Column: Hallmark — From classic conformity to tidings with a twist
While the majority of my beloved Hallmark movies are pretty cookie cutter in nature, I’m going to focus on a few with a little bit of a twist that I enjoyed.
Yes, I know they’re cheesy and predictable, but I’m back again with more on one of my favorite holiday traditions — Hallmark Christmas movies.
I’m taking a little bit of a different approach this year, though. While the majority of my beloved Hallmark movies are pretty cookie cutter in nature — small town girl/boy falls for big city girl/boy, there are Christmas activities, a misunderstanding drives them apart but someone decides to uproot their whole life at the end in the name of love — I’m going to focus on a few with a little bit of a twist that I enjoyed.
Now, when I say a twist, I don’t mean that there isn’t still an amount of predictability because it just isn’t Hallmark without that. But there are some here and there with plots a little out of the norm that might be more intriguing for those who don’t want to watch a movie about a small-town baker and a hoity-toity lawyer in a quaint little town for the umpteenth time.
“A Timeless Christmas,” starring Erin Cahill and Ryan Paevey, steps out of the box with an element of time travel. Charles Whitley, a turn-of-the-century inventor from 1903, finds himself in quite the predicament when he works on fixing a Christmas clock but wakes up in 2020. He finds himself still at his own mansion, which has since been turned into a museum with staff members who guide tours through the house while playing the part of the family that once lived there. Charles has to convince Megan that he really is who he says he is — not just an actor — and then decide if he wants to go back to 1903 and alter the course of history that happened after his mysterious Christmastime disappearance over a century ago or stay put and acclimate to life in the 21st century.
Over the last couple years, Hallmark has also come out with a few Hanukkah movies during the holiday season. As someone who knows next to nothing about the Jewish holiday, I enjoyed the movie “Love, Lights, Hanukkah,” starring Mia Kirshner as an adoptee named Christina who takes a DNA test after her adoptive mother dies. To Christina’s surprise, it turns out she’s half Jewish and has biological family living nearby. For someone who has always been obsessed with Christmas, learning the traditions of a new holiday is no easy feat, but in true Hallmark fashion, of course Christina has a handsome fella to help her along.
While I identify with Christina through her love of Christmas, I found learning a few little snippets about Hanukkah really interesting and thought this movie was a fun break from those that are filled to the brim with everything Christmas. And if you’re like me and a big fan of ‘90s sitcom “Boy Meets World,” I think you’ll enjoy Ben Savage as the leading man.
“Double Holiday” and “Mistletoe & Menorahs” are two more Hallmark movies that combine both Hanukkah and Christmas, but this year’s “Eight Gifts of Hanukkah,” which premiered Friday, Dec. 3, is the network’s first purely Hanukkah holiday film and one that I definitely have on my list to watch.
For Charles Dickens fans, there’s a whole slew of Hallmark movies based on his classic tale “A Christmas Carol.”
One of this year’s new releases, “Boyfriends of Christmas Past,” fits that bill. Main character Lauren Kim, played by Catherine Haena Kim, finds her sleep interrupted several nights in a row by visions of her past boyfriends, all of whom she broke up with around Christmas in years past when her fear of commitment got the better of her. Toward the end of the movie, the last apparition shows Lauren what will happen in the future if she keeps running from the feelings she has for best friend Nate.
“A Nashville Christmas Carol” and “A Shoe Addict’s Christmas,” films from the past few years, are also retellings of Dickens’ classic tale, while this year’s “A Kiss Before Christmas” is in the same vein but without the ghosts.
“Desperate Housewives” stars Teri Hatcher and James Denton reunite as married couple Ethan and Joyce who aren’t quite on the same page anymore. While stressed out about a promotion he’s up for at work, Ethan wishes he had never met his wife and that his life was easier. That wish comes true, and while he can’t get enough of his new, lavish life at first, he quickly realizes it’s meaningless without his wife and the two children they adopted. He must learn his lesson by Christmas Eve or risk losing his old life forever.
While Hallmark seems to try to break the mold just a little bit each year, the network wouldn’t be true to itself or its brand without a multitude of over-the-top corny, predictable romances with plotlines and endings anyone can see coming a mile away. So for those who want to settle in with something a little more traditional but still new, I recommend “Coyote Creek Christmas,” a new Hallmark offering this year starring Janel Parrish and Ryan Paevey (yes, him again). This one ticks off all the boxes — a small town with a charming name, a cozy inn about to be taken over by a large corporation, a daughter worried about losing a piece of her childhood, a hunky single dad who doesn’t care for Christmas and an argument near the end threatening to ruin everything.
And, if you’d like to physically check off those boxes, I’ve included a Hallmark Christmas bingo card I made, so those of you who enjoy watching can have a little extra fun.