Y’all, I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I guess the actual beginning might be good because unless you want to punish yourself, you’re not going to make it past the first commercial break. You might not even make it to that point; we didn’t in our house, though I did eventually power my way through in order to complain about it on the internets.
This thing is a train wreck from the jump, when we’re introduced to “Christmas coaches” Lauren (Erica Deutschman) and Colleen (Tianna Nori). The two are super hyped about landing their newest client, the Andersons, one of whom is 53rd in line for the British throne. Fifty. Third. They’ve been asked to do up the estate among other things, and that is where Lauren runs into Lord James (Chad Connell), master of the house while his parents are back in London.
First off, and this is not even at the top of my list of criticisms, WTF is a Christmas coach? This sounds like you’re hiring someone to put you through baking drills and snowball training, maybe reviewing tape to break down your gift wrapping technique. Lauren and Colleen are holiday assistants at best, in charge of everything from decorating to party planning. It’s an absurd amount of work for two people who I assume are juggling other clients. They need to bring more focus to their vague enterprise and perhaps not refer to themselves as coaches when they are anything but that. I mean, Lauren’s idea of boosting James’s Christmas spirit is to strong arm him into building a snowman and going tree shopping with her, not exactly the stuff you can build an entire business off of.
In any case, the story has us believing some fresh, festive air is exactly what the reticent young lord needs. Like so many others, James used to love Christmas, but the holiday hasn’t felt the same since he moved to America. This year, while Lauren knocks about with a few thousand strands of lights and some singing doormats, he’s holed up in his office finalizing a business acquisition, and to be honest, I get why the Anderson clan is mopey. I would be too if I went from Christmas in London to Christmas in the middle of the woods in America. No amount of hot chocolate or shortbread would change that, though a basketful of mince pies might help.
The biggest problem with this film though, the main reason why you will not make it past the fifteen minute mark, is star Erica Deutschman, who I am sure has done better work in every other movie or TV show. The actor is just too much, taking the cheer in A Cheerful Christmas to the extreme. In the actor’s hands, Lauren is a ceaseless optimist, a woman chatty to the point of annoyance and oblivious to the suggestion that she should take it down a notch, or ten. She’s like my giddy niece who will pepper strangers with random questions and facts, desperate for the slightest morsel of approval. Nothing, not even Lauren’s dead mother or Connell’s dodgy accent distracts from Deutschman’s hyperactive performance, and you wouldn’t be the first to think about throttling the character through the screen.
Still, I wouldn’t blame all the film’s failings on the actor. The movie suffers from terrible writing and directing as well. In addition to pages of clunky exposition, the script also mishandles the main relationship. No one thought to pull Lauren back a bit and give the character and the film some breathing room. It’s not until the end of the movie when she finally winds down for a few minutes and we get an emotional connection between her and James, but it comes far too late to be believable or meaningful. Perhaps an actor besides Connell, who looks the part but seems more intent on mastering his accent than a romance, might improve things but I doubt by much. In the end, the only thing this movie has going for it is snow polo, which frankly should feature more in Hallmark films.
Dir: Marita Grabiak
Writer: Barbara Kymlicka
Cast: Erica Deutschman, Chad Connell, Jennifer Vallance, Tianna Nori, Samantha Madely
Time: 90 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel