Hallmark Christmas movies aren’t meant to be the height of motion picture excellence. At the end of the day, they’re nothing more than holiday stocking stuffers meant to tide you over the festive season. Occasionally one makes an impression a few minutes longer than its playing time, but generally you finish a movie with a mild Christmas buzz before stuffing your face with more cakes and cookies
A Christmas Detour starts out like its inoffensive brethren. All are variations on a theme – romantic love and the single white girl. Hallmark regular Candace Cameron Bure plays Paige, a features writer for a popular bridal magazine. She’s headed to New York City to meet her fancypants fiancé’s parents when she’s waylaid by a heavy snowstorm. Stranded in Buffalo, she tries to find a way to the city before the parents leave town and she’s forced to postpone the wedding. One can predict a romantic comedy road trip wherein Paige and some handsome average Joe with a more sober outlook on love hitch a ride together, get into some trouble, and finally make it to their destination only to realize they are meant to be.
That’s fair enough, and exactly what happens. Dylan (Paul Greene) knows that Paige is trouble from the start, when she lugs a “vision board” papered with her fiancé’s image onto the plane. What he might not see is how insufferable the remainder of this movie turns out to be. I’ve sat through my fair share of Hallmark movies, but I can’t help but feel that this time, I am doing penance for some grave, unknown wrong – indulging on pumpkin spice muffins, pouring milk into my tea before the water, watching these movies with a topped up wine glass of cynicism.
A Christmas Detour turns out to be a painfully apt title as it runs in circles trying to get to its intended happy ending. And like most detours, it’s a dizzying and infuriating loop, in this case of Paige harping on and on about the same few things. An hour into the movie, the whining had barely lightened and the snowbound travelers had made it maybe a few tens of miles out of Buffalo. Even Frank and Maxine (David Lewis and Sarah Strange), a couple she befriends, try to politely shush her after she announces for the hundredth time that she’s on her way to see Jack, her One True Love and The Most Perfect Man Ever. Paige quickly replies that she’s “not usually so self-absorbed,” but she is, still demanding that the airline and hotel clerks satisfy her needs since she doesn’t seem to have a handle on how flight cancellations work. You always take a bit of a chance with these movies; you don’t know what combination of boring, cliché, dopey, unrealism, and cheese you’re going to get. But I now know that the real break point is when you need to pull out the mute button.
“The Only Gift” by Candace Cameron Bure’s daughter, Natasha, because I don’t believe kids should be judged by the bad decisions of their parents:
Dir: Ron Oliver
Writer: Mark Amato
Cast: Candace Cameron Bure, Paul Greene, Sarah Strange, David Lewis, Marcus Rosner
Time: 83 min
Country: United States