There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Hallmark Christmas movie plots. A Very Merry Mix-Up is veritable example of the last. The moment you see sweet, cardigan-wearing Alice (Alicia Witt) and her Brooks Brothers-attired boyfriend, Will (Scott Gibson), in her humble antique shop, you know the two will not last the movie. Likewise, the second casually dressed, not too handsome for his own good Matt (Mark Wiebe) appears on screen, it’s clear that he and Alice are meant to be.
This much I expected, and dozens of similar movies have yielded no surprises. So blame it on extra potent mulled wine or a pumpkin spice muffin coma that I did not see a very obvious plot twist coming. I was too busy enjoying the doomed, though not really, romance between Alice and Matt as they commiserated over lost luggage, spilled coffee, and a short hospital stay to figure out how things would get measurably worse.
It was bad enough that Will sent Alice on an earlier flight to his parents’ home to break news of their engagement, never mind that she had never met her future in-laws. And then there was the happiness of meeting Will’s younger brother, Matt, at the airport, quickly followed by the heartbreak of knowing he was The One. But what’s a girl going to do? At least the family was lovely and loved Christmas.
When another shoe drops, from somewhere, I was genuinely surprised, and the mere novelty of that was enough for me to enjoy the remainder of the movie. That’s not to take away from the storytelling though. The writers seem to have cribbed some notes from a screenwriting manual because for once, there is real dramatic tension, not just a prolonged state of uncertainty. Alice and Matt are clearly hitting it off, yet there’s a reckoning to be had; eventually, Will has to come home. And when he does arrive, our destined lovers are ripped apart, leaving us to wonder when and how they will be reunited. It’s thrilling stuff.
Mix-Up also works is because you just want the two to get together. Witt and Wiebe have a soothing, unobtrusive chemistry. Alice and Matt aren’t like those couples on your Facebook that clog your wall with syrupy pictures and posts so that the world doesn’t forget how much they love each other. They are low-key, more into each other than the image of the other, which might be important to point out because this movie does not help the e-dating cause. You’d think that Hallmark of all stations would try to exploit this in some way, and maybe it has if you’ve trawled through their catalog. But this one is okay as it is. Nothing new or tech-friendly necessary, just simple Christmas love.
Prod: Marek Posival
Dir: Jonathan Wright
Writer: Barbara Kymlicka
Cast: Alicia Witt, Mark Wiebe, Scott Gibson, Susan Hogan, Lawrence Dane, Richard Fitzpatrick, Mimi Kuzyk, Judah Katz
Time: 87 min
Country: United States