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2022 Hallmark Christmas Movie Report
For the 5th year, I am honored to report on the new Hallmark Christmas Movies shown in 2022. The popularity of Hallmark Christmas offerings makes them the “go to” festive channel during the holiday season. For Hallmark that season stretches from October 21st to December 18th when 40 new Christmas movies and another 250 favorites from previous years are shown 24/7 on 2 Hallmark channels.
HALLMARK TAKES ON PLENTY OF TV COMPETITION
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Lifetime has been Hallmark’s main holiday competitor since the early 2000’s. This year they offered 26 new flicks plus plenty of prior year holly favorites. Their movies are approaching the production quality of Hallmark and include the plenty Christmas decorations. Lifetime has not nurtured a regular group of starring actors. Instead, they have established stars, such as Rita Moreno, Kelsey Grammer, and Jane Seymour, make guest appearances.
My favorite 2022 Lifetime movie was Stepping into the Holiday. A Broadway star (Mario Lopez) returns home and works with his old dance instructor's daughter (Jana Kramer) to revive the annual Christmas talent show. The relationship really heats up when they decide to do a dance number in the show.
Jana Kramer and Mario Lopez show off their dancing skills. Lopez’s sister and nephew provide some comic relief in supporting roles. There is a moment of tension when it appears Lopez will be going back to New York. However, he stays in his home town where he sells the concept of a weekly televised talent show. I look forward to seeing Jana Kramer in future holiday films.
GAC Family Channel
In their 1st full year of holiday fare, Great American Country (GAC) has increased its premiere holiday movies from 9 to 18. GAC has also signed some of Hallmark’s biggest stars, including Jen Lilley, Jessica Lowndes, Jesse Hutch and Paul Greene. The 2022 GAC movies continue to have high production style and solid content with familiar but interesting stories
The big GAC catch was Hallmark matriarch Candace Cameron Bere. In interviews she commented that she made the move in order to get some creative control of her films and “put Christ back into Christmas.”
Her highly anticipated GAC debut was in A Christmas Present.
The movie centers around sister Maggie (Bere) trying to help her brother get through his 1st Christmas as a widower with secular holiday events; while the brother tries to get more family and religion into the busy schedule,
Maggie and her husband (Marc Blucas) confide that they have been too busy in their work and lost the Christmas spirit, and religion in general. Her brother’s insistence that the family go to a Christmas Eve church service makes her realize the need to get religion back into her family’s life. The film got mixed reviews as her fans missed her in a more romantic role.
HALLMARK CONTINUES TO DELIVER
I am so pleased to announce that I saw all 40 of the new Hallmark Holiday Movies. 31 of the films were made in Canada and another 6 in the US plus 3 were filmed abroad (London, Dublin and Ghent-Belgium). Most of the Canadian movies are filmed at or near Vancouver where Hallmark also has a long-standing relationship. The production facilities are excellent and locations can vary from big city to rustic rural.
Lacey Chabert, the newly anointed queen of Hallmark movies, was given a plum assignment in an outrageous spoof of holiday movies entitled Haul out the Holly, which was filmed in Lake City, Utah. Dropped by her boyfriend just before Christmas, Emily (Chabert) comes home for consoling only to find out her parents are heading to Florida in pursuit of a warmer home.
Emily now has the responsibilities for her parent’s house. She is harassed by Jarad (Wes Brown), president of the Homeowners Association (HOA) and other Christmas-crazed neighbors to get the house up to the HOA’s stringent decorating code and to participate in the zany neighborhood holiday activities. Every day, Emily is given citations (a decorating punch list) by the Christmas-nut president Jarad, who also happens to be her ex-boyfriend.
Their romance is rekindled with events that stretches even the bounds of Hallmark reality. Emily consoles a distraught Jarad when he is not selected to pinch hit for an ailing Santa and works to get him the job.
The best neighborhood event was a White Elephant gift exchange. The participants play hard by the rules in ad-lib fashion that shows some of the fun, making the movie. All ends happily when the parents give the house to Emily and Emily gives her heart to Jarad.
HALLMARK CONTINUES MAKING INROADS ON DIVERSITY
Hallmark continued displaying plenty of diversity in their films. In The Holiday Sitter, single gay brother Sam (Jonathan Bennett) is talked into babysitting his sister’s 2 children while she and her husband go on a holiday vacation. Sam befriends handsome gay neighbor Jason (George Krissa) who assists him in taking care of the kids. The romance develops and overcomes several obstacles. By movie end, the family comes together to accept the new couple. Although Hallmark has had movies with gay couples, this movie was the first to feature a gay couple in the lead roles
Hallmark continues making progress in racial diversity. Four movies (All Saints Christmas, Holiday Heritage, The Holiday Stocking, and Inventing the Christmas Prince) starred black leads. Two other movies (Christmas at the Gold Dragon and My Big Fat Family Christmas) featured Asians celebrating the holidays. My favorite of the six was Inventing the Christmas Prince starring Tamera Mowery and Ronnie Rowe. Shelby (Tamera Mowry) is a rocket engineer by day and single mother devoted to her daughter Grace (Isabel Birch) by night.
Shelby goes over the edge to keep the magic of Christmas alive for Grace by telling a story about a Christmas Prince that has clout with Santa and can expedite the wishes of nice kids.
When Shelby’s no-nonsense boss Evan (Ronnie Rowe) asks her to work the holiday, she starts to walk out on the job just as Grace comes in and mistakes Evan for the Christmas Prince. Evan begs Shelby to stay in exchange for him pretending to be the Christmas Prince for Grace. Evan is touched by Grace’s Christmas Spirit and fulfills the wishes made to the Christmas Prince.
As he works hard with Shelby in his Prince role, she sees a softer side of Evan and romance ensues. A moment of reckoning occurs when it appears that the last will not be granted. Evan goes the extra mile to complete the wish and the romance burns bright.
Hallmark tackles a painful family problem
The movie Our Italian Christmas Memories was received by viewers with mixed reviews and feelings. Many viewers felt Hallmark’s trademark feelgood ending must always prevail. Others decided to avoid the sensitive subject by criticizing the lack of Italian authenticity. However, many applauded Hallmark’s effort to get real and address a family dealing with a father suffering from dementia
After a long absence, Anna (Sarah Power), oldest daughter in the Colucci family comes home to celebrate the holiday with her siblings and their father, Vincent (Beau Bridges). Anna is shocked to see her father has early-stage dementia, a condition validated when she takes Vincent to a doctor’s appointment.
Anna’s sisters resent Anna’s temporary intrusion as they have been left to address their father’s condition plus a myriad of other family issues. In order to ease the tension, Anna sets out to recreate her late grandmother’s legendary pasta sauce with the help of her father. A moment of reckoning comes when Vincent becomes confused and lost while on a walk.
Around the same time Vincent is found, the pasta sauce recipe is discovered, and the family works together to make the pasta dish. As Vincent regales about the food and Christmases past, the family realizes they need to cherish the precious moments that remain with their father.
Hallmark Expands Their Religious Scope with a Faith Based Movie.
In previous years, Hallmark has used religion in movies as a platform to develop their typical romantic plot. That approach was taken this year in the movie, Hanukkah on Rye starring Jewish actors Lisa Loeb and Jeremy Jordan. This movie takes the plot of You’ve Got Mail and replaces the competing bookstores with delis’.
With the religious movie The Gift of Peace, starring Nikki Deloach and Brennan Elliott, Hallmark gets out its comfort zone by tackling death of spouse, loss of faith, grief, and finding God’s peace in this serious drama. Traci (DeLoach), an artist, has stopped believing in God after her husband tragically died despite her prayers. As the second Christmas without him approaches, her artistic spark has lessened and jeopardized an important Christmas Eve gallery showing of her paintings.
Seeking inspiration to paint, Traci joins a support group but abruptly leaves once she discovers it’s a faith based. During a chance encounter with the group leader Michael (Brennan Elliott), she is persuaded to rejoin the group. As she participates in meetings and group Christmas activities, Traci finds the spiritual strength to keep moving forward realizing that true faith is more than just answered prayers.
SPECIAL KUDOS TO STEPEN TOBOLOWSKY
Hallmark’s supporting actors did not get the credit they deserve. This year, I am recognizing Stephen Tobolowsky for his part as neighbor Ned in Haul Out the Holly. In his 1st Hallmark movie, Stephan goes all out playing an over-the-top neighbor that keeps Holly (Lacey Chabert) on her toes with his ridiculous festive behavior. Of his over 200 movie appearances, he is best known for playing Needle Noise Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day where he tries to sell insurance to Bill Murray repeatedly.
THE 2022 HALLMARK CHRISTMAS MOVIE AWARDS
In the spirit of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I announce the following 2022 Christmas Movie awards:
The Darcy Award for Best Movie
I am pleased to award best picture to Three Wise Men and a Baby. Hallmark’s decision to cast their three top leading actors pays off with the film being the most watched Hallmark Christmas movie in 2022.
Luke Brenner (Andrew Walker) macho firefighter finds a baby in front of the firehall with a note asking him to care for it until Christmas. Unfortunately, his mom Barbara (Margaret Colin) must leave town forcing Luke to call on his two brothers for help. Brother Stephan (Paul Campbell) is a pet therapist with social anxiety. Brother Taylor (Tyler Hynes) plays a recently fired, brash video games designer. All three bachelor brothers lack ambition making caring for a baby a challenge
As they start working as a team in the baby’s care, the brothers rebuild their sibling relationships as well as repair their damaged romantic and professional relationships, all in the spirit of Christmas. Along the way Luke connects with the returning mother (Nicole Major), Stephan romances a pet owner (Fiona Vroom) and Taylor rekindles his relationship with an Ex (Ali Liebert). Mom comes back to a Christmas celebration she wished for all along.
The de Bourgh Award for Worst Movie
I select Christmas Bedtime Stories as the worst Hallmark movie because of its ridiculous ending. Three years after her husband is declared MIA and presumed dead, Widow Danielle (Erin Cahill) starts telling daughter Audrey bedtime stories about her father. After each story Danielle notices a coincidental instance takes place and wonders if these strange happenings are a sign from her husband.
To complicate matters, Danielle has recently become engaged to Pierce (Steve Lund). Danielle confides to Pierce and her best friend Sophia (Tegan Moss) her feelings about the coincidences. Sophia arranges for Danielle to get an update on her husband’s MIA status. She is assured nothing new has happen.
With about 15 minutes left, the wheels come off the movie. Pierce feels uneasy with the situation and calls off the engagement. Daughter Audrey does not want to go.to the father-daughter dance on the Army base without a father. Danielle encourages her to go and promises to be supportive. Out of nowhere, the supposed dead father appears in dress uniform at the dance!! He gives Danielle a ridiculous two-sentence explanation about his three-year disappearance!!
The ending was blasted in IMDB User reviews with the lowest rating of all new Hallmark Christmas movies. The poor rating is also based on the disservice done to military protocol on notifying next of kin. Steve Lund, a leading Hallmark actor, took one for the team in the thankless role of the fiancée. What is so disheartening about the movie is that the acting was very good. The story line might have worked if the writers had not dropped the ball at the end.
The Bennett Lifetime Achievement Award
I have selected Kimberley Sustad for the 2022 Hallmark Lifetime Achievement Award. Kimberley has shown the ability to carry a Hallmark movie with her strong independent personality that works well with her male leads. She has risen from supporting roles to earn her status as one of Hallmark’s stars. Kimberley’s body of work is as good as any current Hallmark actress. She has been in 17 Hallmark movies/series (including 10 Christmas pictures) over the past 10 years. Recently she has been a creative force, writing stories with Paul Campbell (a frequent leading man) for Tree Wise Men and a Baby and Christmas by Starlight.
Kimberley was born in Ottawa and raised in Winnipeg. As a youth, she enjoyed riding horses and playing basketball (5’10”). Her acting career has included leads on stage in Canada. She is a world traveler having been in Ecuador, South Korea, and Taiwan.
This year she starred in Lights, Camera, Christmas with John Brotherton. Kerry (Kimberley Sustad) a local clothing boutique owner, unexpectedly gets hired to become a costume designer for a Christmas movie being filmed in town. She frequently encounters the egotistical lead man in the movie. The friction between them melts into a budding romance. Tough career decisions need to be made before the two can cement their relationship.
The completion of my Hallmark Report leaves me with an empty feeling, thinking about the good movies on which I have not commented. Over 120 new Christmas movies appeared on TV in 2022. I saw over 80 of them not only on Hallmark, Lifetime, and GAC, but also on UP TV, and ION.
In the past, I have reviewed Netflix movies. I liked many of their new movies including Lindsay Lohan in Falling for Christmas. For those who want a little bit of naughty with their nice, I recommend the favorably reviewed Violent Night (A combination of Die Hard, Home Alone and a dash of Bad Santa), showing in theaters.
As you can tell, my interest in Holliday movies has not waned. I view the sameness in terms of setting, plot and actors as comfort TV watching. I am not alone in my Hallmark interest. They are the No. 1-rated channel this year. Viewership of Fox News and MSNBC pales in comparison to Hallmark. In these troubled times, watching Hallmark sounds pretty good.
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