Well, they’ve finally done it. Hallmark’s finally pulled off the impossible, at least for them. Someone must have spiked their eggnog because They Hired People Of Color For Starring Roles In A Christmas Movie. And I’m not talking about the white couple’s BFFs who are granted above average number of speaking lines. I’m talking about the two people wearing coordinating Christmas outfits, the guy and the girl who get together after an hour and a half of bickering, the lovers who finally give each other a big ass smooch at the end. From what I can tell, and my research includes many hours in front of the boob tube, this has not happened before, and I am ready for this Christmas joy! So here is me recommending Enchanted Christmas to ev-er-y-one. It may not be the best ever, or even this year, but it’s a hell of a lot better than movies about Santa hats and Christmas parades.
Leading the revolution are Alexa and Carlos Penavega, beautiful married people who also dance. (See Dancing with the Stars, which I’ve not.) They are uncoupled at the beginning of the movie, childhood sweethearts and dance partners who have long parted ways. Laura (Alexa) is now a project manager for a hotel group. She hopes to settle in Los Angeles with her young daughter, Nikki (Jaynee-Lynn Kinchen), so that she can move on from her past and from memories of her deceased husband. The plan hits a snag when her boss assigns her to job in her hometown in Utah.
Nikki is pretty stoked because snow, but Laura dreads going back. We never really know why except for vague disagreements with her father (Rene Rivera). Her breakup with Ricardo (Carlos), however, left a definite bad impression. Now she’s irked that the hotel she’s charged with remodeling, Enchanted Lodge, also serves as his temporary studio. In fact, he’s teaching a group of munchkins a dance for the grand opening gala, and her daughter is one of them. The only way she’ll make it out of this holiday season is by packing her bags or by falling in love. Of course.
Plotwise, there’s not much that stands out, maybe because stories featuring POC are just like those starring white folks. Both Laura and Ricardo have partners that were never a good match, leaving the two of them with a lot more face time. While they have issues to resolve, they also have the good sense not to relitigate old fights. That means less bickering and more reevaluating their relationship as adults. I can get behind that. As for the dancing, I had hoped for something along the lines of A Nutcracker Christmas, my vote for Hallmark’s 2016 Christmas movie of the year and a movie filled with balletic highlights. Enchanted Christmas offers a lot less; there’s a snazzy number with the stars but nothing truly inspired.
Still, there’s something special about this movie and it has everything to do with casting. The Penavegas bring a different and refreshing vibe to an admittedly generic story. Though Alexa fits the Hallmark mold quite well, it matters that Laura’s got a dad who speaks with a hint of an accent and who cooks up tamales for the holidays. It also matters that she loves Ricardo, who is the same sweet, sensitive stock character that populates half these movies but who looks a hell of a lot closer to the guys in my life than say Luke Macfarlane. I get that Hallmark trades in comfort and that its audience doesn’t mind watching the same damn thing over and over, but the definition of comfort needs to be revisited because it’s 20-bloody-17. I’m going to believe this year.
Look, the Penavegas brought some good music with them too. These two songs feature in the movie.
“I’ll Be Home” by Meghan Trainor:
“Feels Like Christmas” by Us the Duo:
Dir: Terry Cunningham
Writer: Rick Garman
Cast: Alexa Penavega, Carlos Penavega, Rene Rivera, Jaynee-Lynn Kinchen, Chelsie Hightower, Melanie Nelson
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel