Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Hallmark Christmas Watch: Christmas Together With You (2021)

Watched:  11/24/2021
Format:  Hallmark Channel!
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Kevin Fair

This year vis-a-vis Hallmark movies has been an emotional rollercoaster.  We had to switch cable services and wound up on YouTubeTV (recommended), but it had no Hallmark Channel.  I was a little sad, but I don't *need* to see my Hallmark Christmas stories, so I figured: time to move on.  But then, I was informed a week or so ago that, NO, YouTubeTV now carried all three Hallmark networks.  Feliz navidad, indeed!

But, Jamie now has a pretty hard rule about not putting on Hallmark movies til Thanksgiving night, so I honestly hadn't been watching.  But this last week, the network debuted a new movie, Christmas Together With You (2021) - and the stars caught my eye.  Harry Lennix portrayed General Swann in Man of Steel, and Laura Vandervoort played Supergirl (sort of) on Smallville off and on for half the show's run.  Thus, it got recorded.  

And, then, I needed to watch something that needed minimal attention while I worked out.  So here we are.

Watching Hallmark movies is really a study in seeing what they did to tweak, improve, reduce costs, etc... from prior years.  Gone are the days of FX films.  So no more trips to the North Pole, no more Elves with magic (sorry, Summer Glau).  The stars of this film are not people I expect other people to know, but for a while the formula was that they had a few movies with actual big name actors starring, and then a whole bunch with a weird stable of mix-and-match Hallmark stars.  But I don't know if we should still expect Lacey Chabert, Candace Cameron Bure, Danica McKellar and others - who were the mod squad of Hallmark - to continue to appear.  I did see an ad for a movie with Teri Hatcher, so the Superman media alumni are apparently just a very hot ticket for Hallmark at the moment.

They're also not doing single parents at the moment, and I guess that period where everything was about veterans or active duty military is now done.  No bake sales here, or concerts to be given.  But guys with not-quite-a-beard are still definitely the thing.  The leads are from a city of some sort, but they also don't go nuts bashing city life, nor does Vandervoort have a business-man SO who is getting her to shut down the tree factory or whatever.

But Hallmark clearly got the memo about their lack of diversity - which is honestly the most easily solved thing possible for these movies.  No one ever *talks* about race, but you can literally drop any gender and age appropriate actor into any role.  And this movie did and does.  So, we can't make fun of Hallmark for that any more, I guess.  

What was remarkable about this movie was that the two main characters are just friends (I had misunderstood the ads, thinking Bennix was Vandervoort's dad somehow).  The plot innovation here is that they use two of the standard-issue Hallmark romance plots:  finding new and unexpected love with someone who irritates you at first glance, and rekindling a high school romance.  This way, they can just run through the key beats we all know from other movies, but do it in half the time - and, y'all, it kinda works.  There's less oddball filler.  Which is why the movie doesn't get bogged down with the usual storylines around the romance.

But, yeah!  A platonic friendship!  Between generations!  The movie even has the unwed pair share a room platonically, and doesn't lose it's mind over the situation.  It just happens (I refuse to believe anyone would just let Vandervoort fall asleep on the sofa with her make-up on, hair done and in her very nice clothes, though).  

I have no idea if the movie is *good* or not, and by what standard.  There's definitely the goofy local talent and the thankless roles like "friend with way too much personality".  And "concerned mom".  The plot only works if you think people running a Christmas themed cottage-style inn have plenty of time to run off to do things like go caroling or dick around in the town square.  But that's just how these things work.  

But Bennix seems perfectly fine in his part where he constantly looks like a dad on vacation, and Vandervoort manages to handle the boilerplate Hallmark dialog and set-ups weirdly convincingly.  I mean, hey, hats off, because that dialog usually sounds like it came out of one of those "I forced a computer to watch 1000 Christmas movies and this is what the AI came up with" scripts and you can tell everyone is just powering through. But, yeah, they're both real-life actors, and you get the breezy "I barely care about this" vibe you're looking for.  

Also, Vandervoort is hot.  So that's a big plus.  

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