Wednesday, November 23, 2016
What Did I Just Watch? Jen the (Hallmark Movie) Virgin, Part I
Every year, my blogger friend Karen of For What It's Worth binge-watches Hallmark movies. I was never that interested ... until this year, when I decided that I needed a little (cheesy) Christmas, right this very minute. So I decided to join her and check out a few of this year's offerings.
Note: Many of you may be already familiar with Hallmark Christmas movies. If, like me, you are a HCMV (Hallmark Christmas Movie Virgin), here are some things to be prepared for:
First, I love Christmas, but some of these movies are about what I came to call "The Cult of Christmas." A typical plot has a Grinch-y character who doesn't like Christmas (usually due to some past December tragedy) and is in serious need of some Rudolph re-education. Second, when these movies talk about a "white Christmas," they're not just talking about snow. To me, these movies were disconcertingly homogenous. Third, HCMs are clearly intended for all-family viewing (not a bad thing!) The romances are 100% G-rated, each capping off with the happy couple sharing a quick peck on the lips. Fourth, these movies offer ... how do I say this? ... a great opportunity for holiday multi-tasking. There's not a ton of plot packed into two hours, and most of these movies have lots of holiday montages to fill the gaps (sledding, shopping, etc.) so you can get presents wrapped and cookies baked while you watch without missing any plot points.
Okay, with that said, here we go:
A Wish for Christmas (2016)
Starring Lacey Chabert and Paul Green
This was my first HCM movie and a rough start for me. The main character is a doormat who makes a wish to Santa that she can stand up for herself. After that, she magically becomes a weird mix of assertive and oversharing. That plot would be enough, but then the male character (her boss) has a whole backstory with an estranged family. I just didn't like the main character or the premise and, while I made it through only one hour of this movie, it felt like ten.
Jen's Rating: DNF
Mistletoe Promise (2016)
Starring Jaime King and Luke Macfarlane
Two Christmas-hating characters meet cute in a mall (harassed by over-aggressive Christmas carolers, which was funny) and decide to make a pact to get through Christmas together. Elise runs a travel agent with her jerky ex-husband, who spends more time with his ditsy new girlfriend than paying attention to Elise's charity travel program. Nick is a lawyer who needs to find a wife to fit in with his firm's "family values" culture. (Um... Nick's firm specializes in Family Law and I'm not sure Hallmark understands that Family Law is actually kind of an oxymoron, but never mind...) Mistletoe Promise was a vast improvement on the first movie I watched and prevented me from crossing this whole project off my holiday to-do list. While Jaime King looks more like a former runway model than a sad, mall-going divorcee, she had more acting chops than most HCM actors and made Elise an appealing main character. The plot was classic romance novel -- fauxmance-about-to-be-exposed -- but worked overall. The movie even gently reminds HCN viewers that (gasp!) divorced women deserve a second chance at love.
Jen's Rating: 4/5 Chocolate Santas
Christmas Cookies (2016)
Starring Jill Wagner and Wes Brown
This one had pros and cons for me. Ambitious New York businesswoman Hannah is sent to a town called Cookie Jar to "seal the deal" on a contract to buy a failing business: Aunt Sally's Cookie Company. Of course, Hannah soon discovers that the magic in Aunt Sally's cookie recipe is small town values. I'm all for promoting small business and entrepreneurship over multinational corporate greed, but when it was revealed that the cookies couldn't be made anywhere but Cookie Jar because none of the recipes were written down and each townsperson was the only one could carry out a particular part of the recipe, I was choking on my cocoa. It also felt to me that Hannah's feminist ambition got translated as selfishness. She did not endear herself to me by not telling the love interest that she had a boyfriend back home, a relationship serious enough that the guy was ready to propose. On the other hand, I thought Hannah had the most personality of all the four female HCM characters I've met so far. The sassy BFF is a stock character in both chick flicks and HCM, and this movie had a sassy sister played by Chelsey Reist (Harper in The 100.)
Every Christmas Has a Story (2016)
Starring Lori Loughlin and Colin Ferguson
First, my Santa hat goes off to this movie for featuring a romance between an over-40 aged couple. I've loved Lori Loughlin since her Full House days, and she looks amazing. As for the leading man ... we'll get to that. In any case, Every Christmas Has a Story features what I've come to understand is a typical fix-the-Christmas-hater plot. When Kate, a local television reporter, doesn't realize her mike is still on and says she hates Christmas, you'd have thought she'd admitted that she enjoyed drowning kittens in her spare time. The townspeople (hilariously) picket the station, so her network boss (a rare female character of color) immediately sends her to the most Christmas-loving town in the US., accompanied by her producer (and former college boyfriend) Jack. Soon the two of them are hot on the trail of the story of the missing Christmas tree in the town square ... and hot for each other. To me, Every Christmas Has a Story had pros and cons. The story of the missing town tree was so convoluted and improbable that I couldn't explain it to a family member who wandered into the living room. But I loved seeing Lori Loughlin's teenage daughter playing a town local, and this movie had far more diversity than most HCMs. As for the romance, I couldn't get past the fact that the love interest was also...
...the Maytag repairman. I don't know, I just kept thinking about kitchen appliances, not Christmas kisses.
If you've enjoyed these reviews, be sure to check out Karen's reviews here and here. There may be a part II to my HCMV series, so stay tuned!