Broadcasting Christmas would easily fade into the background if it wasn’t for lead actress Melissa Joan Hart. A bold and energetic presence, Hart steers this average story of competing television hosts and ex-lovers towards the front of Hallmark’s holiday lineup. She plays Emily Morgan, a reporter for a local news affiliate who focuses on human interest stories like local theater productions and the school food drive. While good at her job, she aspires to break into the national market where she could make a bigger impact. When one of the hosts for a top rated morning show leaves, she finally gets her chance.
Emily is not the only one vying for the spot, however. Rise and Shine’s Veronika Daniels (Jackée Harry) and her production team have decided to let a few television personalities fight it out. Oh, the manifold joys of the reality TV era. In addition to a retired baseball star and a wedding guru, Emily’s former coworker and ex-boyfriend, and son of a renowned nightly news anchor, Charlie Fisher (Dean Cain), is in the running. Cain is a worthy sparring partner to Hart, and though he rides shotgun in this movie, he brings plenty of fire to the relationship.
A lot of Emily and Charlie’s personal and professional animosity stems from their break up over a similar situation six years ago, when they were both up for a morning anchor position in New York that he ultimately landed. The two never resolved that, and now that they’re back together, old issues are bubbling to the surface. Caught in the middle is their sensible friend and Rise and Shine producer, Patrice (Cynthia Gibb).
I like that this movie doesn’t draw a straight line between bickering and happily resolved couple. Working together, they find their relationship growing stronger and crumbling apart depending on how the competition is going. There are moments when they admire each other’s talent and rediscover their respect for one another, but when the race tightens, their ambition dampens that reconciliation. It’s like watching adults try to work things out like adults, which is nice change of pace in these fantasy romances.
It helps that there’s nothing disingenuous about the way Hart portrays Emily. She doesn’t play her as the cynical reporter stereotype, someone who is hugs kids on camera but who bathes herself in hand sanitizer afterward. Emily is frank and outspoken, but she’s also very honest about her faults and mistakes. She confesses her anger about Charlie’s move six years ago and the resulting doubts she had about her career and commitment to their relationship. Charlie responds in kind and goes for honesty over self-preservation in one important moment of truth. If only we had that amount of candor in real life.
Dir: Peter Sullivan
Writer: Topher Payne
Cast: Melissa Joan Hart, Dean Cain, Cynthia Gibb, Jackée Harry, Sophie von Haselberg, Joanna Howard
Time: 90 min
Country: United States