Love and Sunshine (2019)

Love and Sunshine is about as bland as its title, and it’s hard to find too much to recommend here except for Sunshine, the titular Golden Retriever. I’m far from a dog person but even I couldn’t stop cooing about this beautiful pup, especially since the humans turned out to be a bit of a bore. Danica McKellar and Mark Deklin are dutifully chipper in this romance about a returning serviceman who reunites with his dog and falls for the woman fostering it. The two make a pleasant pair but are hampered by a low stakes story. Things do eventually take a dramatic turn but too late to salvage the movie.

It may also be that I’ve reached the end of my McKellar rope. In the past, I’ve enjoyed the actor’s cheery presence, but I find myself increasingly lumping her with the other graduates of the furrowed brow school of acting, of which Candace Cameron Bure is a star alumna. If McKellar’s not flashing a megawatt smile, she’s scrunching her eyebrows to convey Very Deep Concern. She doesn’t bring much nuance to her character Ally, owner of a nursery who could just as well be any other Hallmark character played by McKellar. Like those women, Ally comes with an abundance of high spirits. Her bright demeanor helps her power through any and all difficulties, including a telephone breakup with her fiancé, Ben (Peter Benson). His appreciation for Ally’s horticultural eye hasn’t changed, however, and he needs her talents to keep his landscaping business afloat.

Things take a turn for the better when Jake (Deklin), owner of the military dog she’s been fostering, enters the picture. The two barely say their hellos before going out on a doggy date and regaling each other with their life stories. Soon they’re finding every excuse they can to see each other, even though it seems like they only things they share are a mutual love for Sunshine and a lack of a social life. That’s enough for me these days, so I’m not judging, but the problem here is that their meetings present only the veneer of friendship and romance.

Simply put, Ally and Jake aren’t that interesting. They bond over things like bath time with Sunshine and one very color coordinated July 4th party, but we don’t know much about them beyond that. Ally’s main conflict is a subplot involving one of Ben’s clients (Brenda Crichlow), who favors her garden design and landscaping know-how. Jake’s characterization is far thinner, and as he avoids conversations of substance, it’s difficult to know him as anything more than the handsome dog owner. If all you want is a smiley couple making eyes at one another, then this is fine, but if you’re looking for an actual romance, you won’t get it here. By the time the movie finally does take a chance and try to pack an emotional punch, I’ve already disconnected from Ally and Jake, though Sunshine still gets my love.

Released: 2019
Dir: Ellie Kanner
Writer: Bart Baker, Glenn Rabney
Cast: Danica McKellar, Mark Deklin, Christine Chatelain, Peter Benson, Toby Levins, Jessie Fraser, Brenda Crichlow, Daniel Bacon
Time: 84 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2020