And that is a wrap!
52 more films and 4800 more minutes later, it is time to close the book on the 2012 edition of TV Movie Christmas. Once again, I can’t believe I actually was able to stick to the goal of watching and reviewing one film a day between November 1st and December 23rd, as this project continues to be daunting as hell.
And yet in this second outing, I have never felt more supported. Thank you to everyone who wrote in to the blog with ideas and suggestions for films to watch, which I definitely took into account whenever I could. Special thanks to Maggie, who bought me DVDs for Holiday Switch and A Song for the Season, among others, which was a real help when it came down the stretch.
For those of you that suggested films that I have not reviewed yet, do not worry, I will get around to it. As of this moment, the plan is to once again bring back the blog starting November 1st, 2013. Every year, the amount of TV Christmas movies out there grows exponentially, so I will continue to watch and review them for you, so you have a nice little database of all the myriad of options out there. Also, I still have a partially completed review of Borrowed Hearts in my drafts from 2011, and I can’t stop doing this blog until I get to use that.
But anways, thank you to everyone and may you have a happy holiday! And if you have any ideas or suggestions for 2013, please feel free to submit them to me through the sidebar links.
P.S. Remember to check out the archive if you are looking for any last-minute recommendations!
A Song for the Season/A Holiday Romance (CBS, 1999)
She doesn’t tutor on the horn, pardon my pun.
Starring:Gerald McRaney, Naomi Judd, Alison Pill, Andy Griffith
Plot Synopsis: A disgruntled school administrator comes to town to do the dirty deed of closing a school. But little does he know what he’s up against till he encounters the quirky, lovable music teacher, who not only gives him a run for his money, but also has him falling head over heels in love with her! A fun-loving holiday flick for the entire family. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: I’m closing out this years reviews, by once again looking at a CBS film that is meant to tug your heartstrings. A film that is sentimental and schmaltzy in droves, yet still manages to be kind of charming and cute. It’s a film that seems to overwhelmingly know that it its meant to be inspirational and heartwarming and goes for it with a gusto that still manages to not feel all that false. Under no circumstances should this film succeed at all, as it should feel unbearable and false, and yet it does not which is amazing to behold. That said, there is some sketchy acting, Alison Pill is a little rough around the edges as a kid hurt by her mom’s death, and Andy Griffith mainly seems to shout his lines in a weird “I’m so confused but folksy!” way.
Also why does CBS keep finding it necessary to have two titles for a film? Makes it annoying to write it up. At least both titles make sense this time, which was not the case with A Holiday for Love/Christmas in my Hometown.
Watch If: You merged with your school instrument becoming one as a kid, you relate dating to active duty, or if you prefer to study with sunglasses.
Skip If: You think relationships can be just as fine as marriage, if you get angry when people skip out on your deserts, or if you don’t appreciate a random doo-wop performance when you go to the gas station.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Under the Mistletoe (Lifetime, 2006)
You always say that when you don’t want to talk about things. Like sex!
Starring: Jamie Ray Newman, Michael Shanks, Conan Graham, Ingrid Torrance
Plot Synopsis: Susan Bell has devoted her life to helping others and rarely thinks about helping herself. This Christmas, the tables are turned when her 8 year old son calls a local radio station and they take over her love life. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: This movie was clearly made as a touching holiday tale about death and moving on, but mainly it was weird and disturbing. Why did the dead Ghost Husband care so much? Why was he involved in everyone’s lives, fixing up his widow on dates less than a year after his death? Why weren’t all dead spouses ghost spouses? Ghost Dad was supposed to be touching and moving, giving us all a life affirming belief in how the dead continue to touch us and shape our lives and live within us and so on and so forth, but man, this whole movie just gave me an icky feeling.
Watch If: If you can’t resist playing the piano when your haunting people if you know that putting on make up when your driving a car is the only driving-related felony, or if you have a very complicated definition of common sense.
Skip If: Your name actually is Sport, your Christmas was ruined when someone beat you to giving a gift, or if your Ghost Dad affected your schoolwork.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
A Christmas Wedding Date (ION, 2012)
Skate to be great!
Starring: Marla Sokoloff, George Wendt, Chris Carmack, Catherine Hicks
Plot Synopsis: After being fired from her high-powered job, Rebecca heads back home to see her mom, Shirley, and attend her friends’ small-town wedding on Christmas Eve. Initially convinced that the trip is a terrible mistake, especially her botched romantic conversation with former beau, Chad, Rebecca soon learns that, indeed, you can go home again, and, again — until you get it right. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: Marla Sokoloff tends to annoy me in TV movies, as she plays the wide-eyed, sad faced believer in true love who gets everything she wants through persistence. Her skillset doesn’t seem to lie in getting us to like these sappy, wide-eyed optimists, as much as producers seem to believe so. Instead, where Marla Sokoloff truly succeeds is when she gets to be a little bitchy. On the whole, her most likable roles and the ones where she seems to come alive, are ones where she gets to be cynical and sarcastic and kind of a mean girl. A Christmas Wedding Date, yet another Groundhog’s Day on Christmas tale, seems to recognize this and as a result, it becomes pretty enjoyable even if you keep living out the same plot over and over and over again. On the whole, this film seems to have a kind of manic energy that I tend to really enjoy in these films, and if you ever come across it, I’d recommend seeing an iteration of the Christmas Wedding Date a time or two. It’s probably my favorite new TV Christmas movie of the year.
Watch If: You think marriage is a gift you give yourself, if you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint by not touching people, or if sing to people to get them to turn around and talk to you.
Skip If: You are a single lady who does not have a cat, if you know Girl Scout cookie sales take place in February and March not during the holidays, or if you are a person who has had the high school taken out of you.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Holly’s Holiday (Lifetime, 2012)
Fairy tales ARE real!
Starring: Ryan McPartlin, Claire Coffee, Jeff Ward, Marc Barnes
Plot Synopsis: Holly can’t quite imagine why she is so drawn to the handsome mannequin in the perfect holiday window display she passes every morning. When she is knocked unconscious by a falling icicle, her once fake window man becomes the man of her dreams, but she soon discovers that though his looks are perfect, his personality is still, well, plastic. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: This movie was hard to watch for so many reasons. And the reasons range from the ending Dallas-like gimmick, to the construction of its female characters, to the validation and glorification of Nice Guys. A film like this has an absurd, bizarre plotline, and it should be an absurd, crazy romp buts its boring and its values are terrible and everything crazy just left a bad taste in my mouth. If you want to see something similar to this plotline better executed? Snowglobe, guys. SNOWGLOBE.
Watch If: You know the best way to support your friends is through pantyhouse with Spanx, if you think Ohio is the most exciting place ever, or if the most romantic gesture you can think of involves a Viewmaster.
Skip If: You are a real guy who doesn’t want to hear about the glorifications of fantasy men, if you have been denied pepperoni pizza in favor of mushrooms, of if you aren’t a fan of pumpernickel bread.
Final Rating: ★ (★) ☆ ☆ ☆
Baby’s First Christmas (Hallmark, 2012)
You’re the one, Christopher. You’re the one who can break this family curse!
Starring: Casper Van Dien, Rachel Wilson, Ella Ballentine, Noah Cappe
Plot Synopsis: When a pair of feuding colleagues are thrown together after their siblings fall in love and merge their two families, they have to learn to get along in time for their nephew’s birth on Christmas Eve. Realizing their family has major money trouble, they come together to help and end up on a snowy New York adventure that will prove miracles really do happen at Christmas. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: This was a movie that could have been unbearable, given its title and its premise, but in actuality on the whole it was pretty cute. It also was zippy and was paced incredibly well, making sure the film never got boring or started to drag, which happens often in these kinds of things. The one real knock against it, is that the child actress is not extremely talented and that she keeps talking about her unborn baby brother, Christopher, like he’s a real person with real opinions. It grated on my nerves, keeping it from ascending to the top of this years output. Also, the main lead recites Keanu Reeve’s monologue from Parenthood about eight times, which also got super annoying. On the whole though, it was surprisingly pleasant.
Watch If: You think Barbie’s the greatest independent woman, if you know that any kind of nail polish matches black shoes or if you pretend to be blind to get your dog into church.
Skip If: You’ve had a harrowing incident when your Platinum Card was turned down, if you once got a head injury from opening a church door of if you missed the Clippers game because your relatives are broke.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ★ (★) ☆
The Real St. Nick (Lifetime, 2012)
Do you think? Think? Think about it!!! I think so, Roberto!
Starring: Torrey Devito, Callard Harris, Roma Maffia, Matt Felker
Plot Synopsis: A psychiatrist named Kate, attends to a handsome but unconscious man in a Santa Claus suit who saved her during an earthquake. When he awakens and insists he is Santa Claus, he is placed in the hospital’s psychiatric wing, where his Christmas spirit soon “infects” everyone in the ward and Kate can’t help falling for the man even before she finds out his real identity. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: First of all, if you took a shot of alcohol every time, somebody ends a sentence with “Roberto!”, you would die. Every single feeling and thought for long periods of times is just centered on people talking to Roberto and being very direct about it. Good ‘ol Roberto, guys.
Outside of that, this movie basically comes from the Cupid mold. You know, the show(s) where a guy says he’s a mythical figure and the cynical psychiatrist he’s assigned to is both skeptical and falling in love with him. When it comes to this kind of premise though, you really do ride or die on your lead characters’ chemistry and the writing, and neither in this show are incredibly strong. It’s not unbearable to watch, but you don’t find yourself rooting for the leads to work it out and go to the North Pole. And you also know that since it’s a television Christmas movie, you’re never really going to have the idea that this man really is crazy fully dangled in front of you as a possibility.
Speaking of mental illness though, the depiction of the people in the mental hospital also isn’t very flattering as it just involves making everyone the butt of jokes, which kind of wears and is problematic too.
The film is saved by some snappy editing, and not terrible production values, making it not a complete waste of time. But it’s definitely not something I’d recommend.
Watch If: You love to pretend to be Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, you can tell the differences between a Canadian and an American, or if you know you can clean everything and anything with a grid pattern.
Skip If: You don’t want to imagine a sleigh being led by moose or polar bears, if you weren’t provided with a classy house by your hospital, or if you get pissed when someone calls you a janitor when you really are an orderly who is three credits shy of your nursing degree.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
A Holiday for Love/Christmas in My Hometown (CBS, 1996)
Starring: Tim Matheson, Melissa Gilbert, Michelle Trachtenberg, Travis Tritt
Plot Synopsis: Rising business executive Jake Peterson is given a make-or-break assignment when he is sent to a small town for the purpose of severely downsizing the local tractor factory. Upon his arrival, Jake is mistaken by the townsfolk as the man sent to save rather than destroy their community, and is treated as such, much to his discomfort. Making his task even more difficult is Jake’s blossoming romance with factory employee Emma Murphy, whose daughter Noelle regards our hero as Santa Claus Incarnate. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: I watched this one with my family, and some of the 90s-flavors did not go over well with my sisters. The music is crazy, the fashion is worse, and sometimes, people were visibly aghast at some of the homespun simpleness. I thought this film was charming enough though, and was pretty cute, if not technically perfect. A nice little gem from the 90s TV Movie Christmas vault.
I would like to warn you though, that I’ve seen the movie called A Holiday for Love and Christmas in my Hometown in equal measure. The second title does not make much sense, since a businessman returning home and facing past truths doesn’t really factor in here. There’s only a cursory plotpoint that would allude to his living there at all, so I don’t really get that title what-so-ever.
Watch If: You love hearing senior citizens sing Christmas carols, you look way better in plaid, or if you know how expensive vet school is.
Skip If: If a band once stopped playing Christmas carols when they saw you, if you’ve been gipped out of treating someone for a meal, or if you hate it when someone downplays your bruised ribs.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
A Bride for Christmas (Hallmark, 2012)
There is a lot of people you can live with. There is only one person you can’t live without.
Starring: Arielle Kebbel, Chelsey Reist, Andrew W. Walker, Sage Brocklebank
Plot Synopsis: After Jessie calls off her third engagement, she swears off serious relationships until he finds “the one.” That is, until charming but chronically single Aiden comes along. But unbeknownst to Jessie, Aiden has bet his friends that he can convince a woman to marry him by Christmas, which is only four weeks away. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: This movie took me two weeks to finish, because I got incredibly bored halfway through and stopped watching it to go hang out with people. For a film that’s supposed to be a mix of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Runaway Bride, taking place at Christmas, there is no semblance of charm or fun at all. Instead it’s all overwrought, overdone melodrama that really turns you off.
Watch If: If you know falling in love is like being in a crazy dream sequence, if you call your daughter “Bolt” because she loves to runaway from commitment, or if you can’t say no to a Jumbotron proposal.
Skip If: If you were cockblocked by a dog, if you once had an epic kiss and then weren’t called back the next day, or if you lost your car during a poker game to resolve love triangle tension.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Holiday Switch (Lifetime, 2007)
Please take pity on my hair, Armando!
Starring: Nicole Eggert, Craig Haas, Maya Ritter, Bret Anthony
Plot Synopsis: A week before Christmas, Paula finds herself struggling with bills and life with her blue-collar husband Gary and her two daughters. When Nick, her High School boyfriend returns to town a wealthy art Gallery owner, Paula wonders if she made the wrong decision when she took the wrong date to the prom. What would her life have been like if she stayed with Nick? Christmas is a time for Miracles, and so when Paula wishes she could see what her life would have been like if she’d made the other choice, she finds herself magically transported through her washer/dryer to a parallel life where she is Nick’s wife.
At first, this new life seems the answer to her dreams, as she shops and dines out with her newfound wealth. But she soon realizes that the grass is NOT always greener. Her relationship with Nick is in shambles, and she misses her real husband Gary and her two girls. When she sees Gary and her kids living a happy life with another woman, she wishes for just one Christmas gift: to have back the life she didn’t appreciate. (x)
In My Humble Opinion: In a growing subsection of TV Christmas movies, we have the disgruntled stay-at-home wives, who wonder what would happen if their lives are different. Some of these films are feminist disaster, some of these films manage to subvert the damage in various ways. Holiday Switch does a decent job of avoiding being completely degrading to women, by it not being about career vs. motherhood. Instead, it’s just about rich husband vs. poor husband. If you have even a tiny bit of a brain, you know that the Paula is going to go back her husband, so a lot of the movie feels like a long waiting game for her to realize rich husband is a cad and poor husband and her kids were the right life all along. That said, the movie and Nicole Eggert have a lot of fun playing the fun, “beginning of the new universe” changing times where Paula gets so crazy that the housekeeper thinks she’s gone insane from the pills. Maybe not the tops of the subsection, but it could have been so much worse.
Watch If: You’re still doing florals, you love to discuss house painting, or if you know your dryer really is just a route to an alternate universe.
Skip If: If you were never allowed to have this dance, you’re surrounded by people not friends, or if you get annoyed when your wife plans fakes trip to France.
Final Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆