Return to Christmas Creek (2018)

There’s nothing like watching the lovely Tori Anderson and realizing that you are in fact a mean cow, which is one thing I learned from Return to Christmas Creek. Another is that there are sometimes perfectly fine movies that are also just very forgettable. The family friction that drives this story hits close to home, perhaps why I don’t need it dramatized, but the film flies a bit under the radar to make it on my must-see list.

I really do love Anderson though, and she sells everything for me. Her face is so expressive and gentle; she reminds me of Rosamund Pike – that is, Pride and Prejudice Rosamund and not Gone Girl Rosamund. Amelia, a Chicago-based app developer, is the one returning to Christmas Creek after investors reject her one-stop Christmas shopping app for lacking a personal touch. Suddenly, her planned trip to the Turks and Caicos becomes a visit home for holiday inspiration. As one would expect, Christmas Creek is brimming with festive cheer, not least because this is the 40th anniversary of Fly By Santa. The toy drive started by her Uncle Harry (Steven Weber) is not your ordinary charity event, unless yours involves a decked-out seaplane too.

The holiday spirit comes back as Amelia reconnects with people and places from her past. Her childhood bestie, Mike (Stephen Huszar), conveniently lives in town and doesn’t have a job with regular work hours. He does, however, have a cute niece (Lyla Elliott) who’s on her way to becoming Amelia’s mini-me. But it’s the connections she’d most like to recover that elude her throughout her stay. Harry and her father (Stuart Hughes) had a falling out over the running of their family inn years ago. That led to their abrupt move, and she and her parents haven’t been back since.

I sympathize because there are a few relatives with whom I want to jumpstart a relationship. There are also those I want to I hope will spend every holiday in the Turks and Caicos, but that’s for another day. The problem with the simmering familial conflict in this movie is that it creates a certain sense of anxiety that never fully pays off. Weber, with the bigger role between the two brothers, conveys Harry’s shame and regret, feelings that are tempered by pride at the job he’s done since. For a decades-long feud, however, the bad blood doesn’t amount to much and the climax dissipates quickly.

The film handles it romantic elements with greater success. Amelia and Mike provide a pleasant counter to the messiness between her uncle and father, but I feel they’re almost too well-matched, so agreeable that I’m inclined to leave them be. Harry and his ex, Pamela (Kari Matchett), on the other hand, are intriguing to watch together for the opposite reason. They aren’t destined for each other. They’ve already broken up once, and second chances don’t always mean starting from scratch. That their relationship is the more satisfying one tells you how much work the story needs. It’s not a lot in truth, but a few shifts in focus would have helped this wonderful cast enormously.

Released: 2018
Dir: Don McBrearty
Writer: Kirsten Hansen
Cast: Tori Anderson, Stephen Huszar, Steven Weber, Kari Matchett, Janet Porter, Lyla Elliott, Byron Abalos, Stuart Hughes, Alison Brooks
Time: 86 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019