It’s hardly a secret that I love Hallmark movies for their sweet, comforting familiarity. Most importantly, they leave me smiling. I’m planning to watch and rate all 31 of Hallmark’s 2017 holiday movies, and I’ll post summaries and ratings here. Newest posts at the top!
The Sweetest Christmas – 8/10
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a holiday Hallmark hero must be named Nick. A heroine must be named Holly. But not both in the same movie. That's overkill. This Nick is the owner of a local, fancy pizza place, and the ex-boyfriend of struggling pastry chef Kylie. We begin with the tried-and-true trope of an expected engagement dinner that turns out to be a business dinner. At her exe's restaurant. Who she hasn't seen since she broke his heart. But that was years ago. Now she is working as a receptionist to pay for her massive culinary student loan debt, and he's working on the whole single dad thing. The real star is Ralphie. Ralphie is Nick’s head chef / wisecracking best friend / babysitter / father figure. Smartest person in the room, funniest person in the movie. I just wish he wasn’t cast in the friend role.
Aside: Much like the “gun” principle of storytelling if you put a gun in Act 1, it better go off by Act 3). If you have a ladder in a scene, the heroine better fall off and by caught up in the welcome arms of the hero. Intense, longing, somewhat startled looks follow. And The Sweetest Christmas did not disagree.
Christmas Festival of Ice – 5/10
Recent law school grad Emma (played by Taylor Cole, of multiple high quality Hallmark movies) is working with her lawyer mother in her hometown while waiting for her bar exam results to come in, but she’s not as excited about that as she should be. She’s thrilled to be home this year for her town’s Christmas Festival of Ice, but due to budgeting troubles they had to cut the ice sculpting competition. Emma can’t stand to see this tradition, which she’s participated in with her dad since she as a young girl, fall away. As she searches for donors, she meets Nick, the owner of a local Christmas tree farm, who is secretly an amazing ice carving artist, but is hesitant to tell others, especially after his ice carving partner dumped him last Christmas. Emma keeps her fundraising a secret from her mother for very convoluted reasons, drops her deposition duties, boosts Nick’s confidence, and receives the big, anonymous donation she needs to put on the competition. Now she just needs an ice carving partner and to get up the courage to come clean to her mother.
This one is solid middle-of-the-road. It’s predictable, but had one twist I didn’t see coming. The motivation was iffy, though. Certain aspects really bugged me, like Emma waking up on the couch one morning for now reason other than they didn’t want have to build a set for her bedroom. Also, Emma’s fixation on ice sculpting as the thing that really makes her happy, unlike law, annoyed every fiber of my millennial being. You have a $75,000 law school education, Emma. Ice sculpting is not viable year-round career! She probably doesn’t have any debt—thanks lawyer mom!—but she should still be expected to want to keep the heat on at least, not mentioning her addition to that coffee stand she walks to multiple times a day. A few cheesy lines didn’t go well, but the real surprise of the movie was Nick! The actor (Damon Runyan) played the sleezy boyfriend in Valentine Ever After (10/10!) so, despite his haircut, I had some trouble adapting to his leading man status. However, he definitely won me over. Nick’s arc ends about 60% of the way through the movie (not good storytelling, sorry) but the actor plays him so endearingly through that last 40%. And he pulls off the cheesiest line of any Hallmark (“You were my Christmas wish”) so well that the Roomie and I rewound to watch him say it again. Don’t bother setting the DVR, but if you see it on, watch the last 30 minutes to enjoy optimal cuteness.
Dashing Through the Snow – 9/10*
Ashley, played by one of my very favorite Hallmark actresses, is an effervescent knitter/craft fair seller trying to make it to Seattle for Christmas so her mom, recently widowed, won’t be alone. When there’s a problem with her plane ticket, though, and grim-suited men swarming the area, Ashley joins car rental line and if offered the very last car in the lot. But handsome stranger Dash (played by my hands-down favorite Hallmark actor) bribes the attendant to get the car for himself. He offers to share the ride with Ashley who, annoyed but focused on her mother, finally agrees (after making him call his mom to assure her that Dash isn’t going to murder her). Ashley’s soft-hearted stories and delight in every moment of the journey, even when they break down in the snow, charms everyone they encounter. Dash tries to keep his distance, especially as it becomes obvious that they are being followed. But, like the rest of northern California, Oregon, and Washington, he can’t help but be taken in. Unfortunately, the FBI isn’t so taken, laying doubt on heroine and hero alike.
The end ties up too neatly and simplistically to feel genuine. Also, the puppy Ashley adopts would have made loads of piddles in that rental and their laps considering how infrequently they stopped and how often they lift him alone. Nevertheless, and despite it’s rather grimace-worthy name, Dashing Through the Snow is cute, swoony, well-acted, well-written, and threaded with enough mystery to set this Christmas romance a apart. The classic Christmas film references peppered throughout never land too on the nose.
(Bonus * for cute puppy)