David Alpay has really intense eyes. The man can hold a gaze. If you didn’t know what kind of TV movie you were watching, he could either be the secret killer-lover on Lifetime or the wayward college boyfriend on Hallmark. Luckily, he’s the latter in Sleigh Bells Ring, sending an electric buzz through the movie. And that’s about the only good thing I can say about it. I’d really looked forward to watching this one after seeing Alpay in The Mistletoe Inn. He was sharp and witty as an author in disguise, trading one barb after another with costar Alicia Witt. There’s a sense of that here, like he always wants to move a beat faster than the script allows, but he’s reined in by the slow-moving story and lack of foil.
That’s not to say that his co-star, Erin Cahill, isn’t good in her role as a single mother, ex-lover, and parade planner. She gives her part a glamorous vibe, which is a nice change, but her character, Laurel, seems better suited for the big city than whatever tiny town she lives in. Laurel, who’s gunning for a promotion as city manager, always looks like she’s suited up for work at old city hall building downtown rather than the nondescript office on Main Street.
Either way, her problems are strictly provincial. The mayor (and token black guy, actor Chad Riley), decides very last minute that they should resurrect the Christmas parade – and Christmas is a mere two weeks away. Someone clearly has no clue what goes into parade planning because that kind of stunt is not going to work. But Hallmark needs their story, so poor Laurel is tasked with pulling this off in record speed.
Life would be so much easier if she’d learn to delegate though. She takes it on herself to oversee most of the major preparations. Actually, that’s not true. Laurel just spends time acquiring stuff. I have the same gripe about this as I do about another poorly conceived parade preparation movie, Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and that is no one does any bloody planning. It’s all about finding a Santa or finding a tree or, in this case, finding a sleigh. Who is taking care of zoning permits and the speaker system and the grandstand? The annual small town parade participant in me does not like this oversight.
Laurel’s biggest challenge comes after she does find a sleigh but one that needs a serious paint job and then some. At this point, you wonder why she didn’t just dress up a car in a wooden frame, but I’m not writing the story. When her sleigh nearly crashes into her ex-boyfriend, Alex (Alpay), who happens to be in town and who happens to do some carpentry, she agrees to let him fix things up.
In classic fashion, the two reconnect and wonder if they should give their relationship another go. Laurel’s daughter (Dakota Guppy) hits it off with Alex, but Laurel is wary about the two forming a bond since he’s just going to take off after the holidays. She wonders if it’s better to leave the past where it is, to which I say “yes” because present day Laurel and Alex have very little chemistry. Cahill and Aplay are more believable as ex-lovers who have gone in different directions; she tends towards the cerebral and practical while he’s still kind of a sparky bachelor. It may have worked once, but not anymore.
Dir: Marita Grabiak
Writer: Tracy Andreen, Buddy Baron
Cast: Erin Cahill, David Aplay, Dakota Guppy, Jenna Romanin, Robyn Bradley, Chad Riley, Donovan Scott
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel