After solving the murders of three friends, Jennifer Shannon (Lori Loughlin) finally gets a break, or her friends do, in the fourth installment of Garage Sale Mystery. This time, the deceased bears no relation to the antiques hunter and in fact meets his untimely death decades in the past. Jennifer stumbles on the case when she finds a valuable wedding dress stuffed inside a cardboard box purchased from an estate sale. It catches her eye not just because it’s haute couture with some fancy lacework but also because it has a bloodstained pocket.
Not content to leave the past where it is, Jennifer locates the owner of the dress and sets about solving a crime that may not even be a crime. The bride, a wealthy philanthropist Helen (Cheryl Ladd), explains that her husband disappeared on their wedding day just before the reception and was never seen again. The groom’s best man and sister confirm the story, which is corroborated by police and private investigations. No one is eager to pursue any line of inquiry that would lead to the indictment of a pillar of the community, but deference was never going to stop Jennifer.
Like the first movie in this series, The Wedding Dress doesn’t offer the most compelling mystery. The suspect list is pretty short and Jennifer is foolishly uninformed on blood typing. But the movie makes up for these shortcomings with a welcome change in tone and especially with Ladd’s refreshing, calming presence. Despite an unpleasant past that the main players want to forget but cannot, there’s a sunny glow of romance, more along the line of lighter, brighter Marple than a grim Poirot. In addition to the wedding, which eventually stirs up some pleasant memories, Jennifer’s daughter (Eva Bourne) has to make a major decision about her own relationship. While I complimented the previous film for it’s hint of Victorian eeriness, crime solving done under a crisp blue sky is more my jam. At least it helps me sleep better at night.
Another positive that caught my attention was the unusually high number of non-white characters. Ever on Hallmark diversity patrol, and it’s a demoralizing, thankless job, I spied five people of color with major minor speaking roles. Five! And all deserve to be highlighted here. First is the original police detective who investigated the groom’s disappearance. The actor, a very, very handsome Michael Sangha, could easily play the romantic lead in any one of the dozens of cookie cutter romances from this network. Get on that, Hallmark. Your viewers deserve it. But then we also have Ranjit Samra as the detective’s son, Lisa MacFadden as a dress shop owner – I’d entrust my big day to her, Alvin Sanders as a priest – I’d let him officiate my wedding, and Marci T. House as another police officer. Somewhat spoiling the good vibes is the daughter’s boyfriend, who is that white guy who is an expert on Chinese cuisine and cannot leave a Chinese restaurant without showing off his Mandarin skills. I’ll grudgingly accept this character if we can have more Michael Sanghas.
Dir: Peter DeLuise
Writer: Walter Klenhard
Cast: Lori Loughlin, Sarah Strange, Steve Bacic, Eva Bourne, Kevin O’Grady, Cheryl Ladd, Barclay Hope
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries