Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade (2012)

In the Venn diagram of crappy Reese Witherspoon-esque romantic comedies and I-might-have-enjoyed-that-a-little Hallmark holiday movies, Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade falls somewhere in the middle. Given a makeover – a snappier script, grander production values, actual Reese Witherspoon – this might have made it to the big screen. But it set its sights lower, and the result is a breezy, inoffensive Thanksgiving movie.

That’s high praise indeed for a something purportedly about a Thanksgiving Day parade but then goes on to ignore said holiday and parade. Instead, love is what it’s all about. Autumn Reeser plays Emily, a Chicago events manager in charge of the annual affair. You’ve never seen anyone more excited about parades in your life, but I guess hers is the kind of energy necessary for these sort of things. In comes handsome Henry (Antonio Capuo) to put a damper on it all. The city wants him to cut costs, and Emily’s beloved parade is one of the first casualties. Then it’s her heart. (Ba-da-bum.)

They manage to keep their professional lives out of the way as their romance develops. Never mind the spectacle that’s just around the corner. Emily’s most pressing concern is finding the perfect Santa, and Henry kills time by playing chess against himself. When the two are together, the conversation turns toward life, generally. They are on an endless first date with no concerns about commitment. Ever eager to play the missus, Emily is awaiting a proposal from her loopy marine biologist boyfriend, a guy so clearly wrong for her and who has spent the better part of their relationship under water. Henry is also in no danger of settling down. A rootless suit with a five date rule, he is too busy destroying dreams and redeveloping community landmarks.

But oh, don’t these two know they’re fated to be together? It’s a Hallmark movie. Of course she will belatedly recognize his decency and he will be charmed by her feistiness and cat lady tendencies. She’ll finally find a guy who appreciates her “vintage Barbie doll” look and episodes of drunken karaoke.

Reeser gives the movie well-timed shots of adrenaline, and she is what pushes Love just above average. She’s fun to watch and carries most of the weight. Her costar, Capuo, does an admirable job of filling in as hot boyfriend material, and I suppose he succeeds by not totally fading into the background. I wish Hallmark would invest in some of its better projects though, knowing we are working on a relative scale here. Rather than a dozen dull, interchangeable storylines, maybe a few movies of a higher quality. Besides almost no focus on the parade, I was disappointed that the Chicago setting was barely utilized. I know they film these things in Montreal or somewhere north of the border, but that’s no excuse not to work in some local color.

Released: 2012
Dir: Ron Oliver
Writer: Nancey Silvers
Cast: Autumn Reeser, Antonio Cupuo, April Telek, Ben Cotton, Ali Liebert
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2017