After a punchy three movie premiere for the Aurora Teagarden series, Hallmark takes it down a few notches with the latest Chronicle Mysteries film. A slow burner that fails to catch fire, this fourth installment is one you can skip. Neither the case nor the players offer much excitement, and I struggled to keep my attention on the film, preferring to take care of the more pressing matter of newly hatched flies swarming my dining room.
The body count in The Deep End turned out to be much lower (RIP, flies), with Elliot Burke being the single fatality. He is found in his pond by friend, Jeremy, and neighbor, Leonard, but it’s his wife who is arrested for his drowning. Circumstantial evidence points to Stephanie, whom the prosecution paints as an angry, greedy soon-to-be ex-wife. Podcaster Alex McPherson (Alison Sweeney), however, thinks differently.
Her connection to the case comes via her best friend, Stephanie’s defense attorney. For some reason, Alex has taken it upon herself to exonerate the suspect and enlists the rest of the Barrington Chronicle gang to help. By gang, I mean three others – society columnist Eileen (Rebecca Staab), reporter Drew (Benjamin Ayres), and Drew’s curiously adult daughter Kendall (Olivia Steele Falconer). Each has a unique set of skills for this job. Eileen works her contacts and effortlessly extracts gossip from everyone, Kendall, being the young, hip one, marshals her tech know-how, and Drew just hangs out with Alex a lot. Together, they dig into the deceased’s life, trying to figure out who had better motive than Stephanie to kill Elliot and whether that person had the opportunity.
The case isn’t anything different from the many others you might see on Hallmark Mysteries, but this story also doesn’t attempt to stand out in any way. None of the characters related to the crime are treated as serious suspects and thus are forgettable. The questionably rich caddy and the grumpy neighbor, for example, are fishy but nothing more. Instead, Alex and Drew take us on a slow crawl for information about some shady finances and a call on a missing flip phone. Though there’s a sense of mystery here, that’s not balanced by a sense of excitement for the chase.
Alex and friends fail to elevate the story too. I had previously written about wanting Hallmark to highlight a team of crime solvers to liven up the dynamic, and it looks like we have that here. Rather than just amateur sleuth and her romantic interest, the Chronicle staff are contribute in smart and efficient ways, but at least in The Deep End, they’re not a group I’d want to spend extra time with. Maybe it’s because we’re missing Chuck, the sunny press manager from the previous films. Hopefully he’ll return for the next case and inject some life into the series.
Highlight for spoilers: Jeremy killed Elliot over debts from a high stakes poker game that the latter had been running. Elliot didn’t need the money and seemingly organized the gambling ring for kicks. He was considerate of people’s situations though and would cut off anyone who was in too deep. Jeremy was one of those who was massively in debt. He wanted to continue playing though, and when Elliot refused to loan him more money, Jeremy bashed him with the golf club in a fit of anger. He still couldn’t find the key to the ledger or Elliot’s cash though, which would have allowed him to scrub his motive and his debts.
Dir: Nimisha Mukerji
Writer: Melissa Salmons
Cast: Alison Sweeney, Benjamin Ayres, Olivia Steele Falconer, Rebecca Staab, Chelan Simmons, Robyn Bradley, Chenier Hundal, Edward Ruttle, Karen Holness
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries