Entertaining Christmas (2018)

Entertaining Christmas is one of the least entertaining Christmas movies I’ve seen, and I’m sorry to say but the reason is lead Jodie Sweetin. I loved her as Stephanie Tanner and I don’t want to dwell on that like that was her career highlight, but that was her career highlight. Sweetin never seems able to inhabit any of her characters. It’s as if her expressions are managed by some internal dial – one click for the sad face, another for the anxious face, another for excited one. She puts no emotion into her acting, and it drives me nuts.

It bothered me more so here because this movie had potential. Sweetin plays Candace Livingstone, daughter of the famous lifestyle guru Liz Livingstone (Jane Moffat), a Martha Stewart type but gentler and not a felon. Liz can do it all – baking, crafting, decorating, sewing – and she has a national audience thanks to her magazine and TV appearances. Her retirement means Candace has the chance to step up and become the new face of the Livingstone brand.

However, it’s a role she’s not sure she wants and definitely isn’t prepared for. Unlike her well-rounded mom, Candace is hopeless when it comes to anything in the homemaking realm. She excels at behind the scenes work with the magazine but can’t bake a cookie if her life depended on it. And it does, sort of, when she comes across a viral video. Harper (Ana Araujo) wants to surprise her father, who is stationed abroad and is coming back for the holidays. She and her family are big fans of the Livingstone brand, so Candace decides to help Harper throw a Liz-ified homecoming, one that consists of a few extra decorations and a giant goody basket.

When Harper’s dad gets delayed, Candace finds herself hanging around the tiny Vermont town for a few extra days. She’s not just chilling at the B&B and watching the snow fall though. The women take advantage of her presence and invite her to all sorts of festive, craft-heavy activities. Suddenly, her life is a giant Pinterest board. She’s making snowflake pancakes for Harper, hosting gingerbread competitions, knitting whole ass scarves. It’s hell, and someone is on to her. John (Brendan Fehr), a local journalist, isn’t out to ruin Candace, but he happens to be Harper’s uncle and his investigative instincts tell him something’s off.

I’ve never seen Fehr so lively before, and at least in these Christmas romances, he always seems bored or sleepy. A reporter is the opposite of that, constantly alert and on the lookout, and this role suits him better. Still, it does little to help the chemistry between him and Sweetin. The two banter like new acquaintances who click at a two-day work conference but who, since they won’t see each other again, avoid opening up to each other and engaging in meaningful conversation.

Released: 2018
Dir: Robin Dunne
Writer: Marcy Holland
Cast: Jodie Sweetin, Brendan Fehr, Jane Moffat, Ana Araujo, Tamara Almeida, Marcia Bennett, Elizabeth Whitmere, Elva Mai Hoover
Time: 90 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019

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