As I’ve mentioned before here on the blog, we are in the midst of selling our house and have put in an offer on a new one. As anyone who has sold a house knows, this is a very stressful process. Between house showings looking at offers, and thinking about moving our entire household 40 minutes away, I feel like my muscles are extra tight and my brain is extra fuzzy.
In an effort to reclaim my sanity I’ve been attempting to shut my brain off at the end of the day with Lifetime Christmas romance movies on Amazon, which are pretty cheesy and don’t require much brainpower. Disclaimer: I am NOT being paid by Amazon and I am NOT an Amazon affiliate (they rejected me. I’m not influential enough. *wink* but also I just don’t write about enough stuff I would be linking to anything on Amazon. I just happened to find the movies on Amazon because we have Amazon Prime Video.)
Some of these movies are horribly written, terribly acted and lead me to fast forward through almost all of the movie, but a few of them haven’t been so bad and I’ve actually looked forward to seeing what happens at the end. I mean, of course, the guy is going to get the girl or the girl is going to get the guy and everyone is going to live happily ever after, but you know, maybe just one will have the girl kick the guy to the curb at the end and decide she can live her life without a man. I probably wouldn’t like that, though either, because I’m a bit of a romantic.
To be a Lifetime Christmas movie checks must be marked off on the checklist. First, there is always some sort of deadline for something that has to happen before … yes, Christmas or Christmas Eve, at least. Second, there has to be a woman or man who just recently broke up with someone or who hasn’t had a date in years, down on their luck. Third, there must be some sort of conflict with the person’s parents (if they aren’t dead) or sister or ex or boss. Then there has to be a love interest and after the love interest is met there will be some sort of conflict between the potential lovers, usually a secret that the main character finds out and then leaves because of. By the end, of course, the two will come together again after one of them decides to chase the other one down.
The main character also always has to have either a gay best friend or a fat best friend and they also always have to have either a dead parent, spouse, or sibling. The dead relative is a very common plot device in any movie, but it is a requirement for a Hallmark/Lifetime romance/Chrismas movie.
Since it is 2019 (almost 2020) these movies also need to make sure they are very inclusive, which means they all have to have at least one African American, one Asian, one Hispanic, one Indian (like from India), and a gay couple. It’s too bad they forget the Native Americans, but, come on, how much diversity can you have in one movie, right? (Is it just me or do the Native Americans often get shafted in our country? Still? Anyhoooo…) Seriously, though, it has to be stressful trying to make sure you represent everyone possible in a movie, so hats off to them for trying and I do like the diversity.
I also like that modern Christmas/cheesy Lifetime movies don’t even blink at portraying interracial couples and romances because once upon a time those movies segregated themselves with either an all-black cast/romance or an all-white cast/romance. Is it odd that I’m even noticing this? It is odd to me, probably because I’m not really someone who usually has hang-ups about so-called “politically incorrectness” in movies.
Anyhow, a couple of the movies I watched were intriguing and less predictable than usual, so, in other words, I could stomach them. Also, the acting wasn’t so bad. The storylines of three of them were okay, the others – yeah, pretty awful. If nothing else, there is usually something to mock during the movie so it is at least distracting from the stresses of life.
Back when I tried to get into Debbie Macomber books (I never did, but I like her as a person!) I bought (yes, bought) Trading Christmas, mainly because Tom Cavanaugh was in it and I love Tom Cavanaugh. Faith Ford from Murphy Brown fame is in it as well. I was also surprised with the appearance of Gabrielle Miller from Corner Gas, a Canadian sitcom we got hooked on this year. The story is about a woman (Ford), whose daughter (some actress) decides she isn’t coming home for Christmas from college. Ford’s character, who lost her husband a few years before, is sad and decides to try to find a way to visit her daughter in Boston.
Tom Cavanaugh’s character needs to find a way to finish his book and is a big Christmas scrooge so the two begin looking online for places to “trade” for a couple of weeks. The fun ensues from there, especially since Tom’s brother is back in Boston and starts to get to know Faith Ford’s character (*wink* *wink*) and Faith Ford’s best friend comes to her house for Christmas, not knowing she isn’t even there.
Christmas Pen Pals
Sarah Drew (she’s also in Mom’s Night Out, which my family really enjoyed) plays Hannah Morris who is a tech-obsessed business owner who runs an online matchmaking company that is spiraling into the toilet. Her business partner tells her to go take a break and live in the real world for a while so they can figure out how to save the business so Hannah returns home to visit her father and sister (popular plot point – Mom is dead. Apparently Lifetime is now like Disney; always killing off a parent or parents.)
Niall Matter (who I know from Eureka as the hot scientist dude) plays Sam, an old boyfriend of Hannah’s (predictable? Yes, it is.) and Michael Gross portrays her father. The acting is charming and pretty natural, compared to other movies of the same type. The plot? Well, you know – it’s a Lifetime Christmas movie. The plot isn’t going to be very deep. The plot is essentially the small town mail lady suggests a Christmas pen pal program that the town used to do in the 1940s and Hannah agrees to try it if her widowed father does. There you go. Let your imagination run wild with that and you might be able to figure out the ending already. The characters are likable and how they get there is a little bit interesting, however, so it’s probably worth a watch (if you want to put your brain away for a little while, at least).
Christmas Around the Corner
This one was unique because the acting was spot on and nowhere near as cheesy and awkward as other Lifetime movies I’ve seen. The characters were very likeable (though the movie was a little preachy about the gay priest and his husband, but whatever. It’s 2019. We have to be preached at or we don’t know what to think, right?)
The basic premise is that the main character’s business is falling apart (yes, another one of those) so she travels to Vermont for a month to stay in an apartment over a bookstore her mother (yes, dead) once visited. Apparently part of the deal of staying there is that she has to manage the bookstore while she’s there. (I’m sorry…what? Really? Who does that?).
As always, she has a month to turn everything around for this little store before Christmas or it will be sold by the (hot) owner.
Gift Wrapped Christmas
Gift Wrapped Christmas was enjoyable to me, mainly because the main character reminded me so much of my cousin Sue. The male main character was fairly stoic and stiff in his acting but the movie was saved by the actress (Meredith Hagner) and again, probably because she was all bubbly, quick-witted, pretty and fun like my cousin.
Of course, it employed the usual cheesy movie tripe where the love interest has a mean girlfriend who threatens the main character and reminds her she’s the girlfriend (who thinks she is getting a ring, of course), but oh well, it wasn’t a deal breaker for me to finish the movie.
The Christmas Cabin
The Christmas Cabin was a little bit different because it was mainly two people stuck in a cabin, talking. There wasn’t the normal “He has a girlfriend already” or “she has a boyfriend” already and they would need to dump said girlfriend/boyfriend to pursue a relationship. In fact, this one wasn’t even really about anyone pursuing someone, other than the man pursuing the woman to sell her half of a cabin so he can make money off of the “treasure” that is supposedly on the land.
It did have the usual storyline that the two people hate each other to start off with and then they fall in love . . . or do they? The lead actress’s acting was not the best but the male lead made up for it.
Wrapped up In Christmas
I will not lie. I pushed fast forward through most of this movie. Terribly cringeworthy. A mall executive has to close down stores in the mall at the urging of her boss but in the midst of this dilemma she meets a handsome man who she doesn’t know is the nephew of the owner of one of the stores being shut down.
The handsome man is an ex-lawyer who is painting and working for his aunt while he figures out what he wants to do with his life, but who talks himself up after the main character’s niece tells him (while he’s dressed as Santa) that her aunt needs a man for Christmas and what she likes in a man. I think that by reading the above paragraph you can figure out why I fast-forwarded through the majority of the movie. I was too lazy to even lookup the actors names for this one but I’m guessing they don’t mind their names not being attached to it.
I’ve pushed play on another one of these movies while writing this and my husband and son just asked if I’m okay. They can’t figure out why I keep watching these movies because most of them are so awful. Yesterday my son said “Oh my gosh, mom. Why are you watching this?” I said “Hey, I can go back on social media and start talking about politics again.” And he said “Nope. Nope. That’s good. Please keep watching your dumb movies.”
They did both agree with me that Trading Christmas was okay, however.
I think I keep watching the movies because 1) I need to check my brain at the door and 2) I keep hoping I’ll find a good one.
So, are you a fan of the “cheesy” Christmas movies from Lifetime, Hallmark and wherever else? Let me know in the comments.
Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.