It was sweet. I was invested in the outcome of the olive oil judging and wager and happy that there was a clear winner and it was the one I was rooting for.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

June 27, 2020