I sure do love Hallmark Christmas movies. They are easily my favorite movies ahead of all six Die Hard’s and Anne of Green Gables. So, to enhance your seasonal enjoyment of this wonderful art form, Mission Fortnight is offering a Hallmark Movie Appreciation Starter Kit. This time limited offer includes five must see Hallmark Christmas movies along with my viewer commentary on each one. But wait, there’s more! For first timers, we have a bonus list of viewing pointers on how to effectively watch a Hallmark Christmas movie. You are welcome!
So, let’s get started with some guidelines for enjoyment, similar to the Zombieland Rules for Survival only for Hallmark Christmas movies. Stay with me…
Rule #1 Don’t over think it. At some point you might wonder, “Wait a minute, that kid is too old to believe in Santa” or “How can a town be so full of kind, virtuous and well-groomed people?” During those times, remind yourself this is not a documentary. Let it snow on cue. Let the character’s arc blur from surly and rude to kind and loving in one day. It’s okay. You can lean into your own messy life narrative after the final credits roll.
Rule #2 Respect the dead. Hallmark characters usually struggle with dead parents, dead spouses, dead relationships or dead dreams. Resist the urge to judge the characters’ over-played whining and self-pity. They will get over it by the closing scene. Promise. It is all part of the magic.
Rule #3 If you’re just going to make fun of it, watch something else. Really, nobody wants to hear your negative commentary about how the movie is dumb and corny. If you need to be cynical and grumpy about a movie, rent The Expendables 1 or 3 (#2 was redeemed by Chuck Norris’ gripping performance as Booker). Being a jerk about a Hallmark Christmas movie makes you just another cliched bah humbug character in your own sad Christmas story.
Rule #4 It’s okay to not know how the movie ends. Denise sometimes walks through the living room during a Hallmark Christmas movie and asks, “You do know how this ends, don’t you?” My answer is always, “No. Have to wait till the end. Right now it is looking very bleak for this couple’s future.” Honestly, enjoy the story as if you have no clue what happens next. Works for me and can also work for you.
And now your feature films in order of their viewing awesomeness…
A Royal Christmas (2014)
Yes, you know the formula: Adorable American commoner wins the hearts of a fictitious European kingdom with charming innocence and aw shucks egalitarianism. And nobody pulls it off like Lacey Chabert. Dang, she is good. Add to that, Jane Seymour playing the snooty queen mother, Isadora even better than she played a really attractive frontier medicine woman. And finally, my got-choked-up moment involved an orphan named Poppy selling Christmas trees in the market. If you don’t choke up about Poppy, you don’t have a soul.
The Nine Lives of Christmas (2014)
The Nine Lives of Christmas is loaded with can’t miss features like firefighters, kitties and opposites attracting. Zach, played by Brandon Routh of Superman Returns fame, is a shy calendar-model-firefighter with a bland personality. How bland is Zach’s personality? Oh my, this character makes crackers and skim milk seem like 100 year old kimchi. Enter the spunky free-spirited Merilee, a veterinary student and cat lover. Can boring motor oil mix with flavored sparkling water? You gotta hang in there till the final cathartic scene on the fire truck. You will be saying, “Aw” for hours after this one. Really. You will. I did.
A Very Merry Mix Up (2013)
A Christmas movie without a mix up is like an action movie without gratuitous violence. This little cinematic gem begins and ends with an “oh honey don’t marry that emotionally constipated guy, he’s wrong for you” engagement mismatch. A Very Merry Mix Up delivers unrelenting Christmas romance: A shared car wreck followed by a starry-eyed concussion protocol, followed by that tender “you’ve got something on the corner of your mouth” awkward touch followed by a longing, slightly creepy stare at his brother’s sleeping fiancé. Even though the mix up reveal happens at the movie’s mid-point, stay with this one to end. The final scene in the snowy park will make you cry like Old Yeller just died…but in a good way.
Snow Bride (2013)
Okay, try to wrap your head around this: Sleazy celebrity gossip reporter out for a story, wearing her friend’s wedding dress, accidentally wrecks her car into a reclusive rich guy’s life and becomes his fake girlfriend for Christmas. WHAT? That’s over the top amazing. Just when you were wondering if you can have sympathy for these two shameless liars, enter the sinister gold digging ex-girlfriend on the gullible brother’s arm. Hello. Plot whip lash. Patricia Richardson, 90’s sitcom Home Improvement’s Jill Taylor, gives a delightfully sly performance as the wise and powerful family matriarch. The deception discovery happens at the 1:05 mark leaving 20 minutes to figure out how this is gonna end. You won’t even have to activate Rule #4 to be surprised at this ending. Even Denise couldn’t guess this one.
Christmas Under Wraps (2014)
And the award for best Hallmark Christmas movie goes to Christmas Under Wraps. Candace Cameron Bure pretty much just has to show up on the set to create Hallmark gold. She totally owns this film. Christmas Under Wraps captures every aspect of a successful Hallmark movie. You’ve got an elitist big city doctor reluctantly going to a remote, but charming town in Alaska that is cloaked in Christmas mystery. What’s a rich, cultured California doctor to think about a strangely jolly white bearded chubby guy with a pet reindeer named Rudy and a secretive factory? Even the love interest son has kinda pointy ears. But really, how do you adequately appreciate this work of art? Well, just like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco or da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Chuck Norris as Lone Wolf McQuade, you just have to sit back and let the beauty wash over you. And you’ll walk away muttering the movie’s cheeky catch phrase: “That’s Garland for ya!” Remember you heard it here first.
Okay kids. I know it’s only the first week of November but the new Hallmark Christmas Movies are out right now. Consider this my early Christmas gift to you. And in the words of Clark Griswold, “Thanks Eddie. I hope this enhances your holiday spirit…”