The premise for Hitched for the Holidays is livelier and funnier than the production allows, but it’s subdued tone works well for those needing a mellow holiday fix. That is, if you can get past the cruelty of tricking your family members into believing you’ve found the one.
That’s what Rob (Joey Lawrence) and Julie (Emily Hampshire) do when both end up single during the holidays. Rob’s inability to commit is such that even his mother makes jabs about his perpetual bachelorhood. But when his dying grandmother (Paula Shaw) begs her favorite grandson to marry before she expires, he can’t bear to disappoint her. Luckily, and it is always luck that governs these movies, Julie is also shopping for a temporary boyfriend to bring home so that her meddling parents (Marilu Henner and L. Harvey Gold) will stop trying to set her up.
The two are a match made in Craigslist heaven. Truly, because aside from an initial spat on the dancefloor, they share a clear chemistry. Plus, they’re just super nice. Hampshire is all smiles as a theater critic who can only lob softballs, and Joey Lawrence, whom I haven’t come across since I grooved to his self-titled album – on cassette, is thoroughly decent, and grown up. It’s not long before Rob and Julie’s fake romance starts turning into something genuine. The only thing that breaks up the sentimentality, and adds laughs, is their attempt to stay one step ahead of their families. The couple tricks Julie’s parents into believing that Rob is Jewish, even managing some unconventional Hanukkah celebrations, while Rob’s uber-Catholic family tries to become super-Jews.
The relative smooth sailing of this relationship leads to a forced third act where some family tensions, particularly between Rob and his mother (Linda Darlow) surface in an awkward manner. If the filmmakers prioritized storytelling over conflict avoidance, Hitched for the Holidays would have turned out better. But as this is a Hallmark holiday movie, what we get turns out to be good enough.
Prod: Harvey Kahn
Dir: Michael Scott
Writer: Gary Goldstein
Cast: Joey Lawrence, Emily Hampshire, Linda Darlow, Marilu Henner, Serge Houde, L. Harvey Gold, Paula Shaw, Chris Gauthier, Christina Sicoli
Time: 87 min
Country: United States