A couple weeks ago, I would have thought a movie like Miss Christmas the stuff of pure Hallmark imagination. A city fixated on finding the perfect tree? A damaged tree right before Christmas? A sudden search for a second tree? An effort so desperate the coordinator will be fired if she doesn’t find another? Turns out this isn’t just a Hallmark plot by mad libs. While the sad tale of Rome’s mangy, toilet brush tree isn’t an exact retelling, one can see the importance of getting the whole tree thing right.
So with that in mind, I gave Miss Christmas a little more credit than it deserves. In an unexpected way, this story is one of the more plausible ones this season, just as likely to happen as romancing a movie star or getting stuck in a cabin with a handsome bachelor. Congrats on that, Hallmark. The good will didn’t last though, and the movie proved far less entertaining than say seeing pictures of toilet brush tree.
Miss Christmas just doesn’t go anywhere. The initial burst of activity is tolerable though in no way captivating. We meet Holly (Brooke D’Orsay), aka Miss Christmas, so named because she’s the face of the Radcliff Center tree lighting ceremony in Chicago. It’s an event so momentous it’s televised far and wide, catching the attention of the McNary family. Little Joey McNary (Luke Roessler) offers to donate his family’s tree, and when the original turns out to be a dud, Holly must take him up on the offer.
Something – someone – gets in the way, and it’s Joey’s dad, Sam (Marc Blucas). The tree, and it’s a magnificent one, has sentimental value, planted by his parents decades ago as a symbol of their love. After his mom died earlier this year, there’s no way Sam’s going to let anyone take this memory away, least of all a city girl with no appreciation for small town life.
If you were playing a Hallmark drinking game, this is the point where you’d start to worry. It only takes a few minutes for the movie to tick off all the clichés – cute kid, dead relative, hot girl from the big city who meets hot guy in a small town. Plus local Christmas festival, Christmas themed names – Holly and Klaus, the name of the town, reference to growing up on a tree farm, and single dad who hates the holidays. I mean, slow down. You’d think Hallmark was in a rush to tell a story or something, which it clearly isn’t.
The rest of the movie is a seventy minute slog. Holly tries to convince Sam that cutting the tree down would actually honor his mother. He thinks that’s a load of baloney and doesn’t like that the rest of his family, including his father and sister, want to go along with the idea. Who’s going to protect Mom?! Blucas, to his credit, puts in more effort than the part merits. Sam is legitimately agitated and then surprises himself by falling in love with Holly. The two actors have some chemistry but nothing that stands out. In her search for the perfect tree, Holly remarks that it must have that X factor, some unquantifiable star quality. If Hallmark is hoping to hold our attention through twenty-one movies, it too has got to give us something more.
Dir: Mike Rohl
Writer: Joie Botkin
Cast: Brooke D’Orsay, Marc Blucas, Luke Roessler, Fiona Vroom, Greg Rogers, Erin Boyes
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel