As a rule, I don’t like Christmas movies that shame people for being insufficiently festive. I mean, really? We don’t actually live in the North Pole. Christmas will still be a thing if our lawns don’t look like a holiday parade regurgitated all over them. So I sympathize with Eric (Jesse Metcalfe), the new neighbor who steadfastly refuses to engage with the holiday merrymaking. He’s not the kind of guy I would normally root for. For starters, he writes books about the bachelor life and is as lad-bro-ish as they come. Whatever stereotypes you have about these men, he fulfills them. Framed pictures of his magazine covers, check. Red sports car, check. Minimalist mod house, check. Poker night with the buddies, check. Chunky J.Crew cardigan, check.
But there’s an early sign that Eric might be abandoning this lifestyle. With his agent and publishers breathing down his neck for his latest manuscript, he’s feeling, well, like he doesn’t have much to say anymore. He’s hoping to branch out into other areas, of life I assume, but he won’t get the chance before his Christmas deadline.
So it’s not helping things that the neighbors keep bullying him into putting up a plastic snowman or some giant candy canes or at least some damn twinkly lights. At first, April (Fiona Gubelmann) joins in on the passive-aggressive pile-on, but their petty disagreement escalates when somehow, she can hear his music and he can hear her violin students. They live two houses away from each other! This means one, that the neighbor living between them must be suffering from serious sound pollution, and two, that their insulation sucks.
The arrival of his young niece and nephew, whose parents are stranded in Norway, prompts a truce. Immediately, Uncle Eric must shed his bachelor ways and create a festive atmosphere for the kids. As someone who also hates Christmas, this is no easy task, and he must turn to April for help. She happily obliges because she’s a teacher and is fun and bubbly and loves kids. Obviously this is the perfect scenario for everyone.
And that’s pretty much the story. There are some minor conflicts. Eric needs to sort out his writing; Eric also needs to sort out his quasi-relationship with a woman who’s not fond of children. April has to decide if she’ll get over her fear of auditioning and try out for the local orchestra. But the bulk of the movie is two people growing closer over the holidays, brought together by two cute kids.
I probably won’t be watching this one again, but when the movie ended, I was surprised by the giant grin on my face. Christmas Next Door belongs in the category of Hallmark movies that are absolutely fine for a viewing. It’s charming, inoffensive, and goes down easily, which I suppose makes it a success.
Check out “This Christmas Time” by Samatha Hooey. (I think this song plays at the end of this movie. It’s one of about twenty tabs on my browser, and I don’t quite remember which movie it belongs to.)
Dir: Jonathan Wright
Writer: Judith Berg, Sandra Berg
Cast: Jesse Metcalfe, Fiona Gubelmann, Brittany Bristow, Mary Long, Liam MacDonald, Jacob Blair, Eugene Clark, Evan Cleaver
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel