Finding Christmas (2013)

Before there was AirBnB, there were internet home shares, and before there was Finding Christmas, there was The Holiday. While I’d opt for a questionable AirBnB over sketchier home share, I can’t see a reason to watch Finding Christmas when The Holiday (and emotional Jude Law) exists. This 2013 Hallmark movie borrows heavily from the 2006 feature film and sees two people swapping homes during the holidays, but in this story, it’s the guys who are escaping their messy love lives.

Sean (Mark Lutz) and Owen (J.T. Hodges) are both coming out of long term relationships. Sean, a busy Manhattan ad man, is about to propose to his girlfriend when she surprises him with news of her own, that she’s dumping him because he spends more time on his business’s future than on their present. Meanwhile, over in North Carolina, repairman Owen finds out that his ex-girlfriend of seven years has gotten engaged to a man she’s only dated for a few months. The two men do what any reasonable guy who’s had his heart broken just before the holidays would do, and they go online looking for someone with whom they can trade places. Sean and Owen have just what the other is looking for, and in no time at all, city mouse and country mouse are off to explore new environs.

Owen has no difficulty adjusting to life in Sean’s posh downtown loft, especially with Sean’s assistant, Mia (Cristina Rosato), making sure he’s well cared for. His biggest problem is getting his smexy neighbor, Halo (Jessica Phillips), to acknowledge him in the elevator. Sean, however, finds that country life is not quite what he expected. Rather than relaxing in a cozy retreat, he’s freezing his ass off in Owen’s unheated cabin and is mocked for his effete breakfast preferences. He’s ready to bail when Owen’s sister, Ryan (Tricia Helfer), steps in. She softens the blows, fixing the broken heater and showing him the finer points of country living.

This movie could be enjoyable if you’re not always comparing it to The Holiday. That movie has its own problems, but it also has Kate Winslet and Rufus Sewell in addition to Jude “Hot Dumbledore/Hot Pope” Law and an oddly charming Jack Black, not to mention a cute Surrey cottage. This one’s got Owen’s open mike rendition of “Joy to the World” and…a hay ride.

It’s not a fair comparison, but then again, if you’re going to rip off a popular Christmas movie, you have to make it special. Both Sean and Owen turn out to be rather boneheaded, and neither get much deeper than two dudes who just want a change of pace. Their prospective partners, on the other hand, show off a lot more personality with their limited time. Helfer’s performance as a veterinarian and single mother is the emotional core of the movie. Rosato, meanwhile, shores up the New York end of the story, and Mia’s relationship with her absent boyfriend probably deserves more attention than Owen’s misguided attempt to woo Halo.

Released: 2013
Dir: Harvey Crossland
Writer: Lee Ventura
Cast: Tricia Helfer, J.T. Hodges, Mark Lutz, Cristina Rosato, Christian Distefano, Brittany Gray, Jessica Phillips
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019