Marrying Father Christmas (2018)

The last few years have been good to Father Christmas. He was found, engaged, and now he’s about to be married. What great things await him next Christmas? Surely it’s too early for Retiring Father Christmas, though I wouldn’t object if the fourth installment is anything like this movie. Out of all the Hallmark offerings this holiday season, this was the one I was looking forward to the most; I’ll watch anything with Wendie Malick and stars Erin Krakow and Niall Matter proved to be a solid team in their previous outings. However, Marrying Father Christmas was a bore, a listless romance content with recycling old storylines. If there are any more stories to tell about this couple or about Miranda Chester’s parents, I’m not sure they’re worth hearing.

Things finally, finally look like they’re heading in the right direction for Miranda (Krakow), who’s felt unmoored for most of her life. The only daughter of a stage actress, she’s been on her own since her mother’s death and just recently reconnected with her father’s other family, which includes her stepmother, Margaret (Malick), and half-brother, Peter (Jim Thorburn). She’s also found a partner in Ian (Matter), and they’ve planned a Christmas wedding. So what could derail the holidays and ruin her marriage before it even begins? A secret from the past of course.

Specifically, a secret person from her mother’s past. When a man shows up in her Boston office and then in the tiny town Carlton Heath, Vermont, we know he’s going to be trouble, and so does Miranda. But when she confronts him, he claims to be her uncle Charles (Bill Dow). Miranda isn’t sure about that since her mom never said anything about a brother, and even if he is who he says he is, she can’t be certain that he comes with good intentions. With Ian’s encouragement, however, she decides that connecting with Charles might help her feel closer to her mother.

I’m beginning to question Mom’s decision to keep everything a secret. Perhaps the next movie will reveal Miranda’s long-lost sister since it’s not like this script tries anything new. Marrying Father Christmas makes little effort to freshen up this third story. Miranda is still paralyzed by insecurities about family and belonging, problems mostly caused by the previous generation. If it’s not her mother, it’s Margaret, who initially wanted to keep news of her husband’s affair under wraps but now fully embraces her stepdaughter. It’s that familiar tale of Miranda being haunted by her past though, and this is a movie weighed down by its brand, unable to imagine mystery that doesn’t involve family legacy.

The main event, Miranda and Ian’s wedding, also feels tired. I like both characters but there’s nothing in this story that elicits strong emotions one way or the other. Their non-Uncle Charles affairs are inconsequential. You can’t make a movie, at least not a good one, out of last-minute wedding problems, like whether you’ve invited too many people or whether the groom has finished writing his vows. Margaret has a bit of a romance with an old friend, and that eats up some of the narrative, but her potential partner is a non-entity, a bland figure who fades into the background next to Malick’s character.

Released: 2018
Dir: David Winning
Writer: David Golden
Cast: Erin Krakow, Niall Matter, Wendie Malick, Michael Kopsa, P. Lynn Johnson, Jim Thorburn, Julie Benson, Bill Dow, Alvin Sanders
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2017