Today Janice from from Janicu’s Book Blog is here to tell us all about her favorite made for TV Christmas movies! You know the ones that you obsessively cannot stop watching (just me?) but you know you should? The ones where Joey Lawrence makes a gal fall back in love with Christmas and into his arms? THOSE MOVIES. Take it away, my friend!
When I volunteered to guest post over here at Books Take You Places, I knew EXACTLY what I was going to post about: Christmas movies. And not just Christmas movies, TV Christmas movies. Every year after Thanksgiving, I clap my hands with glee and set TiVo to record the made-for-TV movies produced by Lifetime, Hallmark, and ABC Family. My husband, who is Jewish, rolls his eyes and pats my head, but this is what he gets for marrying me. I likes my cheesy holiday movies.
Much-used tropes include:
- A workaholic who spends too much time WORKING and not APPRECIATING the love of FAMILY during the holidays. Bonus points for their children not getting to see their parents enough because of their job.
- Some back story where someone’s past has made them cranky during the holidays, and someone else has to show them how to enjoy it again
- A family struggling financially before Christmas but thanks to the HOLIDAY SPIRIT things are always sorted out by December 25th
- Matchmaking Santa / Elf / Mrs. Claus
- An office Christmas party where someone makes a fool of themselves
- A character who believes in extreme Christmas decorations
- A character named “Holly”, “Carol”, or “Nick”
Here’s a selection of what I’ve watched this year and my thoughts on each. This may be a long list but it is no where near as many Christmas movies I have seen. Should I be admitting to this? Eh, what’s a little indulging…
(links are to the channel pages for these movies)
It’s Christmas, Carol! (2012, Hallmark)
Carol (Emmanuelle Vaugier) is a heartless head of a publishing house who only cares about profit and not about good books. She treats everyone badly – to the point that her employees are starting to revolt. They remember the good old days, when Eve (Carrie Fisher) was still alive and heading the business. On Christmas Eve, Carol is visited by Eve’s ghost, who shows Carol her past, present, and future in order to have Carol think about the way she’s living her life.
My take: This is set in book publishing, so you’d think I’d be more enthusiastic about this one, but I’m leaning towards telling you to skip it. Carrie Fisher can do no wrong, so it’s not her fault – this was just a really cheesy remake. The character of Carol was pretty extreme, and I had trouble holding back my disbelief at several things: that she fought against the ghost right up to the point that she suddenly gave in and flipped over to being Good; that she had to use a search engine to look up the plot of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol even though she’s a BOOK PUBLISHER; and that her employees can start revolting but then do a 180 just because of one speech at the end. I wouldn’t rewatch this.
All About Christmas Eve (2012, Lifetime)
Eve (Haylie Duff) is an event planner struggling to please a demanding boss (Connie Sellecca) when she meets a cute guy at a bar named Aidan (Chris Carmack), and gives him her card. He turns out to be the CEO of a giant social network company called Gobble and hires Eve’s company for a end-of-year event. Eve has to fly to California for the job, which means missing a trip with her boyfriend Darren, but on the morning she takes her flight, two different paths emerge: one in which she misses her flight, and one in which she makes it.
My take: Hmm, I don’t know. This was very Sliding Doors, complete with the coming back home in time to catch her cheating boyfriend timeline. The upside of the plot being literally two stories was that this was one of the more unpredictable Christmas movies I’ve ever watched. I suspected Eve is supposed to be with Aidan in the end, but while she was in California flirting with him in one timeline, she’s unemployed and nursing a broken heart in another, and I wasn’t sure how everything would all tie together. The downside is that there are some very weird, what-just-happened moments in this movie, and I’m not sure how I felt about how things ended (although – yes, this has that required happily ever after).
Christmas on Chestnut Street (2006, Lifetime)
When an employee at the Great American Store overorders Christmas lights, his friend Lou (Robert Moloney) saves him from being fired by suggesting a Christmas light competition. Daughter of the store owner Dianne Crouch (Kristen Dalton), a rich overachiever with her life planned out, decides that Lou needs to decorate his house and win the contest (with her supervision of course). This give the two of them an excuse to get to know each other. All the while, the town goes crazy decorating their houses for a chance to hours of free shopping at the store.
My take: Lots of nutty neighbors going overboard competing for the prize in this one. At one point there’s a fistfight over the last roll of some white covering. This couple has a very in-your-face relationship – arguing over everything, including if they are on a date and if one is falling for another. But the impediment for their relationship (besides their class difference) becomes the contest itself. Has a little twist ending, which might not be that twisty. There were things I liked about this relationship (the chemistry), and those I didn’t (Dianne was made out to be the flawed, not-easy-to-get-along-with character while Lou is painted as patient and perfect one she’s lucky to have found – it was unbalanced).
A Bride For Christmas (2012, Hallmark)
Unable to disappoint people, Jessie has said ‘yes’ whenever her boyfriends have popped the question, which has been during a weather forecast, on a theater marquee, and on a Jumbotron. As a result, she’s broken three engagements – the latest on her wedding day to a plumber named Mike (Sage Brocklebank). Bachelor Aiden (Andrew Walker) bets his friends he can get a woman to want to marry him by Christmas, and chooses Jessie when he meets her at a art show. Despite her turning him down for a date, he uses her interior design business as an excuse to spend time with her.
My take: Cute. Despite the whole “bet” thing, Aiden doesn’t really come off as a jerk, which is a feat, and I liked the way they actually seemed to complement each other (both dog, card game, and horror movie lovers). I also liked that there was a good use of sappy, happy faces when this couple admits they like each other. Rather nice romcom holiday fare and a cute couple.
Once Upon A Christmas (2000, PAX Network – showing on Hallmark now)
When the balance of Naughty versus Nice tips over to “Naughty” for the first time, the daughter of Santa Claus (Kathy Ireland) leaves the North Pole in order to prove hope still exists. If she can get one family, the Morgans – single dad Bill (John Dye) and his two spoiled children off the Naughty list by Christmas, her despondent father won’t give up and retire as he threatens to.
My take: Eh. This falls on the treacly side of the Christmas movie spectrum, where Santa Claus is real and Kristen Claus is his perfect, good daughter. Her older sister, Rudolfa (yes, really), reminds me of a cheesy Disney villainess come to life and plans to turn Christmas into a holiday were people give each other joke gifts. Kathy Ireland’s character is generally angelic and speaks in hushed, reverential voice that really grated on my nerves. The point of the story is to have Morgan siblings Kyle and Brittany learn to be less spoiled and for their father to realize he needs to spend more time with his children, but this story was just so preachy it was difficult to enjoy. (There’s a sequel, Twice Upon a Christmas that I haven’t seen).
Hitched for the Holidays (2012, Hallmark)
A couple of single people, Rob and Julie (Joseph (Joey) Lawrence and Emily Hampshire), pretend to be together to fool their families (she to stop her parents from setting her up with her ex-boyfriends, and he to fulfill his sickly grandmother’s wish to see her grandson married).
My take: Decently cute. This had a traditional romantic comedy storyline with Christmas trappings. There’s the meddling but well-meaning families on both sides and both have issues they have to overcome in order to get together (she would rather tell “white lies” to spare people’s feelings than tell it like it is, and he runs away before his relationships get serious). The movie involves a lot of getting to know each other time in the guise of their pretending for their families. It’s a pretty typical romcom, but I did like that she’s Jewish and there is a funny storyline that involves him pretending to be Jewish too (so we have a bit of Hannukah overlapping with Christmas in this one). I liked this couple’s friendly banter.
Come Dance With Me (2012, Hallmark)
Jack (Andrew McCarthy) decides to secretly learn how to dance in order to impress his girlfriend Demi (the boss’s daughter) before Christmas, but begins get close to his dance instructor Christine (Michelle Nolden). Jack is in for some trouble in more ways that one: he’s involved in development that means demolishing buildings that the dance studio is part of, and Christine, not knowing this, turns to him for advice when she gets a notice of eviction.
My take: Depends on if you can overlook the hero being something of a dishonest guy. For most of the movie Jack lies through omission about his part in the dance studio being torn down, and the longer he did this, the less comfortable I was. I was in accordance with his best friend who told him to tell the truth early on (who Jack ignores by the way). In the meantime, he isn’t the best boyfriend to the girl he’s supposedly dating – you get the impression he’s with her for because of status and not for herself. There was good chemistry between the main couple though – I think their acting holds this story together.
The Mistle-Tones (2012, ABC Family)
The Snow-Belles are an elite Christmas caroling group that performs every Christmas at the local mall. When a slot is finally open for a new member, Holly’s (Tia Mowry) bad luck robs her of getting to the audition on time, and the Snow-Belles dictatorial leader Marci (Tori Spelling) wouldn’t let her in the group anyway. Still determined, Holly starts her own group out of people from her office and convinces the mall manager to make the performance a contest for the best group to sing at Christmas.
My take: A little campy, but they know it, and the singing is good. I spent a lot of the movie marveling over how much Holly’s uptight boss Nick (Jonathan Patrick Moore), looked like Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s younger brother. This has a lot of training montages and at first seemed to be about the Snow-Belles versus the Mistle-Tones, but a romance sort of sneaks in there. It’s predictable fluff. Nice karaoke bits in here.
Lucky Christmas (2011, Hallmark)
Holly (Elizabeth Berkley) is a single mom struggling to make ends meet with three jobs and a son, when her car is stolen with a winning million-dollar winning lottery ticket in it. She goes on TV to stop the thieves from being able to cash it in. Mike (Jason Gray-Stanford) is a construction worker whose dad’s company is in trouble. One night when Mike is sick, his idiot friend’s car is booted, so he “borrows” Holly’s car. Now Mike has to deal with the repercussions and try to make things right without getting in trouble himself.
My take: Is alright. On the drama side of the romantic comedies.The lottery ticket/ stolen car thing is a reason to get Mike and Holly together while also throwing a wrench into their relationship before it starts (see also practically every romcom). This is one where the side stories add substance to the main romance (Holly’s son’s need for a father figure, Mike’s problems with getting his older brother to listen to his ideas for the business). And I sort of wanted to strangle Mike’s friend for most of this movie.
Love at the Christmas Table (2012, Lifetime)
Sam (Dustin Milligan) and Kat (Danica McKellar) have spent every Christmas Eve together with their parents and their friends. From 4 to 30, we get to see these two grow up together, but somewhere in their twenties, things get complicated. In the present day, Sam is ready to ask Kat to marry him and looks back at the years.
My take: I actually really liked this one. These holiday parties look like fun. Everything takes place at Elissa Beth’s house (Lea Thompson), a friend of Kat’s father, Kat’s surrogate mother, and a Christmas junkie (something that gets explained – with a surprising link to Great Expectations). Kat and Sam pretty much indulge in a lot of shenanigans at the kid’s table every year, and when they get into their twenties, they start getting romantically attached, but never seem to actually get together. The relationship is further complicated by Sam leaving for college and job opportunities in the city while Kat stays and works at her father’s business. There was a nice amount of depth to their characters as these life choices and other things are actually discussed and part of the story. And the ending was pretty sweet – it was on the side of “this wouldn’t happen this way in real life”, but it was still nice.
If you want to catch some of these (or to see what else is showing), here are some links for you.
And THE MEGA LIST here at the Christmas Specials wiki
Wow! How bad is it that I desperately want to go and watch all of these holiday movies? Even the ones that you said weren’t that good? Personally, I stay away from Lifetime and Hallmark but when I was a Companion my little old lady friends would watch them obsessively and once I started I couldn’t. stop. watching. Thanks so much for helping me indulge in my closet love of (somewhat cheesy) holiday movies!!