Pop Culture

All 24 2019 Hallmark Holiday Films Reviewed Without Watching Them

Hallmark Christmas movies are back and we have them all, including an amnesia-inducing bike wreck!
Hallmark Christmas movies are back and we have them all, including an amnesia-inducing bike wreck! YouTube Screenshot
The holidays represent many things to many people. For some, it is a joyous time of year with festive gatherings and the warmth of loved ones. For others, it's a time for reflection. But, then there are those who crave the trappings: the shopping, the controversial Starbuck's coffee cups (with they have Satan on them this year?), the tear-jerking and sometimes really freaking creepy TV commercials. Those folks fill their stockings with glitter and and candy canes and so much merry, it makes you want to barf egg nog (and not after drinking it all night like the rest of us).

They also want something else. They want holiday movies. And not just ANY films. They want the annual oh-my-God-everything-is-perfect films that only Hallmark can create. Yes, that's right, the Hallmark Holiday extravaganza is back with 24 movies that will make you sing Joy to the World until your eyes bleed.

And we are reviewing each and every one of them...without watching a single second. Nothing against them, but, yeah, no. We've already had enough sugar plum-covered happiness to last us 12 Christmases and we're not even out of the first week of December.

So, buckle into that sleigh, holiday freaks, it's time to get jolly AF.

Christmas Wishes & Mistletoe Kisses

"...and snowflakes and moonbeams and whiskers on kittens..." That line is from the Ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooged played brilliantly by Carol Kane right before she punches Bill Murray's character in the face. It also feels like the run-on sentence version of this title which could easily stretch into William Faulkner-esque paragraphs-long prose if the folks at Hallmark weren't so stingy with words in the title. Anyway, single mom turned interior designer (there are LOTS of designers in these flicks) hired by business big wig for Christmas decorating...blah, blah...love ensues. Donna Mills, Soap Opera Digest Award winner for Outstanding Villainess three times, plays the mother-in-law, which, now long past her Knots Landing days, feels a bit like typecasting, but whatevs.

Merry & Bright

Let's get this out there now: There are a lot of ridiculous job titles in these movies. None are as batshit nuts, however, as this one where Jodie Sweeten (the first, but absolutely not the last, appearance of a Full House alum this year) is the CEO of Merry & Bright Candy Cane Company. Her potential beau is from Empire Corporate Recovery and wants to take a close look at Sweeten's books...if you know what we mean. Seriously though, does a candy cane company need a CEO? And who would hire a company to look into said candy cane company's books and for what nefarious reasons? You'll just have to tune in to find out.

Christmas Scavenger Hunt

Combining those two hallmarks of a Hallmark holiday blockbuster, exes and small town traditions, Belinda and Dustin are "forced" to team up in the town's annual Christmas scavenger hunt. If you think that includes a selfie with Santa, oh, you'd be on point there, Kris Kringle. Our question is simple: forced? Is this some sort of Hunger Games scenario where the victors dine on the flesh of the vanquished? Or is Santa some kind of perv that forces the two former lovers into his red room of torture and pleasure? Then again, it might just be an overzealous copywriter trying to gin up the description using grandiose verbosity without actual unmitigated prevarication. Ahem.

Picture a Perfect Christmas

A quote-extreme-sports-photographer-unquote comes home to tend to granny, but a neighbor with nephew troubles is also in need. First, what exactly is an extreme sports photographer? Does she (yes, she...you thought it wasn't a man, didn't you, sexist?) photograph extreme sports or does she take pictures while doing crazy skateboard tricks? We may never know. Second, neighbor with a nephew that needs help? What kind of bizarre meet cute is this? The whole damn thing sounds confusing as hell.

The Mistletoe Secret

Kelly Pickler in our first country singer-tinged acting performance is a woman hoping to revitalize her little town with a write up from a travel writer. But the travel ghost writer — gasp! — is a stone cold hottie. At least we hope that she isn't torn (as it says in the description) between Patrick Duffy (yes, from Dallas, Patrick Duffy) and the ghost writer. Look, Bobby was a hot stud muffin in the Dallas days when he spun around in that shower a full season after he died on the show because fans complained so much the writers had to turn that season into Pam's dream sequence (yes, that really happened), but he's got to be like 90 or something by now. Gross.

Christmas Under the Stars

This one has EVERYTHING (insert Stephon voice): a fired investment banker, a plucky small town astronomy teacher (astronomy?), a Christmas tree lot on the verge of bankruptcy, Desperate Housewives hunk Jesse Metcalfe. He is on the scene as the self-centered big city jerk who gets his comeuppance and a slice of homespun wisdom while working at a widower's tree lot. The widower is played by Clarke Peters, aka Lester Freamon from The Wire. We're not even sure he and McNulty could save this disaster.

Write Before Christmas

The premise seems sweet, but we worry about the execution. Woman (single woman, of course), wanting to intensify her Christmas spirit (or something), sends letters to the people that influenced her life including her aunt (wide and old, we assume, though it is Lolita Davidovich from Blaze, so what do we know?), some pop star who must be down on his luck and the letter rescues him from his depression — otherwise why would he be in this? — a music teacher, her brother in the military, and the always honest best friend (she calls her on her shit!). That's a lot of letters. We have trouble getting our Christmas cards out on time with that generic letter about how great your year was. We have no idea where the love happens here. We really have no idea about anything except the letter and the stupid pop star trope because, come on.

Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays

We were really hoping this would a Bachelorette-like theme but at Graceland and all the all the would-be suitors are Elvis impersonators, but no such luck. Instead, this Memphis-set romance includes a wealthy widower (there are a lot of these in Hallmark land) and a nanny trying to break Scrooge out of his business-first selfishness. We've seen this theme many times, the best of which included Jackie Gleason as the grumpy (vaguely racist) old man and Richard Pryor as the nanny to a spoiled brat. (Insert Master Bates jokes here.) Our hopes would be higher if it was the Elvis thing.

Cherished Memories: A Gift to Remember 2

"A year after Darcy ran over Aiden, his amnesia is gone but not their love." This is an actual quote from the description. Part one apparently happened in 2017. Darcy put Aiden (those names!) in a coma when she hit him on her bicycle. Really? We honestly can't adequately describe how cringeworthy this movie sounds. Let's just set the premise. She bought Aiden a copy of the book Found in the Street because she FOUND HIM IN THE STREET. Yes. He is hand carving a replica of her home town (her father did the same for her mother, which makes us wonder why they need two of these things), but the rec center Darcy loves (also in the crazy carved wood lunacy) is in danger of closing. It's as if the writers of this were like, "Let's take every really bad Hallmark movie theme and cram them into a greatest hits of schmaltz!"

A Christmas Duet

Hallmark, like Salt Lake City, is mostly populated by Caucasians. Sure, there are smaller roles for actors of color but there are a few movies each year where they attempt to inject some real diversity into the mix. This year's offering (yes, just one this year) is A Christmas Duet, with a pair of black co-stars, formerly a singing duo. One, Averie, has retired to the woods to become a philanthropist. Wait, sorry, that's the game Life. But, she did go to Vermont and open a lodge, so same diff. Jesse, on the other hand, continues to live the dream of a singer, but it's tough sledding without his chanteuse. Could they rekindle their love (and love of music) at the annual Yuletide Festival in time for the travel writer visiting the lodge to see them belt one out like Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack?

Check Inn to Christmas

A pair of rival inns in a small Rocky Mountain town is the setting for this Hatfields versus McCoys romp. Julia, a city slicker attorney, comes home only to find love in Ryan, a member of the family that owns the other inn in town. The Cinemax version might find them consummating their illicit affair in the dining room before guests come down for breakfast. On Hallmark, the closest they'll come to hooking up is touching hands by accident when they both reach for the cute little snowman figurine at the quaint old antique store. Perhaps we can hope for gunplay between the rival families. Fingers crossed.

The Christmas Club

Brought together by the power of forensic accounting, Olivia and Edward (total strangers) assist a sweet old lady in recovering her Christmas savings. We don't know for sure if they used banking magic or just dug around in the woman's attic until they gave up and decided to hand her a wad of cash and tell her it was a Christmas miracle, but in the end, does it really matter?

Christmas at the Plaza

Now, here's something special. It's a Hallmark holiday film set in, wait for it, the Plaza Hotel in New York City. No snowy village or quaint hamlet. No adorable bed and breakfast or cozy lodge. This is the goddamn Plaza in the freaking Big Apple. And, surprise surprise, this has some realistic rom-com themes: She a historian hired to set up a historical display for the holidays; and he a decorator doing the Christmas decor. She's even in a loveless relationship. We're left to wonder why this wasn't pitched to a Hollywood studio with Ann Hathaway and Ryan Reynolds as leads.

Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy

We're back in Evergreen, you guys! Last year, the whole plot revolved around a 25-year-old Christmas letter. This time, it's the fevered hunt for a time capsule that may or may not exist. It's like Scooby and the Mystery Machine show up in Evergreen every year around Christmas solving mysteries and looking for g-g-g-ghosts. (Hint: the old man running the abandoned theme park did it). To add to the intrigue, a skeptical writer shows up to find out if the town's reputation for Christmas spirit is real or #FakeNews.

Christmas in Rome

Holy crap, y'all! Can you say on location in Rome? This budget buster features Lacey Chabert as a recently fired American tour guide who lands a gig shuttling around a rich American executive trying to buy a ceramics company. What, you thought she'd find love with some swarthy Italian lothario who teaches her how to extrude pasta and savor the sauce of life? Forget it, man. This is a wealthy American getting his eat, pray, love on while making boatloads of cash and finding love in the offing. Ho ho holiday capitalism, baby.

Christmas Town

Candace Cameron Bure (another former Full House-r) and some dude who looks like one of the Property Brothers after joining a boy band star in this tale of love and fate. Bure is looking for a new life and career when she finds a picture of her father on the wall of a cafe in a small town. Pretty soon, she has a new family of her own. And in an unexpected twist, the guy is actually in a boy band and he and Bure tour the world in a coke and heroin-fueled dystopian nightmare of depravity until they both wind up dead in their own filth. We're joking, of course, but we bet it would be more fun than whatever this is.

A Christmas Love Story

In an annual tradition, Hallmark pulls out the big guns (well, medium sized guns anyway) for one Hallmark Hall of Fame film that features, let's call them, B-list celebs instead of their usual fare of D, M and Y-listers. In this case, it's Kristin Chenoweth (girl, the money better have been good) and Scott Wolf (like Chabert, a former Party of Five cast member) in some Glee-centric plot nonsense. Wolf, a widower (natch), finds out his son can really croon when he joins Chenoweth's youth choir when she is trying to write a magical number for the Christmas show. And then they sing...the end.

Christmas at Dollywood

Listen, we aren't saying a single sarcastic word about Ms. Parton. This will be the best Christmas movie ever. End of story.

Holiday Date

Ok, so here's a real unique spin on the "I hired a guy to pretend to be my boyfriend and, oops, we fell in love" romantic comedy narrative. In this case, Brooke takes an actor home as the boyfriend she has described as Mr. Christmas. Oh, boy, though, Joel it seems is Jewish. The pair plays along until Joel is discovered. And in yet another completely unrealistic twist, the family accepts him and even adopts some of his religious holiday traditions. Yeah, because in 2019, your racist grandfather isn't going to call your boyfriend a hippie for wearing an earring. Instead, he'll accept it and they'll get matching Santa tattoos.

A Cheerful Christmas

Before we dig in, we'd like to point out that if this is the best they could do for a promo photo — two women smelling their respective index fingers — we are very concerned for what is to come. With that out of the way, these two women start a company as Christmas coaches, teaching people how to be jolly or something. We love how people always seem to choose careers that are good for like three months out of the year and pay, at most, $20 per hour. Anyway, a royal family moves into town with, you guessed it, an actual prince. Need we say anything else?

Double Holiday

And just like that, we have our second Jewish-themed premise. This time, Rebecca, an ambitious woman has her Hanukah plans nearly thwarted by her boss. Asked to plan the company Christmas party with her annoying co-worker, Chris, she does it because, well, she's a damn career woman and that's what ladies do to climb the corporate ladder — insert eye roll. Anyhoo, the lively competitiveness between Rebecca and Chris only fuel their passion for one another or whatever. Mazel tov you crazy kids.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

All we can think about when we read this description is it stars Daniel (Eric Mabius) from Ugly Betty and Cylon Number Six (Tricia Helfer) in the Battlestar Galactica reboot. After that, the whole thing is a blur. The two play mayors at rival towns and there's a decorating contest and the Cylons invade, but Daniel doesn't see it because he's too superficial even though we know, deep down, he isn't. It's all very confusing.

When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas

We honestly don't know much about the plot for this year's Christmas episode of the beloved Hallmark period series, but we do know one thing. Lori Laughlin ain't in it.

A New Year’s Resolution

And finally, the traditional New Year's film, this time starring Aimee Teegarden (known first as Julie Taylor in NBC's Friday Night Lights). Teegarden is a morning show producer a la Rachel McAdams in Morning Glory, only Teegarden doesn't get Dianne Keaton and Harrison Ford to bounce things off of. She wants to say yes more often and she meets a classic yes man. That's literally the plot. We could make a digital short film about that and carve out the whole narrative in approximately three minutes. Hallmark gets two hours. But, hey, Happy New Year!
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke