Christmas Camp (2019)

Hallmark and its contributors have dreamt up some ludicrous ideas over the years, but Christmas Camp is really out here trying to win the prize for dumbest premise. As the uninspired title suggests, the story is about a “Christmas camp,” a weeklong retreat where campers try to regain their Christmas mojo, according to one character. That’s the general goal at least, but in fact, people attend for all sorts of reasons, most of which probably aren’t best solved by spending loads of money on a one-week vacation/workshop just before the holidays.

Haley (Lily Anne Harrison) is the type of camper who could care less about Christmas. She tends to celebrate with a Caribbean getaway and a nice salmon dinner. That’s exactly the attitude her boss doesn’t want her to have, especially if Haley is going to lead the advertising pitch for a major toy company and land a promotion. Her boss suggests, demands, a stint at Christmas camp. The purpose is to help Haley generate some ideas for the toy campaign, but it also might be a ploy to get her to help out with Christmas decorations next year. Nevertheless, she goes, determined to be in and out before week’s end. Christmas camp ain’t that type of place though, and workaholic Haley discovers that the only way to get through is to slow down. It’s a hard ask but one made easier by the presence of the owner’s cutie son, Jeff (Bobby Campo).

An architect and fellow Bostonian, Jeff is helping his dad, Ben (John James), for a week. He also wants to convince Ben to trade the family home and business for a condo in the city. Christmas camp was his mom’s dream, however, and his dad is determined to carry on for as long as he can, which isn’t much longer by the look of things. The camp is losing money, something that shouldn’t be a surprise because the whole enterprise is ridiculous.

The place caters to everyone thus no one. It’s not as if all the guests share Haley’s predicament and simply hope to rediscover their love for gift giving and snow angels. Nor is it a place where Christmas-holics can come together and try every craft on their Pinterest board. Instead, it’s a hodgepodge of people and purposes, a place for therapy or recovery or instruction depending. A newly married couple, for example, are spending their first holiday together and need some very practical advice on how they can bring their two families together and still honor different traditions. Another woman feels lonely while her son is stationed abroad and just wants to revisit the place where they used to spend the holidays. Yet another guest is a divorced father, hoping to make Christmas special for his two young children. Somehow, Christmas camp satisfies all these different needs with traditional activities you can do at home without paying a thousand dollars. Maybe I’m alone here, but I’m going to feel cheated if I spend money so that someone can drive me to a volunteer gig at the shelter or tell me to write my Christmas wish on a piece of red and green paper.

It’s hard for me to see how this movie could have succeeded. Even Bobby Campo, who I could always use more of, doesn’t help the situation. There’s not much for his character to do except flirt with Haley the entire time and ignore every other guest. Harrison keeps things perky, which is nice, but her charm isn’t so great as to overcome the film’s concept.

Alt Title: Christmas Bootcamp
Released: 2019
Dir: Jeff Fisher
Writer: Karen Schaler
Cast: Lily Anne Harrison, Bobby Campo, John James, Geraldine Leer, Shadner Ifrene, Milan Williams
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019