Kevin McGarry is 0-for-2 this holiday season, registering duds on both Hallmark and Lifetime. I wish I could say Christmas Scavenger Hunt is at least superior to Random Acts of Christmas, but both are unremarkable in their own way. I guess you could argue that this one had the less dumb idea and follows some standard storylines. You can’t go too far off the rails if you stick to the girl-returns-home-for-Christmas-to-tear-down-town-landmark-only-to-change-her-mind-and-also-fall-for-her-ex plot, but you really need something special to make it worth watching.
Instead, the movie casts Kim Shaw as its lead. She makes a perfectly fine Belinda. The character is pleasant and all smiles, but she’s also boring as hell. Here’s a chance for Hallmark to cast an actor of color who will, if nothing else, bring a touch of diversity, but of course they’re going with the bland nice girl. Hmm, okay. So, here we are with forgettable Belinda who’s back home to celebrate Christmas with her dad (Tom Arnold) and to shut down the textile mill and museum. Naturally, she’ll get a promotion if she closes the deal, along with the everlasting scorn of her entire town.
That’s what you’d expect at least. The potential mill redevelopment is just a prop though, and a weak one at that. Aside from a few folks looking glum about the historic building being transformed into cushy condos, no one’s giving an impassioned defense for saving the place. It’s pretty far from the minds of the townspeople and from Belinda, and no wonder because who cares about your career when you’ve got your hottie ex hanging around? Dustin (McGarry), her high school boyfriend, is still in town, doing her dad’s plumbing and what not. They had a rough breakup, but there’s nothing that ten years and a scavenger hunt can’t fix. This daylong event seems to be a big thing, in this town and this town only, and consists of teams going out to do Christmas-y things after deciphering a clue.
Someone needs to tell the writers over at Hallmark that they don’t have to run with every half-baked idea they come up with. Not all these stories are worth telling, and no one will notice if you make 30 Christmas movies instead of 45. I’d much rather watch a movie with charismatic leads who have dynamic relationships with secondary characters and who, thanks to good scriptwriting, make meaningful observations about friendship or loss or regret. Christmas Scavenger Hunt seems like a subpar effort at every point. I mean, I’d go with the silly premise but not when it’s a string of clichés. If you’re going to commit to this scavenger hunt, make it truly original instead of resorting to baking cookies and building snowmen.
Dir: Marita Grabiak
Writer: George Klembith, Tammy Klembith, Barbara Kymlicka
Cast: Kim Shaw, Kevin McGarry, Tom Arnold, Kathryn Kohut, Greg Ellwand, Jon Welch
Time: 82 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel