LLL 004: "On the plus side, I never had to eat fruitcake.”
Hallmark firsts, Queen Melissa Joan Hart, and so many ~artisanal~ ornaments.
This one’s coming to you a little (a LOTTLE) late because of Turkey Day. Thankfully, I still have some vestiges of the day (mostly in casserole form) — but I’m also fully inviting the December holidays into my ~heart and home~ with a fair isle onesie from Old Navy (not #spon) and multicolored string lights framing ze windows. The menorah and fake lil’ tree are both out now, too. It’s getting festive in here, BBs.
Back to the topic at hand. Some of these reviews aren’t in the order the movies aired because of either my excitement or my failure to record the ones that weren’t available on demand. (My poor spreadsheet has whiplash.) I’m telling you this not because I think you’ll care AT ALL, but because I have an almost pathological need to clarify things. This is part of my charm.
Anyway, plz enjoy these latest reviews and send me pics of mac ‘n cheese.
Forever your girl,
1. Meet Me at Christmas 🌲
Two teens are MERRYMAKING at a Christmas festival and seem like they’re falling in love. We keep coming back to these two throughout the movie, but we find out that Joan, a woman in her fifties (?), was the teen. We’re still a lil’ confused as to who the boy is, but we learn that Joan’s husband died. We catch up with Joan at her florist job and it’s very clear she’s ABUNDANTLY TALENTED and everyone thinks she should start her own company.
Joan returns to the Christmas town in the mountains from her youth for her son’s wedding. Apparently, the town was where she also met her husband (the boy??) and was a very important spot for the family. She and the son’s bride’s uncle, Beau, have to step in for the wedding planner after they cancel and we discover pretty quickly that… BEAU was the boy! Joan wants to keep this from her son because she doesn’t want him to know she had a very romantic day with someone else right before meeting his dad THAT SAME NIGHT. But, throughout the movie, we try to figure out why Beau stood her up at the end of the evening decades earlier. Turns out he was trying to save his brother from getting hit by a car after visiting Santa and ended up in the hospital (the excuses are always like this). By the end, they’ve (obviously) reconciled and fallen back in love. Beau turns down his next travel photog assignment and stays in Colorado with Joan, where she is starting her own WEDDING PLANNING business. YOUNG LOVE BECOMES OLD LOVE.
This was not a good movie, but what I DID enjoy were the few minutes when I was convinced that Joan thought Beau was her husband reincarnate — something that made ZERO sense logistically. At that point, I still thought the teen boy was her husband, so I was generally in a state of confusion. In my defense, stranger things have happened in these movies.
Rating: 1.5 out of 4 🌲
Jackie is somewhere between staff reporter and news editor at The Sunshine Chronicles and DESPERATELY wants to be promoted. (WE LOVE A JOURNALISM STORY.) She’s pretty much a shoo-in, but then the owner of a major digital news company (MARIE OSMOND) comes in and buys the paper. Jackie’s no longer a shoo-in because the new big boss wants someone with more supervisory experience and big boss offers her a staff reporter job (the same job she had five years prior). Jackie decides to quit and move to ALASKA to run a newspaper someone posted about in a Juneau newspaper. They needed someone new to run it and offered it up for free. WHAT A DEAL.
Jackie is a lil’ thrown at first by the COLD and SMALL-TOWN LIFE, but she ends up miraculously taking the paper from dying to THRIVING in just a few issues. The town is really into Christmas (duh), and while Jackie isn’t at first, she gives the people what they want and starts getting into it herself. While all of this is happening, she’s also getting closer to Finn, the son of the former editor-in-chief of the paper (now deceased). (Instead of being into newspapers AT ALL, Finn BLOWS GLASS.) They fall in love, duh, but big boss at Jackie’s old job reaches out and tries to buy the paper now that it’s doing well. She wants her to come back to the (digital) paper and become editor-in-chief there. That job was always Jackie’s dream, but she ends up deciding to stay with Finn and her new Christmas-y friends in the tiny Alaska town.
Two noteworthy things happened in this movie. First, Marie Osmond was in it. Why? I don’t know. Smelled an awful lot like stunt casting. She was BARELY on screen! Second, they really reinvented the woman comes out in red dress and renders man speechless thing. Not only did they do it in SLOW-MO, but they also added a Kira-Kira filter so the lights looked all sparkly. I’ve NEVER seen Kira-Kira used in a movie before and I REALLY appreciated it. What innovation.
Rating: 2.75 out of 4 📰
3. A Taste of Christmas 🍝
Natalie calls herself a JAQUELINE OF ALL TRADES, which means she works a million jobs and feels passionate about none of them. She always spends Christmas with her cousin, but that cousin (Nia Vardalos!) is trapped in Italy and has to cancel the opening of her new restaurant. Because Natalie thinks she can do everything and nothing at the same time, she takes it upon herself to plan the opening/Festa di Natale on her own. The chef is this Italian guy (Dante from the Sex and the City movie!!) and she is instantly SPRUNG.
Natalie is all feelings and Stefano is all logic (the audience knows this because they explain their POVs using CHRISTMAS TREES as METAPHORS), but they start liking one another and connecting. There’s also a fun B story with two awkward teens who are into each other (this is often more compelling than the main story). In the end, her primary conflict of not knowing what she wants to do with her life is NOT resolved, but she does find love with the hot Italian chef, so that’s cool I guess.
I have a MAJOR GRIPE with this movie. There’s this one moment when Natalie and this Italian woman who’s stranded in town while on a caroling gig (?) — due to the same storm that traps Natalie’s cousin — accidentally kiss on the mouth. Both characters seemed embarrassed but also kind of… pleased, but NOTHING comes from it. In fact, the Italian woman likes STEFANO (and was also ~logically~ the right one for him). What a missed opportunity.
Rating: 2.25 out of 4 🍝
4. Feliz Navi-Dad 🔔
This one CLEARLY has the best title of the week. David is a principal at his daughter’s school in PINESTAR whose wife died a few years prior. He takes a second job as a delivery person (under the guise of making more money but really because he’s sad without his wife at Christmas) and meets Sophie while working the gig. They have REALLY WEIRD banter over boxes and end up swiping right on one another when everyone coerces David into using the apps. Sophie is “practice” dating and is only in town for a little while — she’s helping her dad sell her deceased mom’s toys (?) but will be returning to the Phoenix Philharmonic (ANOTHER ONE) soon.
They keep going on these “practice” dates but develop feelings for one another. Sophie also starts helping David’s daughter, Noel (L O L), with her… bell choir/glee club? David and Sophie’s feelings deepen and eventually they decide to be together and commute back and forth because THEY LOVE EACH OTHER.
Anyone who watches these movies knows that Mario Lopez does his best work opposite Melissa Joan Hart, so I was THRILLED when MJH made a cameo as a nutty hippy he goes on a date with. MJH also directed (!) this movie, and knowing that fills my heart with SO MUCH JOY. Also, when the two lead characters have their INTERRUPTED KISS (classic), the film editor basically layers on an Instagram snow filter. It was so bad that it was also satisfying.
Rating: 2.25 out of 4 🔔
Ugh, this one, duh, uses the Christmas Carol format. Vivienne, a country music concert producer, is at some sort of turning point in life (I’m not even totally sure what it is) while she has to work with her childhood best friend, Gavin, with whom she’s had a falling out. A mix of real-life country singers and one ‘90s actress show Vivienne her past, present, and future.
Vivienne vacillates between her Christmas Carol thing and actual life, both of which show her that Gavin had feelings for her (which she returned!) and tried to reconnect after their falling out. They obviously FALL IN LOVE and she also manages to get a gig producing an LA country music concert even though she’s staying in Nashville with her new/old boo.
I love “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” but THIS was a VERY DUMB take on the classic plot. Vivienne wasn’t a miserly grinch and she wasn’t going through a crisis like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” so WHY was she being visited by these ghosts/country singers? What was the endgame here? It was also SO confusing to have it go back and forth between the Christmas Carol stuff and the present-day stuff. This plot device was not effective or necessary. DUMB.
Rating: 1.25 out of 4 🎶
6. The Christmas House 🏡
Mike is the star of a LAWYER PROCEDURAL called “Handsome Justice” — a perfect show which is also on the cusp of getting canceled. Mike goes home for the holidays and joins his mom, dad, brother Brandon, and brother’s HUSBAND in recreating the very excessive “Christmas House” decoration bonanza of their youth. It turns out that this is because Mike and Brandon’s parents are selling the house — and because they’re separating (!).
Along with the “Handsome Justice” and familial drama, Mike reconnects with his childhood crush (and partner magician in kid magic shows), Andi, and Brandon and his husband are waiting to hear if they can adopt. In the end, Mike has the option to save “Handsome Justice” but decides to do a spinoff instead in New York so he can live in his hometown AND OLD HOUSE with Andi and her son. Brandon and his husband find out they can adopt, and the mom and dad end up staying together even after they move.
HOY BOY do I have feelings about this one. After Hallmark heavily promoted it as the first of their holiday movies starring an LGBTQ+ couple, I was VERY disappointed to see that the LGBTQ+ couple was actually SECONDARY TO A STRAIGHT STORYLINE. Now, given that Hallmark stopped airing a Zola commercial because it had two women kissing just last year, I’m not terribly surprised by this — and, for them, this is progress. But DO NOT act as if you’re doing SO MUCH for inclusivity when you’re doing the bare minimum. It’s clear they promoted the movie as LGBTQ+-focused to pull in more viewers and appease the people they pissed off last year, but they kept it super heteronormative at the center so they wouldn’t ruffle the feathers of their main viewers. Still, if it wasn’t for this misfire, it would’ve actually been quite an enjoyable movie. The “Handsome Justice” stuff was RIGHT up my alley and I LOVED that the movie opened with a TV court scene.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 🏡
Melissa and Brian are co-anchors on AMERICA’S FAVORITE MORNING SHOW. Melissa is the consummate professional who’s always prepared and LOVES Christmas, while Brian is a football player turned dating reality show contestant who doesn’t use teleprompters and HATES Christmas. Naturally, they do not get along, so Brian’s been asking for a while to get out of his contract early. Their producer finally says yes, and Melissa is both surprised and pissed off. They’re then forced to go to MISTLETOE, Maine because the small Christmas town won some decoration contest — the plan is to announce that Brian’s leaving on their primetime Christmas Eve show.
Melissa and Brian’s time in Mistletoe allows them to get to know one another better and UNDERSTAND WHERE THE OTHER IS COMING FROM. Brian only hates Christmas because his family had no money growing up and they could never afford to do anything for it. Melissa used to be more chill before the chillness caused her to lose out on a HUGE CAREER OPPORTUNITY. Both have worked very hard (or so they say!) to get where they are. Through the JOYS OF CHRISTMAS and the MAGIC OF MISTLETOE, MAINE, Melissa and Brian fall in love. Brian dumps his (annoying) girlfriend and bails on the dumb reality show she pitched for them so he can stay on as an anchor with Melissa. THANK GOD.
I knew within moments that I was going to love this movie. First, I can never say no to a fictionalized morning show — second, I LOVE romantic leads that can’t stand each other at first. Gimme antagonism over boring flirtation ANY. DAY. OF. THE. WEEK. I do question how they only realized they were perfect for each another A YEAR AFTER WORKING TOGETHER, but I was here for it. More content like this.
Rating: 3.25 out of 4 📹
8. Dear Christmas 🎧
Natalie INEXPLICABLY hosts a holiday-specific podcast about true love even though she’s never experienced it. The only relationship she speaks to is one in which the guy liked her TOO MUCH (poor Natalie). Apparently, this podcast is award-winning and the TOP PODCAST IN AMERICA even though it only comes out on holidays? IDK. Anyway, Natalie goes home for Christmas and on her way gets a flat tire. This guy, Chris Massey, drives a tow truck and helps her change the tire. He also has hot chocolate in his truck and goes by the name of Mr. Christmas (CHRIS MASSey). Mr. Christmas works a million jobs and keeps bumping into her. He tells Natalie that they were actually in eighth-grade band together, but she doesn’t remember.
Natalie and Mr. Christmas continue to bump into one another at his various gigs (including his REAL gig, which is making… glass hearts?) and begin to fall in love. Natalie gets scared because she doesn’t think it’s possible to fall in love so quickly (I think she might be right), but she gives in once she finds her eighth-grade journal and sees that she had a crush on him back then. (She’s decided that it’s only true love if she “sees stars” like her parents did, so the star stickers on that page of the journal tell her the love is TRUE.) Also, her sister goes into labor when Natalie’s on her way to a fireman ball (another one of Mr. Christmas’ gigs) and she delivers this iconic line: “I don’t know how long this is going to be.” The “this” being labor. Anyway, the movie ends with them deciding to be together — but we don’t know where they’ll physically end up. Something tells me she could do her only-on-holidays podcast remotely.
Now, as much as I’m delighted by all things MJH, the movies out of her production company, Hartbreak Films (ICONIC), are rarely high in quality. My roommate and I spent a good hour unpacking how Melissa is likely never challenged by her production staff, so the final product is often BAD. MJH is at her best when she’s a lil’ nutty, and this movie was way too vanilla for her. Also, Jason Priestly is NOT GOOD and BORING and DOES NOT EMOTE. I suggest MJH stick with Mario Lopez and Joey Lawrence moving forward. They at least give her something to play off of. Also also, WHY did Ed Begley Jr. and Faith Prince agree to be in this? Does MJH have dirt on them or something?
Rating: 1.75 out of 4 🎧 (extra points because MJH)
The Last Line
This is less of a takeaway and more of a fun fact: I learned that in some of these movies, the characters kiss THROUGH PLEXIGLASS to avoid potential transmission of COVID. But… the actors quarantined for two weeks before filming and they’re constantly talking without masks indoors, so I genuinely don’t see a logical reason for the plexiglass. Maybe it felt like a fun “only in 2020!” moment for the books? Also, it was fun to learn that some of these movies were rewritten to make filming them more possible during COVID times. Maybe that’s where all the stories revolving around small (not heavily populated) towns came from!
This week’s most common tropes:
“We met as CHILDREN and now we’re in love as ADULTS!” (x4)
The TRUE meaning of Christmas is competitive activities (x3)
NUMBER ONE [insert production type] IN THE COUNTRY (x2)
Christmas trees have ~magical~ wish-granting powers (x2)
This week’s representation:
3/8 had a lead character who was a person of color.
1/8 had a lead character who was LGBTQ+ (although he just barely qualifies as a lead).
0/8 had a lead character who was bigger than a size 2.
0/8 had a lead character who was differently-abled.
0/8 centered on a holiday other than Christmas.
The actual last line: Am I cynical or is it highly unlikely to know for sure that you’re in love with someone before you ever even kiss them? Chemistry with your words is very different from chemistry WITH YOUR MOUTHS. Am I alone here?
TY for reading! If you were forwarded this email, subscribe here.