TV CHRISTMAS MOVIE REVIEWS
2017 Season Begun!!!
For seventeen years my wife and I have made a hobby of watching all the TV Christmas movies possible during the holiday season and placing them in one of four categories: must see, very good, okay to watch only once and the worst Christmas movies of all time. We're posting these lists of made-for-TV Christmas movie reviews to help people looking for good entertainment find the best and avoid the worst.
Our criteria for a good movie is that it has an interesting and believable plot with Christmas as an important element, competent acting, avoids cliched characters, doesn't contain crude humor or violence and doesn't have smart-aleck children. Also, since the Christmas season is supposed to be a joyful time of year we prefer movies that are light and happy. We limit ourselves to live action films rather than animated movies. Starting with the 2012 season we had to add another limitation to the movies we'll try, which is that we are no longer able to stand watching movies based on the painfully overworked Christmas Carol concept where the ghosts of past, present and future visit a scrooge-type person and turn them into a Christmas loving individual. After enduring eleven of them over the years we finally reached our limit. From now on we'll list titles of these movies in the "Okay To See Once" list but not formally review them. If you aren't sick of the Christmas Carol theme you may want to try one of them.
Almost all TV Christmas movies follow the standard formula of someone discovering happiness over the holiday season, usually by falling in love. Formula movies don't bother us as long as they're done well.
The movies are listed in alphabetical order within each of the four sections, ignoring introductory "A"s and "The"s. Within a section the best movies have yellow titles with green descriptions to make them easier to spot. These are movies we've enjoyed watching several times. Green 'plus' signs at the end of a description flag better movies in that category. The worst movies in a category are indicated by red negative marks after their descriptions. Movie titles starting with numbers are listed as if the numbers were spelled out. For example, The 12 Christmas Wishes would be placed as if it was The Twelve Christmas Wishes. This lists movies of similar titles close together so they can be differentiated more easily.
If you're a returning visitor and notice that some of the movies have been moved to different categories, it's because at the start of the 2016 season we re-evauluated many of them and moved those we look forward to rewatching every year into the top category while others, though they are excellent but not watched as often, were moved down.
After the reviews are comments about the Christmas movie genre in general and how specific years did.
So, without further ado... here are our lists!
These are the very best Christmas movies we've found. They stand up to repeated viewings and form the heart of our Christmas movie library.
A Charming Christmas
Julie Benz is gorgeous as a all-business store manager who's heart is won over to the Christmas spirit by a handsome Santa working the holiday at her store. The acting is excellent and the leads attractive and perfectly matched. We enjoyed this movie so much we purchased it on DVD. ++
Christmas in My Hometown (Please see "A Holiday For Love" below.)
The Christmas Ornament
While predictable, this is a pleasant, attractive movie about a lady bicycle shop owner and a Christmas tree seller falling in love over Christmas. Stars Kellie Martin. After rewatching this movie we decided it deserved to be promoted to the "best" category because it holds up to repeated viewings. It has more dramatic moments than the rest of our favorites, but the happy ending makes up for it. Fans of the science fiction series Firefly will enjoy seeing Jewel Staite (Kalie in Firefly) in a supporting role.
The Christmas Wish
Neil Patrick Harris (Dougie Houser) is very good as an executive taking over his deceased father's real estate business. Along the way he discovers there's more to business than making profit, finds someone to love, and solves a mystery in his father's past. A simple movie that succeeds by doing everything very well. (Available on DVD.) +
A Holiday for Love
Often listed under the alternate title Christmas in My Hometown, this light romantic comedy revolves around a tractor company executive forced to go back home to size up the local factory for downsizing. Disguised as a tractor purchaser, the town thinks he's really there to place an order that could save the factory. Along the way he's thrown together with widowed mother Melissa Gilbert. They fall in love and of course everything works out in the end after some bumps in the road. This isn't a perfect movie because Gilbert's young daughter is cast in some unusual situations as the leader of an adult choir and an elderly man with mild dementia seems out of place, but the total effect is uplifting. One of the things I enjoy about this movie is that the plan devised for saving the factory is totally believable. While this movie may not have the knock-down greatness of some of the others, it's still one we enjoy year after year. (Available on DVD.)
Outstanding acting all the way around, interesting characters, good production values and an excellent screenplay with several believable twists make this movie about a boy suspecting a man (Hume Cronyn) vacationing at a hotel in July of being Santa Claus a joy too see. Is he or isn't he? You'll have to watch to find out.
We both loved this movie and aren't alone in our opinions. This made for TV feature was nominated for five Emmys and won two. (Available on DVD) +
The Santa Suit
I have to confess that I'm embarrassed to recommend this movie. It's a painfully cliched and predictable story about a heartless toy company owner who's transformed by the real Santa to appear to be Santa whenever anyone looks at him. He's thrown out of his company, ends up living in a shelter and working at a toy store as Santa. Along the way he learns the value of compassion and embraces the spirit of Christmas. Having learned his lesson he's turned back into himself and proceeds to make things right in his company and help a little girl he met while working in the toy store. There are several awkward scenes where we see the CEO (Kevin Sorbo) as he is yet everyone else sees him as Santa. The shifts back and forth are jarring and give the first 20 minutes of the movie a Twilight Zone feeling. There are also a few lame special effects that usually sour us on a movie. We also didn't enjoy the character of a toy store's "dark side" elf.
Yet the bulk of the movie feels true as Sorbo slowly comes to understand the Christmas spirit. He's very good at this and by the end of the movie we were left with a warm Christmas glow. The key to his success is that he portrays the character as someone who's a victim of his own cynicism, which makes it easy to empathize with him. Another plus is the female lead, who manages to create a wonderfully sweet character who never crosses over into being sappy. If you try this movie and don't enjoy it, I completely understand. But in spite of its weaknesses, for some reason we bought into Kevin Sorbo's performance enough to purchase it. We're pleased to comment that it not only holds up to repeated viewings but improves with familiarity. The Santa Suit is a 2010 movie and is available on DVD. ++
The female and male romantic leads are interesting, attractive characters that exchange a lot of funny, entertaining banter as they compete to see who is more successful at decorating a department store's windows. The plot is similar to The Christmas Song and has a similar ending, though it's more believable and fun in this incarnation. It also had three entertaining twists that were pleasant surprises. In spite of the store's manager, who we found to be too flaky to be believable, we find this movie holds up to repeat watchings. What makes this movie stand out from all the other competition-themed movies is that the competition isn't mean spirited. Unfortunately, it's not yet available on DVD.
Window Wonderland has become our new favorite Christmas movie to watch. It has so many funny moments and is so well done that it's an absolute delight. If you want to know what we want in a Christmas movie, just watch this little gem.
In spite of their weaknesses we enjoyed the following movies enough to want to purchase DVDs of them:
All I Want For Christmas
Unbeknownst to her, the son of a widowed mother who works at a charity shelter wins a toy store promotional contest titled, "All I Want For Christmas." His wish: a husband for his mother. Mild comedy ensues as she agrees to it in exchange for the toy company saving her mission. As she's working her way through the "husband" applicants she forms a mutual attachment with the toy store owner's rich son. The problem is a long-time family friend is also in love with her. The inevitable happens but not before everyone has to work through several plot twists that keep things interesting.
This TV Christmas movie does everything right: the acting is universally good, the characters interesting and believable, production quality is high and the plot has a few interesting surprises. It also avoids many of the mistakes of lesser movies: there are no hokey special effects and even the bad guys are as much victims of their circumstances as the mother. Still, the movie lacks the spark that would normally lock it into the "must see" list. Also, the lead actress appeared to be very tired and weary looking. Still, it left us with a satisfied warm glow so we've added it to our library. (Available on DVD.)
The Bishop's Wife
While this movie violates our criteria against movies with angels and magic, it does it so well and is so perfectly acted and written that we believe it should be on everyone's much-watch list. From 1947, Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven are letter-perfect as Grant (an angel) comes to earth to help Niven (the bishop) remember the meaning of Christmas. This movie is hilarious yet has great heart without crossing the line into sappiness. (Available on DVD.)
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Barbara Stanwyck scintillates as a big city newspaper woman cornered into posing as a country-bred homebody to entertain a GI for the holiday. Supporting her are an interesting mob of diverse characters that avoid being cliched stereotypes. This movie's a lot of fun, though I have to admit I didn't care too much for the first fifteen minutes about the GI on a life raft and later manipulating a nurse into getting steak for dinner. Some critics complain that the script needed tightening but it worked for us. (Available on DVD.)
Debbie Macomber's Mrs. Miracle
This loose remake of Mary Poppins has a magical nanny help a widowed father cope with his two sons over Christmas, resolve his feelings about the loss of his wife and find love. The male and female leads are extremely appealing and handle their roles perfectly. The miracles performed by the nanny are subtle and kept to a minimum. What nudges this movie up from the "okay to see once" list to the "very good" category is the interesting fact that although the lead characters have completely different problems, those heartaches effect their lives in similar ways. Only by seeing someone else trapped by anger and hurt do they come to realize how the same feelings affect their own lives. On the down side is the sad fact that the boys playing the father's sons were poor actors, bad enough to almost relegate this movie to the "only okay to see once" list.
A Different Kind Of Christmas
Shelley Long (Cheers) looks great as a city attorney running for mayor. Complicating things is the legal chaos created by a man playing Santa when he sets up a permanent residence in a local neighborhood. There are several unexpected and believable plot twists that kept us wondering what was going to happen next. Good acting all the way around make this an entertaining choice. (Available on DVD.)
Regarding the DVD; if you purchase it avoid reading the front cover. It contains a spoiler that ruins one of the major twists in the movie. I think it's criminal when marketing people sacrifice a key element in a movie in their frantic rush to sell it. In this particular case they not only give something away, they do so in a way that makes the movie appear to be different than it is. +
Miracle on 34th Street
A classic from 1947 that's best seen in the colorized DVD version, (The 2006 Special Edition with two disks) not only because this is one movie that clearly benefits from color helping to show the bright Christmas scenes and Mrs. O'Hara's gloriously red hair to the best advantage, but because the original film was restored prior to colorization and upgraded to Dolby stereo so it's considerably sharper and sounds much better than black-and-white versions. Colorization quality varies depending on the amount of effort put into it. I'm happy to report that the quality of colorization on this movie is the best I've ever seen. The acting is universally excellent making this movie a delight even after watching it several times. (Available on DVD.)
Remember the Night
Another classic, this time from 1940. Fred McMurray and Barbara Stanwyck hit every note perfectly as he plays a district attorney prosecuting her for shoplifting on Christmas Eve. Through a series of comic mistakes they get thrown together for the holiday. She teaches him compassion as he shows her the value of honesty. Hilarious at times, the movie ends on a tragic, though promising, note. Great by any standard. (Available on DVD.)
All I Want For Christmas
The plot of two children conniving to reunite their divorced parents has been overworked to the point where it is cliche'd. Nonetheless, we're recommending this movie because it does it much better than most. The older brother and younger sister are given oddly mature dialogs, yet the actors make it sound both believable and entertaining. Twice we laughed out load at great sight gags and Lauren Becall is outstanding as their overly sophisticated grandmother.
All I Want For Christmas
Ridiculous story about a self absorbed lady advertising executive who receives a mind-reading pin from one of Santa's elves and uses it to further her career. She was so violently conceited that we almost turned this one off early. But it held our attention long enough to watch it all the way through. We rate this as one of the worse movies in this category. - -
Angel of Christmas
An anti-Christmas reporter gets an assignment to write a story about a Christmas angel her great grandfather carved. While researching the angel's history, she find love and embraces the Christmas spirit. We found this movie okay to watch once, but it dragged in several places so much we had to fight the urge to fast forward. It would have been more interesting if it had focused more on solving the mystery than her budding romance. Having said that, all the characters were attractive to watch and we had fun spotting several actors in small roles that had been seen in lead roles in older films. Technically, we had two complaints. First: the carved angel was in many scenes and, frankly, she had such a hang-dog expression she didn't look very angelic. It may sound like a small point but every time her face came on screen we cringed. Second: the story line was weakened by several supposed magic acts caused by the angel and a virtually impossible coincidence that enabled the writer to resolve all the mysteries surrounding it. Finally: this is the second 2015 Hallmark release by Crown Media that suffers from a very muffled vocal sound track. We had to turn up the volume very high to hear what was being said and even then the voices were hard to understand. It wasn't just that they were soft, but also that the pitch was unusually low, as if all the high notes had been clipped. At first we thought our hearing or our audio system was malfunctioning, but when we'd switch to regular programming the sound went back to normal.
Angels and Ornaments
We found this Hallmark movie about an angel helping two old friends discover they belong together very slow moving and contrived. Worse still, the casting was off. The three main actors didn't seem to fit together. It wasn't a bad movie but it felt like a waste of time by the time we got to the end of it. -
Angels In The Snow
Two families get marooned by a blizzard and one learns the value of love from the other. This is one of the best UP network productions we've seen. Although it suffers from some cliched family problems, a young girl who's a little too sweet to be believed and her voice over narrations artificial, it held our interest enough to want to see the ending. We're recommending it as okay to see once with one negative annotation for these reasons. -
is a drama with Willie Nelson as Santa, helping a family man
rediscover the Christmas spirit after having lost it due to a tragedy
in his youth. We found the plot sad and the acting so lame that we
started fast forwarding after only 30 minutes. The ending was
predictable and cliched. It felt more like an excuse for aging
country music stars Nelson, Lyle Lovett and Kris Kristoferson to sing
a few tunes. There's nothing offensively wrong with this movie so
we're listing it in the okay to see once category instead of the
avoid list. - -
The Best Christmas Party Ever
A woman gets passed over for a promotion in the event planning company she works in and has to train her new boss. This is a remake of the watchable Hats Off To Christmas. Fans of the original Avengers British TV series of the 1960s will be interested to see how Linda Thorson, who took over from Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) has aged. She plays the retiring head of the company. We rated the acting as being better and the characters more interesting, believable and attractive than those of Hats Off To Christmas.
A Boyfriend for Christmas
A young girl asks Santa for a boyfriend, which he promises to deliver in 20 years. Twenty years later the same Santa brings her together with a boy she met briefly in her youth.
An ex-couple compete for the same broadcasting job. This plot has been showing up frequently in the last fews years. When done well, such as in the outstanding Window Wonderland, it can make a great movie. Unfortunately, Broadcasting Christmas fails. The problem is that the competition is conflict driven, instead of fun driven as it was in Window Wonderland. Also, this movie has almost nothing to do with Christmas. It could just as easily taken place any time of the year. -
Carol for Another Christmas
This 1964 movie starring Sterling Hayden and Ben Gazarra follows the now painful-to-watch Christmas Carol plot. We couldn't stand to view it so we're placing it in this list to give it the benefit of the doubt.
A Case For Christmas
A sporting goods manufacturer sues Santa as a merchandising ploy. Santa accepts the suit and hires a struggling lawyer to defend him. This movie borrows several plot elements from the great Miracle on 34th Street. Dean Cain is good in a difficult role to make believable. In spite of a few lame special effects, some over-the-top acting by the manufacturer and a particularly silly special effect in the last 30 seconds of the movie we're listing this one as okay to see once. The Santa is better than most and the movie focused on Christmas and the Christmas spirit.
It's interesting to compare this one to The Santa Suit, which just barely made it into the "must see" list. They both have the same number of pros and cons but I believe The Santa Suit works much better because Kevin Sorbo's performance is more touching and his love interest is more believable than Dean Cain's in A Case For Christmas, who struck us being vacant.
This 1945 comedy is dated, production quality is low and the connection to Christmas is weak, but I found enough mystery in it (is the girl really the heir, will the bankrupt family that inherits if she doesn't find out break down and tell her the truth, is the alcoholic actor bought in as a charity case good or bad?) to want to watch it all the way through.
An unemployed young woman is hired by her neighbor to help him in his activities as a secret Santa. Along the way she recaptures the Christmas spirit and finds love. This movie features very good acting and an interesting plot with entertaining twists. It's touching without stepping over the line into sappiness. +
Enjoyable, interesting movie about a young girl's unselfish wishes for others coming true. The movie revolves around Kevin Sorbo playing a doctor who finds love with a single mother and a mysterious old woman living in his rundown house. The star of the show is the young girl played by Tamera Mowry-Housley. She's one of the best young actors we've ever seen. She's in almost every scene and carries the movie in a natural, believable style. On looking back much of her behavior is too adult for a child her age, yet her acting is so good she pulls it off. There were several unexpected twists and turns that avoided many of the cliched situations too many movies of this type feature. It also had excellent production values. So, why isn't in one of the top tier lists? Five times during the movie the writer killed the momentum of the plot by interjecting a religious moment which, although totally appropriate in a movie about Christmas, felt forced, like an imbedded commercial. This is to be expected because the movie was released by PURE/FLIX, a clean-movie Christian company. Having said that, I can't emphasize enough that these scenes are not nearly as heavy handed as movies from The Christian Network. They weren't wrong. They just didn't ring true. Interestingly, the emphasis was on God, not Christianity. It had a nondenominational sense. Another problem was that during most of the movie Kevin Sorbo seemed out of place, as if he wasn't sure about how to portray his character.
Christmas Angel in the House
Intriguing and well made movie about a hurting couple and a boy who comes into their lives to help them heal. This comedy-drama kept us thoroughly entertained and wondering what was going to happen next. We didn't like the ending, but then the way it ended is something many people will approve. Besides that, we found the Scottish (Irish?) accents sometimes hard to understand and the soundtrack drowned out the actors voices in a couple of places. Another problem is that Christmas hardly played any role at all in this movie. However, it was made so well we didn't feel it deserved to languish in the "avoid" list.
Christmas at Cartwright's
Alicia Witt is very attractive as a single mother out of a job who ends up, with a little discrete help from an angel, getting hired as a department store Santa. The situation was interesting enough to keep us entertained. Wallace Shawn was perfect as the whimsical angel helping her out. The few magical moments are so understated that they do not reduce the film's credibility. The only thing that kept this film from being listed in the "very good" list is that when together, the daughter and mother acted a little too sweet and endearing to be believable. Alicia Witt also starred in A Very Merry Mixup. If you enjoyed her in that movie you'll be happy to hear she's even better in Christmas at Cartwright's. ++
The Christmas Box
Hard working father gets talked into moving his family into a huge house to look after an elderly lady. Although she at first seems unfriendly and he's openly sarcastic, in time everyone learns to care for each other. The biggest problem is that the father is so rudely critical at every turn and remains that way so long that he turned us off to what otherwise would have been a very nice movie. This was enough for me to vote that it go to the "avoid" list. My wife felt it belonged in the "see-once" category. Some people may feel uncomfortable about the blatant pro-Christian message at the end. -
NEW!!! The Christmas Calendar
A small town lady baker receives a Christmas calendar in the form of a doll house. As she opens a door each day, the town becomes obsessed with figuring out who sent it. This is a likable movie weakened by a few cliched characters, like a mean competitor willing to do anything to make her fail, and some grade B acting.
The Christmas Card
An army sergeant in Afghanistan receives a random Christmas card from a girl in the states. He goes to find her and the predicable ensues. This movie is entertaining to watch because of the beautiful mountain scenery of its location as well as a host of interesting and well acted supporting characters. The weaknesses are a stereotypically self centered boyfriend, the marginal acting ability of the male lead and several scenes of what many will consider forced patriotic themes. The movie is also a little too sweet for some viewers. In spite of these issues we enjoyed it enough to place it near the top of our "see once" list. +
A Christmas Carol (5X and counting)
The Dickens classic has been brought to the big screen in its original format four times: 1938 starring Reginald Owen, 1951 starring Alistair Sim, 1984 starring George C. Scott and 1999 starring Patrick Stewart. In addition to these original format versions, the concept of ghosts representing Christmases past, present and future visiting a miser has been adapted for television and too many cheap knock-off movies to be counted. The problem with watching one of the originals is that most people have seen so many of the weaker adaptations that they are sick of the plot. Consequently, the four originals suffer from having the concept over exposed, even though all were critically acclaimed when released. That's the main problem I have with them, which is why I'm listing what are considered classics in the "see once" group. Other considerations include the unavoidable fact that the 1938 and 1951 versions, though excellent, are so dated in style that it's hard to get into them. The 1984 version suffers from George C. Scott's unattractive interpretation of Scrooge after he turns good. My preference is for the 1999 version with Patrick Stewart. The worst is the Kelsey Grammer musical costume version.
This "fact inspired" story how how Thomas Kincade began painting has a lot to recommend it. The acting is good and the story line interesting with some truly moving moments toward the end. The problem is that there are also several totally unnecessary scenes that sour the overall effect: like an unattractive Christmas display competition between two neighbors, a cliched vamp teasing the town's promoter, a pointless pageant that falls apart and so on.
NEW!!! Christmas Cure
A successful big city lady doctor returns to her small town home for Christmas to discover her doctor father is retiring and closing an important clinic. During her stay she reconnects with her high school boyfriend and makes some big decisions about what she wants. Pleasantly predictable and attractive Hallmark production.
NEW!!! Christmas Festival Of Ice
Young, small town lady lawyer works to save the town's traditional ice sculpting contest and finds romance in the process. This is nice, comfortable, attractive movie that does everything rght and nothing wrong. It doesn't quite have the perky brightness we require to be a "must see" movie, but it's a good watch nonetheless. +
Christmas for a Dollar
Slow moving tale of a struggling single father of four during the great depression who only has a single dollar to offer his children to buy presents. We felt the situations and characters were too quaint and cliched to recommend this movie but it wasn't bad enough to place it in the "avoid" list.
A Christmas Gift
Michael Trachenberg (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) plays a reporter who finds a man who, as a young boy, sent her a secret Santa gift that changed her life. As she writes an article about his work with children, they develop a romance. This is a predictable drama with no surprises that's okay to watch once, but we found it boring. It felt like a one note song because there wasn't any humor to offset the melodrama. Fans of Ms. Trachenberg might be put off by how much weight she's put on.
A disturbing trend this year, which can be seen in this movie, is the use of mixed-ethnicity romances to bolster weak movies. As we watched this one we couldn't help feeling that it was a trick the production company used to spice up a rather bland story. It felt oddly racist in that it was using race as a vehicle to sell the movie.
Christmas in Boston
A double identity switch makes this familiar tale of pen pals meeting over Christmas more interesting than most movies using this theme. Not great, but tolerable if there's nothing better on. One oddity is an almost black and white scene of a bridge seen from the side in the distance with a lady in bright pink framed in a square of lighter pink walking without moving. It has no apparent connection to the movie. We rewound and watched it again and still couldn't figure it out. Very strange.
This is a harmless but predictable story about a young woman hired by a wealthy young man as a personal aid. What he doesn't know is that due to a mix-up with resumes, she's not the ivy league assistant he thought he was hiring. She convinces him to save a factory from closing and along the way they fall in love. Like many Hallmark productions, this movie was hurt by a several scenes where the musical background was so loud the people were hard to understand. But, it wasn't as bad as many of Hallmark's movies from previous years.
Christmas In Homestead
This is the best famous-actress-comes-to-a-small-town-to-shoot-a-move-and-falls-in-love-with-the-handsome-inn-keeper movie we've seen so far. While this plot has been used at least three times before, they were all very light romantic comedies. In this version there's just enough drama to make the movie more human. We liked it a lot. +
NEW!!! Christmas In The Air
This is thoroughly enjoyable, attractive movie about an overloaded widowed father who hires a professional organizer to help him get ready for an important business meeting while balancing familial responsibilities. The predictable happens, but it happens so entertainingly that the movie never drags. Hallmark is famous for mixing in beautiful scenery in its movies and this one is no exception, featuring several stunning landscapes. We liked this movie a lot. If it had a little more of the brightness that can be seen in movies like A Charming Christmas and Window Wonderland, it would have made it into the must-see lists. ++
Christmas In Vermont
Lady executive is sent to a small town in Vermont by her cold hearted boss to sell off a struggling company. Instead she helps save. This plot has been used too many times, but I'm happy to say this is one of the best versions. +
Christmas Kiss II
Knowing how bad the original Christmas Kiss movie was, I felt distinctly uncomfortable when the opening credits began rolling by for Christmas Kiss II. I'm happy to say I was delightfully surprised at how much better this new version was. In this iteration the lady aid to a company's director falls in reluctant love with her bosses playboy brother. The acting is universally good and the plot was more believable. The only real negative was the playboy brother's sometimes-girlfriend. She was so unattractive in every way that we cringed every time she came on screen. In spite of this we liked this movie almost enough to bump it up to the "very good" list. What keeps us from doing so is the unbelievably obvious imbedded commercial at the end of the movie for the sponsor: Kay Jewelers. It was so blatant it almost ruined the entire movie for us. I assume the idea was to advertise the company. For us it had the opposite effect, it has completely alienated us from ever wanting to go into any Kay Jewelers again. If it had been handled with a little subtly we could have let it go without comment. However, it was done in such an insultingly obvious way that we hated it.
A New York executive inherits her grandmother's house, Christmas theme park and tree farm. She plans to sell but is won over by the charm of the town and a budding love interest in the country lawyer helping her. This Hallmark production looks great, has attractive actors and good production values. Most importantly, it features a much better sound track than many Hallmark releases. While predictable, it's still a very enjoyable movie to watch, which raises an interesting question: Why isn't it good enough to be in the "very good" category? The answer is that besides the fact that there is so little comic relief that this drama feels like a one-note song, while the two leads are attractive, believable and interesting, they don't have the same spark, or chemistry, as the two leads in Window Wonderland. We invite students of Christmas movies to watch both and see the difference. +
The Christmas List
A women perfume expert in a department store begins receiving everything on a joke Christmas list her friend drops in Santa's mailbox. Production values were a little weak but this movie was more watchable than the plot suggests.
The Christmas List
A woman finds love fulfilling a Christmas bucket list of all the things she thinks go into a perfect Christmas. Along the way she discovers love. This was an interesting idea and all the players were attractive. Our biggest problem was that Alicia Witt, whom we've enjoyed in several other movies, projects an artificial sense of quirkiness that rendered her character unbelievable. We felt many of her expressions and mannerisms came across as childish. It's a shame because had she played it a little straighter this could have been a must-see movie.
Lindy Booth is absolutely radiant as a recently deceased young woman who has to help a struggling single father before she can get into heaven. This is the best movie of this genre we've ever seen. The acting is universally excellent, particularly by Ms. Booth who's able to portray a sweet woman without stepping over the line into silliness or childishness. The plot is predictable and some viewers may criticize the ending as being a cope-out, yet it's done so well that we didn't find it objectionable. The single biggest weakness was two brief scenes where the male lead sings what's supposed to be a touching song. We didn't think the song was very good and the vocal voice-over was obvious. However, this is a very minor problem with an overall good film. +
A Christmas Melody
widowed mother returns to her hometown with her young daughter to
start a new life. As she struggles to fit in, she begins a romance
with her daughter's music teacher, who she asks to help her daughter
write a Christmas song. Most of this movie is enjoyable, in
particular a very good soundtrack, which is unusual for a Hallmark
production. What almost ruined it for us was Mariah Carey, who plays
a domineering, braggart PTA mother. Between her marginal acting
skills and her trying to play an unattractive, cliched character, we
almost gave up on this movie. But the two romantic leads were
attractive and appealing enough to help us make it through to the end.
What I'm going to say now isn't very nice, but I doing it not to be mean to Ms. Carey but as a warning to her fans who may want to watch this movie because she's in it. She doesn't look very good. Her weight is up and her face appears so bloated that her skin looks painfully tight. When she speaks her lips move with difficulty as if she's had one too many face lifts or was wearing too much make-up. The problem isn't so much that she looked unattractive, but that she just didn't look normal.
Christmas on the Bayou
Big city career obsessed single mom goes down south to her small town home for Christmas, falls in love with her childhood boyfriend and decides to stay. Formulaic but the acting was mostly good so we're giving this movie a nod. The weakest part was appearance of Ed Asner as a reclusive old man who may be Santa. Also, this was another movie filmed in summer to reduce costs.
Melissa Gilbert plays a demanding Broadway director who gets fired and the only job open to her is directing a small town's Christmas Pageant. We hate to knock a Melissa Gilbert movie but this is one that just barely made it into the "okay to see once" list. The biggest problem is that several supporting characters were supposed interesting or quirky, yet they came across as clownish and even childish. Additionally, there was a child actor that wasn't very good. The plot was predictable and several scenes were contrived. Still, it wasn't offensive as so many of the movies in the "avoid" list so we decided to kick it up a level.
The Christmas Secret
This is a thoroughly entertaining movie with interesting mix of romance and mystery. The plot involves a single mother of two struggling to make ends meet over Christmas. Toward the end we could see how everything was going to work out, but nonetheless we were literally on the edges of our seats to see how it was accomplished. Production values were very high, the acting universally good and Hallmark finally managed to figure out how to release a movie with a good soundtrack. With so much praise you might be wondering why we didn't nominate it for the "very good" list. The answer is that the abusive ex-husband was an unattractive and un-necessary character. The mother was having to deal with so many other problems that his harassing her was one issue too many. It made it feel like everything including the kitchen sink was being thrown at us. +
The Christmas Shepherd
An attractive widow losses her dog, which gets rescued by a widower and his young daughter. The two adults eventually meet, resolve who should keep the dog and fall in love. While this sounds formulaic, excellent acting and a mature treatment of the problem associated with the dog made this movie thoroughly satisfying. The tone for the first half of the movie is very somber, but appropriately so. Our only complaint is that it suffers from another one of Hallmark's overly loud music scores. The music itself is very good, it's just played so loud that in some scenes it drowns out the actors voices. We liked this movie very much but not enough to buy it on DVD.
This movie was moved down out of the "very good" list in 2015 because after rewatching it we decided it was a little too heavy going. It's good, but not the happy sort of movie we prefer watching over the Christmas season.
Two music teachers compete to see whose students can win a Christmas singing contest. The winner gets to keep his or her job. Along the way the competing teachers fall in love and the contest ends predictably. The lead actors were good and except for failing to iron the wrinkles out of the fake snow blankets in one scene, production values were extremely high. There were some problems with the teenage singers, particularly one high school girl who looked more like a 20-year old playboy model. Best of all the spirit of Christmas was emphasized but not heavy handedly.
The Christmas Spirit
Two people on opposite sides of a town's redevelopment project have an auto accident and end up in comas while their spirits roam around trying to figure out how to get reconnected with their bodies. This was one of the hardest movies for us to rate. On the negative side, the special effects were lame, the concept ludicrous and the continuity weak because at first the spirits can't interact with anything physical then all of a sudden they can do everything from using computers to showering people with paper... all the time while still being invisible and not able to be heard. On the plus side, most of the acting was good, the writing acceptable, the production values very good, the Christmas spirit well represented and while the ending was predictable, getting there was interesting enough for us to not fast forward or give up on the movie altogether. In the end we decided it wasn't bad enough to be sent to the avoid list where it would languish beside slasher movies like Black Christmas. So we're classing it as okay to see once, but with a very strong caution in the form of a negative mark. -
A Christmas To Remember
Lady TV star decided she needs a break from work, crashes her car, get amnesia and is helped by a friendly, and painfully attractive, stranger.
and son trade bodies and confusion ensues. This concept has been
done many times before but not as well as it is in this movie by the
UP network. The success is do to the two lead actors managing to
establish certain behavioral characteristics before the change, then
maintain them after the actors have changed rolls. Even though the
end result was a foregone conclusion, it held our interest. The
connection to Christmas was weak, but we still enjoyed the movie.
The Christmas Wife
Sad, tragic and thoughtful, this isn't our usual fare for Christmas. Yet Jason Robards and Julie Harris' performances are so unforgettable that we rank this as one of the most touching Christmas movies of all time. He plays a recent widower who looks for someone with whom to spend the holiday. Harris supplies the companionship but she has a secret that tragically keeps them apart. The movie ends on a hopeful note that leaves the viewer believing that, at least for Robards, the future holds promise. (Available on DVD.)
After many years on the "must see" list, we decided this movie had to be down graded. It's excellent in every possible way, but that fact is that it is very sad and could have taken place any time of the year. The Christmas spirit really doesn't play a roll in it. Having said that we encourage everyone to watch it because it's so good as a touching and effective drama. +++
Christmas Under Wraps
A big city lady doctor gets trapped into accepting a post in northern Alaska over the holiday season. While there she finds love and happiness. Candice Cameron-Bure, Hallmark's replacement for young female roles now that Kelly Martin has moved on to more mature roles, does an acceptable job of making this simple movie mildly entertaining. Except for a predictable surprise ending, weakened by a cheap special effect, and several gross continuity errors like green grass, snow only a few inches deep and bright daytime sunlight in late December in a town supposedly 300 miles north of Anchorage, this movie was a harmless diversion. The connection to Christmas is almost nonexistant until the last quarter of the movie but we enjoyed it enough to list it in the "okay to watch once" list.
For no good reason, a spoiled rich girl and poor orphan switch bodies when they make similar wishes at the same time. Confusion ensues, they learn the value of their own lives and eventually get back together with the help of an angel. Sounds pretty bad yet I found it interesting enough to watch through to the end so I'm not dropping it into the "avoid" category. Place this one at the very bottom of the tolerable-to-see-once list. - -
A Christmas Wish
When her husband deserts her, a mother of three heads north for a new start. We're recommending this movie as okay to see once with severe reservations. The background music is dreary and the unrelenting sequence of bad luck that haunts her for almost the entire movie is depressing. At the very end she finally breaks down in tears, prays for help and over the last four minutes of the movie all of her insurmountable problems get resolved. I found it farfetched and unsatisfying. On the good side there are many entertaining characters and we never quite knew where it was going. Several scenes with blatently strong Christian themes may make some people uncomfortable.
NEW!!! Coming Home For Christmas
movie is about a young lady taking a job managing the huge house of
a wealthy but unhappy family over the holiday. Contrived acting
during the first half of the movie, a female lead acting too flighty
and an embedded commercial for Folger's coffee that was both clumsy
and blatant almost sent this movie to the "avoid" list. It
improved enough in the second half and had enough original ideas to
kept us interested so we moved it up into the "okay to see
Comfort and Joy
A successful business woman fast-forwards to a future in which she's a happy wife and mother. This movie has better acting than many Christmas movies. The only weaknesses were the clumsy way the fast-forward was accomplished and the visually jarring way she returned to the present. Because of the acting and screenplay it almost made our "must see" list. On the other hand, the terrible way time travel was handled nearly got relegated to the "avoid" list.
A Crown For Christmas
A recently fired maid gets a job as a nanny to a handsome young king's unruly daughter. The maid wins the young daughter's heart and the king's love. While this is a painfully overworked plot, in this movie it feels fresh and interesting. We both enjoyed it enough to consider adding it to our DVD-want list. While it suffers a little from another of Hallmark's overly loud musical sound tracks, it's not as bad as most of them. +++
A Dad for Christmas
A young, single father kidnaps his newborn son to prevent his girlfriend for giving it up for adoption. He runs away to his curmudgeon grandmother's lodge to hide out. Following several incidents the movie wraps up in a court case with the predictable result. Some good acting and a few interesting twists make this movie marginally worth seeing, though it's connection to Christmas is almost non-existent.
Dashing Through The Snow
A young woman is mistaken as a terrorist and a handsome FBI agent is assigned to accompany her on a car trip to her home to discover her mission. A nice level of humor, attractive scenery, some mystery and one of the best soundtracks Hallmark has ever applied to a movie make this a good choice to watch once. +
Vacant, over-indulged 30 year old rich girl is threatened by her affluent parents to have her allowance cut off unless she starts to lead a meaningful life. At the same time she finds a Dear Santa letter from a young girl asking for a wife for her widowed father. The rich girls investigates, falls in love with him and helps save a soup kitchen he runs. This movie is so weak that at one point the writers are so desperate that they have two adult women indulge in a food fight to maintain viewer interest. Viewers are also left wondering if she initialy pursued the father because she was trying to avoid being cut off, was simply curious or was seriously interested in him. The biggest problem with this movie is that the lead character is played unattractively ditzy. The character improves by the second half of the movie but by then the damage has been done. The only thing that saves this film from being delegated to the "avoid" list is that the lead actress has such an exuberant, infectious smile that's it's impossible to resist. -
Debbie Macomber's Trading Christmas
A widow and a writer trade houses over the holiday and find love. For the most part this is an excellent movie with interesting situations and attractive characters. We really wanted to elevate it to the "Good but Flawed" category but there was one problem that was so overwhelming that it ruined the movie for us. The problem was Tom Cavannah, who played a Boston writer trading his condo for the widow's snowbound cottage. He portrays the character with such frenetic unattractiveness that it poisoned the excellent acting by the other three main characters. He's rude, negative about Christmas, sarcastic about country life, unfriendly to children, critical of neighbors offering him Christmas cookies to welcome him to the community and nearly abusive to an unexpected guest who tries to help him with his novel. Had he made this character entertaining instead of gratingly annoying this might have been a must-have movie.
A December Bride
A lady has to attend her cousin's wedding, who's marrying her ex-fiance. To save face she goes with an old acquaintance and events conspire to have everyone think they are engaged. The obvious happens. The acting is good and for the most part the situations entertaining. The biggest problem is that the only connection to Christmas is that she's an interior designer and once in a while she's seen handling a few Christmas decorations. It isn't really a Christmas movie because the main plot could have taken place any time of the year.
A Diva's Christmas Carol
Vanessa Williams stars as a mean singer in yet another version of the over worked Christmas carol theme. We couldn't stand to watch more than five minutes because the plot is so familiar. On the principle that a film is innocent until proven guilty, we're placing it in the "okay to watch once" list.
A Dog Named Christmas
A mentally challenged young man talks his parents into letting him adopt a dog from the local pound for Christmas, then works to have other people in the town do the same. The acting and writing are generally good but I thought the connection to Christmas was weak.
A Dogwalker's Christmas Story
Circumstances bring together a man dogwalker and lady dog hater over the holidays to save a dog park from developers. The expected romance ensues. The leads are attractive and the story is pleasant enough to watch but the movie plodded so much we had to fight the urge to hit the fast forward button.
A Dream Of Christmas
A dissatisfied wife wishes she was single to pursue her career. An angel grants her wish and the wife learns the true value of what she had in her first life. The second we saw her fall backwards off a ladder and hit her head before waking up in her new life we knew how the movie was going to end... and it did just as predicted. This plot device never works not only because it's so lame but because it's so overused. Having said that, this is as good a version as we've seen, although it does suffer from a few too many cliched characters.
NEW!!! Enchanted Christmas
Former dancer, who's now a widowed single mother and corporate trouble shooter, returns to her hometown to renovate a lodge and runs into her former dance partner and boyfriend. The predictable happens. Other than the male lead's acting feeling a little weak, this is an attractively watchable movie. But, it seems a little bland to us so we can't recommend it any more than for a single viewing.
NEW!!! Engaging Father Christmas
This sequel to the very good Finding Father Christmas takes place one year later. The plot revolves around the couple who fell in love during the first movie moving toward an engagement, but an old boyfriend complicates things. This is an attractive movie that okay to watch once, but without the interest of the first movie's mystery, watching the two leads fall in love and her learning the joy of Christmas, it comes across a little bland.
Every Christmas Has A Story
A lady TV personality gets caught on camera stating that she doesn't like Christmas. She's sent to a small Christmas-themed town for redemption with her ex-boyfriend and now producer. Comedy and romance ensues. Colin Ferguson is so much fun to watch we didn't really care how good the movie was, but it ended up being excellent. Give it a try!
Unhappy business woman is granted her wish to go back 8 years to change the decisions that lead to an empty life. This movie irked me because with a few minor improvements it could have been great. The acting was universally good, photography acceptable and the storyline, while predictable, was handled as good as can be done. The problems are that the star upon which she made her wish, the pixie dust sprinkling off it when she does and the too-hip African-American guardian angel were unnecessary. The writers and director should have had enough faith in the actors ability to sell the story without these cheap sight gags. Also, the lead got unattractively drunk too often in the early scenes making her less appealing. If these detractions had been avoided this movie would have easily made it into the "must see" list.
Gary Sinise's outstanding acting makes this mystery of a man discovering love in a girl from his youth an outstanding film. But, its constant dramatic tone with no comic relief makes it a bit heavy going. We admit we like it and have a copy of it in our collection, but as superficial as this sounds we prefer lighter, happier Christmas movies, which is we we reclassified this movie into the "good to watch once" category. Still, we hope you'll give this great film a try. ++
Falling For Christmas
An injured figure skater finds romance at a mountain rehabilitation facility. The movie itself is okay, though predicable. The biggest problem is her pushy trainer, who is such a cliched character that we cringed every time he came on screen. A couple of embarrassingly clownish antics did nothing to endear him to us.
A Family For Christmas
A successful journalist/newscaster begins questioning her choice of career over love when Santa magically teleports her into the life she might have had as a stay-at-home mother. Comedy ensues. The plot is familiar and the conclusion predictable, but the acting is mostly good and unlike many of Hallmark's releases, this movie has a pretty good musical soundtrack.
Farewell, Mr. Kringle
A Christmas hating reporter is sent to a heavily Pro-Christmas town for an article about the local Santa Clause. During the story she re-embraces the Christmas spirit and falls in love. Cliched and predictable, I nonetheless was interested enough in how everything was going to work out that I'm placing this movie on the "okay to see once" list... but just barely. It suffers from many weakness, including being filmed in summer to save production costs even though it's supposed to be in winter (green lawns, trees in full leaf, flowers blooming all over the place, bright, warm, sunny weather,) a couple of minor characters that didn't ring true, a Santa who looks a little too harsh for the part and the impossible coincidence of two people meeting who had almost identical Christmas tragedies. - -
Two men exchange houses for the holiday and both find love. The male leads were weak and the connection to Christmas slight, but it's not the worse Christmas movie we've ever seen. One problem I had was that the New York lead had an almost reptilian look.
Finding Father Christmas
This is a great mystery drama about a lady going to a small Vermont town to learn the identity of here father. Outstanding acting from everyone, very attractive lead actors, superior production values and an interesting mystery kept us entertained the entire movie. The only thing holding it back from being in the 'very good' category is that a little more humor would have lightened the mood and made the movie more fun. This movie was followed by a slightly less successful sequel titled Engaging Father Christmas. +
Finding John Christmas
This sequel to A Town Without Christmas has an almost identical plot but benefits from better acting and avoiding the original's melancholy by not opening with a child announcing a plan to kill herself. Peter Faulk again plays an irritating and enigmatic angel, which is a distraction from what otherwise would have been a better movie. The connection to Christmas is very weak. One scene at the beginning of the movie that may offend some viewers shows a man draping an American flag around a dog and letting the flag drag on the ground.
Finding Mrs. Claus
A neglected Mrs. Claus flies to Las Vegas to grant a young girl's wish for a husband for her single mother. Santa follows to bring her back. I'm embarrassed to admit I laughed out loud several times during this movie. Christmas characters playing against type created many humorous scenes and some suggestive humor was unexpected and very funny. The overall effect was goofy fun. The two leads and all of the supporting cast were good, particularly the girl playing the young daughter. The greatest weakness was Mrs. Claus, who was played a little too silly. The ending was soppy but we'd had so much fun by then that we didn't mind.
Fir Crazy (sometimes titled Oh Christmas Tree)
Sarah Lancaster is simply gorgeous as a lady executive fired on Thanksgiving and ends up running her family's Christmas tree stand over the holidays. The movie itself is a predictable Christmas romance that's okay to watch once, but her appearance and performance elevate it to one of the best in this category. Our one quibble is that her initial reluctance to make the tree stand a success bordered on irresponsibility. ++
The Gift of the Magi
This Hallmark Channel update of the classic has good acting and acceptable production values, in spite of a few scenes of lush green grass along side artificial snow. Although there are many happy moments, the overall tone was a little too sad for our tastes. -
A Gift Wrapped Christmas
A hard working, single father executive hires a a lady as his personal shopper over the holiday. Her expertise not only helps him save time, but assists him in improving his business and brings him closer to his son. This is an attractive movie made interesting by her unusual profession. Like many of the Hallmark movies, this is a low budget production by the Lifetime channel. What's different about it is that the movie's director used a much better soundtrack, which was an enormous improvement over most Hallmark productions. Hallmark should watch this movie and learn from it. +
A Grandpa for Christmas
After a car accident sends a mother to the hospital, her daughter goes to live with a grandfather she never knew she had. After some initial problems she ends up liking him and plays the lead in a school musical. Not great but harmless. Our biggest problem was the young girl playing the daughter was too talented a singer to be believable and her performances so affected that they seemed artificial and forced. Still, Earnest Borgnine and a bunch of other older actors have a lot of fun playing retired actors when they are, in real life, retired actors.
Guess Who's Coming For Christmas
Jaded country singer spends a week with a small town family as promotion gimmick. He rediscovers his roots and falls in love with the older daughter. The biggest problem with this movie is the unattractive self centered behavior of the male lead that goes on for far too long. Still, the situation was interesting and most of the acting good enough to have it listed here instead of the avoid list. But, we're giving it a negative mark because it was so predictable. -
Hats Off to Christmas
Lady store manager has to train a New York executive hired for the promotion she was expecting. The male lead starts off as a stereotypically arrogant professional, but quickly comes around to embrace his position. The expected romantic attachment occurs but the characters were attractive enough that it held our interest.
NEW!!! Hearts of Christmas
lady doctor and new budget obsessed hospital CFO butt heads over the
forced retirement of a popular pediatric doctor while at the same
time becoming romantically involved. Some sentimental moments are
overplayed to the point where they come across as corny. But, the
biggest problems are the cliched ending and the disclosure of an
unbelievable coincidence that combine to weaken this otherwise okay
A Heavenly Christmas
A workaholic lady executive slips, hits her head and wakes up an angel who is assigned to help a struggling single father. This is a remake of the much better Christmas Magic starring Lindy Booth.
His and Her Christmas
This one was a near miss. Most of the story was entertaining, well acted and interestingly written. It revolves around two competing journalists meeting and falling in love while they battle each other in their articles over the virtues of Christmas. What ruined it for us is that on two occasions, just when we'd been set up to expect them to begin acknowledging their feelings for each other, the female reporter explodes in a maniacal tirade at the other reporter. The virulent and irrational nature of these outbursts were unbelievable and ruined what might otherwise have made it to our "must see" list. +
Robert Mitchum plays a footloose man who courts a excessively practical single mother (Janet Leigh.) She resists for many good reasons but in the end is won over by his sincerity and charm. Just okay.
Weak remake of the Robert Mitchum-Janet Leigh classic of 1949 but the acting isn't as good. If you haven't seen the original you might enjoy this one.
1942 classic about a nightclub owner who doesn't like to work. His solution is a "holiday inn" that's only open during holidays so he can take the rest of the year off. The plot's fluff but Bing Crosby sings, Fred Astaire dances and Marjorie Reynolds does both. What more could you want? This movie is available in a special three-disc DVD set. One of the DVDs features an outstanding restored and colorized version that has to be seen to be appreciated. The quality of the colorization is outstanding. There is absolutely no ghosting or blurring. This film was colorized by Legend Films, the world leader in the latest colorization technology. You'll honestly think the movie had been filmed in color.
This movie was originally in the "must see" list. After rewatching it in 2013 I became aware that in all honesty it has several serious problems that are just barely overcome by the outstanding performances of Fred, Bing and Miss Reynolds. Specifically: cliched African-American stereotyping and a particularly offensive black-face routine. Intellectually I understand that these were condoned in the era in which the movie was made, but emotionally I feel that by today's standards they are totally unacceptable. And no, I am not African-American. I'm about as much of a conservative WASP as you're ever likely to find. Yet even I was embarrassed to watch parts of this film.
A career obsessed ad executive who wants "the perfect man" hits her head on the way to work and is helped by the man of her dreams. It turns out he's really a store mannequin who's come to life. The ridiculous plot, three supporting characters that were unattractively unbelievable and a painfully cliched ending would suggest this is a movie that deserves to be relegated to the "avoid at all costs" list. Additionally, it has almost nothing to do with Christmas and absolutely nothing to do with the Christmas spirit. Yet it kept us guessing what was going to happen next and we caught ourselves laughing out loud at several very funny scenes so we bumped it up to the "okay to see once" category.
Home For Christmas Day
Catherine Bell tries to convince her daughter to avoid a romance with a soldier about to be deployed because his might be killed. This movie struck too somber a note for us.
Home for the Holidays
Lady struggles to create a home for two orphaned children of a recently deceased relative.
A Husband For Christmas
After watching hundreds of Christmas movies about circumstances bringing two career-oriented people together who eventually fall in love, it was a pleasant surprise to find one that came up with a a new twist. In this version, a lady executive is given a choice by her boss: platonically marry a talented foreign designer so he can stay in the country and work for the company in exchange for her receiving a promotion to senior vice president... or get fired. The writers enable her to take the offer in a way that doesn't make it seem like she's selling herself. Most of the acting was good and avoided almost all of the African-American cliched stereotyping seen in many African-American themed movies. We particularly enjoyed the lead actress. Two small quibbles were that the connection to Christmas and the Christmas spirit was minor and most of the unattractive characters in the movie were white. This was so obvious that had the ethnicities been reversed, the NAACP would have sued the production company.
Ice Sculpture Christmas
A brief encounter between two children leads to their reconnecting many years later and entering an ice sculpture contest. We thoroughly enjoyed this romantic comedy because while it was predictable, the characters were mostly attractive and interesting. One character was a cliched meany, but the rest made up for her. +
If You Believe
Cynical lady editor gets knocked out and starts hallucinating about being haunted by herself as she was when she was eight years old. Her younger self pokes and prods her into changing her ways and everything ends happy. This isn't a Christmas story because it could just have well taken place anytime of the year. Another objection is that through most of the movie the lead character is so mean she's unappealing. But, it's interesting to watch because the young actress playing her younger self is very entertaining and happens to be one of the first roles for the actress playing "Claire" on the television series Heroes.
I'll Be Home For Christmas
James Brolin plays a widowed father returning home for an old friend's funeral, and ends up bonding with his estranged daughter. We didn't care for this movie because the daughter was a little too abrasive throughout the movie.-
I'll Be Seeing You
1944 movie looks slightly dated in a few scenes and while it takes
place over Christmas, the connection to Christmas is weak. It's
really about two damaged people finding at least the promise of love.
Because Christmas plays such a minor part of this movie we'd normally
place it in the "avoid" list. However, Joseph Cotton and
Ginger Rogers are so appealing we kicked it up a class.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Young boy sees dad dressed like Santa kissing his mom on Thanksgiving and thinks he's trying to steal her away. His solution is to act as bad as possible to keep Santa from showing up. Good acting by everyone and several entertaining surprises kept us wondering what was going to happen next. It dragged a bit toward the end but it's still okay to see once. +
It's A Wonderful Life
classic starring Jimmy Stewart as a poor banker who's saved from
suicide by an angel sent to show him that his life has meaning. There
are several hilarious moments mixed in with truly tragic scenes. The
biggest problem with this movie is that it's been aired so many times
it suffers from over exposure. Most critics rate this as a "must
see" movie. For me the tragic scenes overpower the good ones so
much that it leaves us feeling a little melancholy, which is why it's
not up in our must-see list.
Journey Back To Christmas
A comet time warps a 1945 nurse into 2016. Candice Cameron Bure looks the part and the movie avoids most of the expected situations. No, she didn't just hit her head and it was all a dream and no, she didn't fall in love with the handsome policeman who helps her. Another nice feature is that there is only one cliched mean character, who thankfully isn't on screen long enough to spoil the movie. Production values are also extremely high. The problem is that the movie and everyone in it moves so slowly that I confess we started fast forwarding out of boredom. We rate it as okay to watch once but don't feel guilty if you too fast forward through the slower scenes.
Last Chance For Christmas
Prancer splits a hoof so Mrs. Claus sends her stable master to an Alaskan reindeer farm to get a replacement. Along the way the clueless stable master falls in love with the farm's owner, saves her business and helps the heartless business man who's forcing her to sell to embrace the Christmas spirit. As silly as this sounds, we found this movie very enjoyable up to the last five minutes. It is a sweet, attractive romantic comedy with some very entertaining twists on Mrs. Claus, elves and the logistics of Christmas. It would have made it into the "very good" list if the ending hadn't been so weak and ther head eld didn't look, sound and act so scruffy.
Let It Snow
A young lady resort expert is sent to a quaint mountain lodge by her cold hearted father to develop a plan for tearing down the existing lodge and building a new one. While there she discovers the magic of Christmas and falls in love with the owner's son. This is a predictable but harmless movie that we enjoyed enough to watch without getting the urge to fast forward.
A pleasant, if somewhat busy, movie about six couples in love over Christmas. While it features an all-star cast featuring Hugh Grant, the movie doesn't really have anything to do with Christmas. It could just as well taken place any time of the year. Still, the writing, acting, plotting and production values were so high we have to recommend it as good to watch once.
Love Always, Santa
Young girl writes Santa asking to help her widowed mother find happiness. A children's book writer moonlighting as a store Santa gets the letter, answers it, the mother reads it and they start a pen pal relationship. Eventually they meet and the expected happens. We found this movie okay, but slow moving and a bit dreary at times.
Love You Like Christmas
This is a very attractive, well made movie about a lady advertising executive who gets detoured to a small town and finds love. The leads were particularly appealing and production values were high. One small quibble is that the male lead's young daughter seemed a little too perfect. +
A young girl purchases a stocking, which turns out to be magic and helps her widowed mother re-embrace the Christmas spirit and find love. This is an outstanding movie in many ways. The acting is universally good, the characters attractive and interesting, production values are excellent, the plot is entertaining and the magic is presented so subtly it doesn't ruin the movie's credibility. Best of all, although it's a Hallmark production it isn't ruined by one of Hallmark's signature generic, repetitive, overly loud soundtracks. Both the quality of the soundtrack and its volume are perfect. +
The Man Who Saved Chrsitmas
An interesting and entertaining movie about the true story of the toy builder who invented Erector Sets who first endorses, then rejects, the government's policy of cancelling Christmas in favor of buying World War I war bonds. We thoroughly enjoyed this movie but after watching it felt no reason to purchase it to watch it again, which is why it's in the "okay to see once" list.
Married By Christmas
Lady executive of a family business must get married before Christmas to prevent her slightly flaky sister from inheriting the company. While the lead actress is a little too hyper and the movie has a distracting Hallmark-like generic soundtrack, it held our interest and avoided the obvious cliche'd ending so we give this one a mild thumbs up.
NEW!!! Marry Me at Christmas
Cliched hunky famous actor travels to a small town to help with his sister's wedding and falls in love with her bridal coordinator. There's nothing terrible about this movie but there's also nothing to make it stand out enough to want to ever watch it again.
Marry Me For Christmas
This is a another repeat of what's becoming an overly used plot: Business woman hires an employee to act as her fiance over Christmas to satisfy a mother pressuring her to get married. The writing and acting was tolerable but the familiar plot, predictable ending and an annoyingly repetitious soundtrack ruined it for us.
Marry Us For Christmas
This sequel to the previous movie follows the confusion as the couple from the first movie try to organize their wedding over the holiday at the same time as dealing with the bride to be's mother thinking about marrying a younger man. This movie boasts a slightly better soundtrack than the original and has better production values than most African-American movies.
Meet Me In St. Louis
This 1944 musical classic revolves around the turmoil of a turn-of-the-century family's impending move away from their beloved St. Louis. While many people rate this as a must-see movie, we placed it in the "worth-seeing-once" category because it seemed dated and Margaret O'Brian's performance was over the top in places. Still, Judy Garland's singing is great, particularly her heart-rending delivery of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
Meet the Santas
This sequel to Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus where the couple suffer through many trials as they try getting married isn't as funny as the original. It suffers so much from Steve Guttenberg's painfully artificial "Ho Ho Ho" that it almost got relegated to the "avoid" list. But, it had enough funny scenes to make it just barely tolerable for a single viewing.
This movie is about five pitiably tragic intertwined stories about people suffering through personal problems on Christmas Eve. While the tone is almost totally somber, most of the performances were very good and the movie doesn't conclude with somehow everything working out in the end. Without getting preachy, the stories end with glimmers of hope. This is a tough movie to watch, but mesmerizing, like a train wreck in slow motion. I can't say I enjoyed it, but I never wanted to turn it off. The weakest performance was by Stephan Baldwin, Alec Baldwin's brother.
NEW!!! Miss Christmas
Chicago's official city Christmas tree locator tries to convince a holiday hating farmer to donate his beloved tree. Brooke D'Orsey (Evan's wife in the TV series Royal Pains) looks gorgeous as the tree finder, but her enthusiasm was enough over-the-top that her character came off as being too bubbly, almost immature, in several scenes. Other than that minor quibble we both agree that this is an attractive looking movie which, though the romance develops as expected, the tree issue resolution wasn't the cliched ending we anticipated.
The Mistletoe Promise
Two people hurt during past Christmases come together in a pact to help each other professionally over the holiday. The obvious happens. Our biggest problem with this movie was that there was no chemistry between the two lead characters. Their banter came across as affected. Minor quibbles were that the main actress had an extremely severe look, as if makeup had pulled her pony tail too tight and an annoyingly generic Hallmark soundtrack, though thankfully it wasn't overly loud.
Moonlight and Mistletoe
The daughter of a "Santa" who runs a Christmas Village store overdoses on Christmas in her youth and ends up a Christmas-hating business woman. When her father has an accident she grudgingly returns home to help. She discoverers that the business is bankrupt and against her will tries to fix things. Predictably, while she's doing this she rediscovers the Christmas spirit, finds love and manages to solve all the financial problems. This is a formula movie that handles the familiar plot adequately. My biggest problem with it is that for the first 40 minutes the grown daughter is so rudely self absorbed that it's hard to develop any empathy for her.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Super organized business woman recaptures the Christmas spirit and finds love from a stranger who circumstances conspire to have stay at her house over the holidays. The plot is predictable, the super-model mother too gorgeous to believe and her her mop-haired son a cliched character. What saved this movie for us was Henry Winkler's outstanding performance as her mischievous uncle and matchmaker. The romantic male lead was also very good. An odd stop-motion sequence of her trying to prepare a turkey and a dream scene were awkward, but as a whole this movie satisfied us. +
Mr. St. Nick
Kelsey Gramer is interesting as Santa's rebellious, playboy son who eventually is forced into taking over for dad. Several lame special effects, a particularly irksome wizard and an annoying immigration officer ruin what might otherwise had been an okay flick. I rate it as worth watching once... but only if you're in a charitable mood. -
Murder She Baked: Plum Pudding
A lady cookie baker in a small town solves the murder of a Christmas tree lot owner while fending off two suitors. The mystery didn't hold our attention, there were too many overly perky characters that gave the movie an artificial feel and a couple odd scenes where we see the lady baker mechanically scanning crime scene details in a way that felt overly artsy left us bored and dissatisfied with this movie. Many scenes had a busy, almost frantic feel that made the movie seem noisy. We almost put it in the "avoid" list, but didn't feel it was bad enough to languish beside the likes of Bad Santa. -
My Christmas Dream
This is a very pleasant movie about a lady department store manager who fires, then rehires an artist to help her earn a promotion by creating a memorable Christmas Display. +
My Christmas Love
Best friends discover they are in love after he starts sending her anonymous presents to cheer her up after being jilted by her boyfriend. Our problem with this move is that the female lead tried for sweet and perky but came across as flighty. Additionally, there were so many picture-perfect handsome men they gave the movie an artificial look.
A Nanny For Christmas
A young lady advertising executive gets fired and the only job she can find is being a nanny for the female boss of a rival advertising firm. The movie just barely made it into the "okay to see once" category. It's filmed in LA to reduce production costs, the situation that lead to her being fired was implausible, her ending up getting fired a second time because she broke rules but saved her new boss's company was ridiculous, her lying to a love interest about her job was cliched, her hard-as-nails boss's sudden turn around to become a nice person in the last few minutes of the movie was unbelievable and although it takes place during Christmas it doesn't really have that much to do with the holiday. It could just as well have been made for any holiday or none at all. However, the acting was universally good and the writers avoided the worst possible cliche of her boss being a single man and having them fall in love. Even though much of the plot was difficult to accept, we felt there were enough good points to avoid sending this film to the Christmas movie dungeon by listing it in the "avoid at all costs" group.
Naughty And Nice
This is very pleasant movie about a Los Angeles radio shock jock who gets demoted to a small country station where he falls in love with his super-nice co-host. The two leads were enjoyable to watch and a few minor twists kept us interested.
Naughty or Nice
Please do not confuse this movie with the terrible film of the same title starring George Lopez. This one is about a young woman who accidentally gets Santa's Naughty or Nice book on the same day she gets unfairly fired. The plot sounds ridiculous, but the way the woman is slowly seduced by the knowledge in the book makes it an interesting movie. Special effects are kept to a minimum and well done when they are used. Things wrap up a little too neatly in the end, but we watched the entire movie without cringing so we're recommending it as okay to see once.
The Nine Lives of Christmas
A fireman and veterinary student are brought together by a cat that adopts him. This is a very pleasant romantic comedy with attractive actors that was almost ruined by yet another of Hallmark's overly loud, generic soundtracks. At times it was as loud as the people talking.
An elf and a boy team up to re-instill the Christmas spirit in a small town and in so doing increase the joy of Christmas, which in turn sends sparks of happiness into the upper atmosphere, which in turn creates the northern lights, which finally causes happy snow to fall on the town of Northpole (where Santa lives) and power the toy factories. The description sounded so childish that I confess I was prejudiced against this movie before seeing the first scene. Making matters worse, it was another of Hallmark's seasonal productions, which have the reputation of cliched plotting and cheap production values. What I got instead was a very well crafted and entertaining movie that we both thoroughly enjoyed. The music score was the best of any Hallmark production we've watched. The special effects were first class. All of the staging at the Northpole was outstanding suggesting this was not an inexpensive film to make. The acting was good, except of Robert Wagner and Jill St. John playing Mr. and Mrs. Clause. They seemed ill at ease, as if they knew they didn't belong. At first we thought the girl playing the elf was a little too sweet, but then a young elf should be sweet. The plot kept us guessing as to where things were headed and continually surprised us. Young children will be able to enjoy this movie because the two main characters are a 13 year old elf and a 10 year old boy. Adults will appreciate the predicable but well acted romance that develops between the boy's mother and his teacher.
We're placing it in the "okay to see once" category because we're not sure if it has enough rewatching potential to purchase it on DVD, which is our indicator that it deserves to be bumped up to the "very good" list. Having said that I have to emphasize that it's one of the best entries in this list. If you give it a chance you might be pleasantly surprised.
Northpole: Open for Christmas
In this excellent sequel to Northpole, a lady executive inherits a run down Christmas lodge, restores it and falls in love with the handyman helping with the restoration. We rate this as even better than the original. The leads are attractive and exchange some entertaining dialog. As with the original, all production values are very good. We thought the story line was a little more believable this time around. This movie's weakest point is that it's overly cute and sweet in too many places.
Beautiful production values, a strong cast, and interestring characters make this a good movie about a town that comes together to give a sick girl what may be her last holiday. The tone is extremely somber and the connection to Christmas is limited to just a few minutes. This is really a story about family grief over the loss of children.
Oh Christmas Tree (sometimes titled Fir Crazy)
Sarah Lancaster is simply gorgeous as a lady executive fired on Thanksgiving and ends up running her family's Christmas tree stand over the holidays. The movie itself is a predictable Christmas romance that's okay to watch once, but her appearance and performance elevate it to one of the best in this category. Our one quibble is that her initial reluctance to help make the tree stand a success bordered on irresponsibility.
On The Twelth Day Of Christmas
A woman plays secret Santa to a man she met ten years earlier to help him rediscover his lost Christmas spirit. This movie is okay, but it seems to move very slowly. One obvious continuity issue is that neither actor aged a day between their first meeting and their second meeting ten years later.
One Special Night
James Garner and Julie Andrews are good in this story of older people finding love, but for some reason it didn't click with us. It's not really a Christmas movie since it could have taken place anytime.
One Starry Christmas
This is a watchable, if predictable, movie about a new astronomy doctor who falls for a cowboy she meets on a bus on her way to meet her overly practical boyfriend in New York. We found the supporting cast a little weak and contrived, the idea of a rodeo on Christmas day in New York unbelievable, a singing interlude artificial and poorly voiced over, the bright stars shown could not be seen in the heart of New York and that her dissertation in astronomy sounded more like a sociology subject. Nonetheless, the lead actress was a delight to watch and overall the movie held our interest. One very positive comment is this Hallmark movie had a much better soundtrack than many of their productions.
On Strike For Christmas
A taken-for-granted wife and mother goes on strike to convince her family to help out over the holiday. Her idea catches on and soon all the wives in town are also on strike. This movie had an interesting plot that held our interest. What was particularly good was that after a few stumbles, the family figures out how to pull it off in their own way. The wife discovers that her way isn't the only way yet she's still indispensable. Keeping things balanced helped make this a watchable, though certainly not great, movie. The biggest problem I had with this movie is that it was obviously filmed in summer.
On The Second Day Of Christmas
This is very similar to the classic Remember the Night recommended in the "must see" list. A department store security guard catches a lady thief and her young niece accomplice. The store owner forces him to take them home over Christmas until they can be arrested after the holiday. As expected they fall in love and everything ends happily.
widower and divorcee meet and fall in love. This common plot is
greatly enhanced by superb acting and the difficult and unusual
problem of his being an active duty ranger on constant call to combat
zones. None of the situations were cliched like they are in so many
movies. Sadly, patriotic themes often render a movie corny. I'm happy
to report that is not the case in this film. They are handled
excellently and honestly. We both liked this movie a lot. It would be
on our "buy" list except it's a little too dramatic for the
light and happy movies we prefer this time of year. ++
Our First Christmas
Familiar tale about the angst of blending two families over the holidays. It avoids many of the cliches typical in this sort of movie and worked pretty well for us. Two problems: the lead actress was unattractively obese and a hinted-at romance between two secondary characters was never developed.
NEW!!! The Perfect Christmas Present
A too-busy executive hires a professional gift buyer to find the perfect gift for his neglected girlfriend. The hunter and girlfriend end up falling in love. This movie had an interesting and novel plot and several entertaining situations. The only problem was we felt the acting was a little uneven, giving the movie a slightly false note.
The Perfect Gift
Like all movies produced for The Christian Network, this one blatantly pushes the Christian religious ethic. This may make some people uncomfortable not because it's wrong, but because how it's done is so heavy handed. The plot is that Christ, as a homeless drifter, visits a church during Christmas and helps build a nativity scene. While doing so he helps a minister, a divorced mother, her spoiled daughter and neighbors discover the true religious meaning of Christmas. Mechanically, there are several things wrong with this movie: The daughter is too unattractively spoiled, the church's pastor is too coldly businesslike and a fanatical activist is too mean about challenging a church's right to put up a nativity scene. But, there also just as many good points: the divorced mother and under-pastor are interesting, well acted characters, the movie doesn't shy away from the fact that the drifter really is Christ and there were several interesting historical facts revealed about Christmas itself.
In spite of its technical weaknesses this movie mostly held our interest so with some reservations we're recommending it as being okay to watch once.
Another reworking of the now-tired Groundhog Day concept. This one isn't very good, but it's different enough to take a chance on watching once. This time the person doomed to repeat Christmas is a teenage boy. What's different is that unlike the other movies of this theme he's not a jerk who learns to be a nice person by endlessly repeating the same day. This time he's a nice guy and it's everyone else who are the jerks. After experiencing the worst Christmas imaginable, in which his parents completely forget to get him anything while all the time blaming him for everything that goes wrong even though it's not his fault, he wakes to learn he has to relive this nightmare Christmas over and over. After indulging in a little harmless revenge, which doesn't work out as he'd hoped, he learns the secret to happiness is working to make everyone else's Christmas as perfect as possible. Our biggest problem with this movie is that for much of it he is relentlessly bullied and lied about by his older brother, patronized by his younger brother, completely ignored by his parents, except when they blame him for something someone else did, and the butt of every cruel injustice by everyone in the town. It's so brutally unfair that after the first twenty minutes we had such a strong feeling of violation that we almost turned it off. But... it actually is about Christmas, it honestly looks like it was filmed in winter, production values are good, and while everything turns out good in the end, it didn't happen all at once. The viewer sees how the happy ending is created through the boy's efforts.
A Puppy For Christmas
A girl discovers the true meaning of Christmas while spending it with the family of a coworker. This one was a little too slow and schmaltzy for us.
Recipe for a Perfect Christmas
An all-for-business lady food critic blackmails a struggling chef into dating her vivacious mother. The critic and chef fall in love and his restaurant ends up being a success.
The Rooftop Christmas Tree
Battling lawyers are assigned by a small town judge to work together to help a many who's arrested every year for violating building codes by putting a Christmas tree on his roof. Our biggest problem was that Tim Reid's (WKRP In Cincinnati) acting didn't seem real. Another issue was that production values were so low that the entire movie looked dull and bland. There was a dimness or darkness to it that made us think they cut down on the number of lights to save a little money. It's not a really bad movie, just a poor one. -
This is a predictable but pleasant movie about an American girl who falls in love with a college boy who's secretly a prince. They go to his country for Christmas, where she battles his mother who insists he give her up for a more appropriate duchess she wants him to marry. Jane Seymore is a little too vicious as the disapproving queen and the whole plot has been done so many times it's become cliched. Our biggest problem was with the male lead, who had a lower class English accent while his mother and every one else he grew up with had upper class accents. This sounds like a small point but it weakened the film by reducing his credibility. Yet production values are excellent and the palace is so beautiful it steals several scenes. Two interesting plot twists helped brighten the story line.
Santa's daughter, who ran away to become a high-powered corporate advisor, returns when dad is laid up with a heart attack. Much better than it sounds largely because Jenny McCarthy is very believable as an intelligent business woman. The outcome is predictable but there are a few unexpected twists along the way that make it worth while. Elves are always difficult to portray; this movie does it as good as we've seen. Mrs. Claus, in particular, is spot-on as far as what one expects: lively, cheery and perky without stepping over the line into sickening-sweetness. (The title Santa Baby comes from a song played during the movie and refers to Santa's grown daughter.)
The Santa Clause
A great idea presented only adequately. Tim Allen's character was so sarcastic for most of the movie, to the point where we felt he didn't really want to be with his son, that it soured the whole movie for us. Two scenes with flatulence humor may seem off-color to some viewers. One curiosity is that when the original Santa slips on Tim Allen's roof, the stunt man's hand catches the edge of the fake-snow blanket and throws it into the air. It's odd why Disney Studios would let such obvious mistake make it through to the final film.
Santa Clause 3
After the disappointment that was Santa Clause 2, we were prepared for the worst in this third installment of the series. To our mutual surprise, we enjoyed much of it. The story line is interesting, situations unexpected and Martin Short, who in general we don't like, is deliciously mischievous as a disgruntled Jack Frost scheming to take over Christmas. Particularly noteworthy are the special effects, which are excellent and not overused. The reasons this movie didn't make it to our "Must See" list are the use of flatulence humor, some bathroom humor, an offensive scene where Santa wheelbarrows his in-labor wife at a dead run to the infirmary oblivious to the fact that such a rough ride could endanger both her and the baby and finally that her parents, brought up by Santa to be with her, are so relentlessly mean and manipulative that they sour the Christmas spirit.
The Santa Con
A newly paroled con man uses his skills to bring a family back together by Christmas. While this movie had many entertaining and a few very funny scenes, an extremely unattractive alcoholic husband almost ruined it for us. If he'd been portrayed as someone to be pitied instead of down right ugly during most of the movie, this would have made an enjoyable caper flick.
A Season For Miracles
A jobless, homeless sister of a drug addict mother who's in jail kidnaps her sister's children so they won't be placed in foster homes. They end up living in an abandoned house in a small town where she falls in love with a policeman. Predictable feel-good movie with cliched situations and characters. But the lead actress is very good and so attractive that the movie is worth seeing once.
Secret of Giving
A 1903 frontier widowed mother with a sick son struggles to keep a banker from foreclosing on the family ranch over Christmas. Into the scene wanders a stranger with a hidden past. This movie starts off with virtually every cliched situation imaginable yet comes across very effectively, largely due to the outstanding acting of Reba McIntyre. As the story develops, several interesting twists are interspersed with humorous moments to make this a pleasant, if not memorable, viewing experience. +
A very good movie about a slightly cynical reporter (Jeannie Garth) who goes to a small town to discover the identity of an anonymous Christmas gift giver. Along the way she finds serenity, a new life, a possible love interest and the Secret Santa's identity. What makes this movie good is that while the lead character is cynical, she's not too cynical or mean so that viewers can empathize with her. The weak points are a ridiculous minor character and the fact that the implied romantic relationship is never developed. We're left wondering about whether it's going to happen or not. There was also a missed opportunity with her old VW bug that left us feeling cheated. +
This movie is about a postal team that specializes in answering dead (unaddressed) letters to Santa. The idea is very good and the movie handles several dramatic scenes dealing with religious themes better than any we've seen. The problem was that several adult characters acted in such an unbelievably childish manner that they ruined the movie's credibility. It's a shame because it could have worked as a straight drama or even as a light comedy had a more mature form of comic relief been employed. A minor quibble concerns the title, it should have been, A Signed and Sealed Christmas. The diagonal seems out of place.
Bruce Boxleitner is mostly good as a win-at-all-costs sports reporter who's sentenced to community service as a Salvation Army bell ringer for accidentally assaulting a referee at his son's basketball game. He's a sometimes comical victim of his own drive to be the best. He slowly comes to realize the error of his ways, but in a way that's not sappy or overly emotional. The movie was thoroughly entertaining and avoided any cliched revelations or magical endings. If the supporting cast had been stronger we probably would recommend this as good enough to purchase the DVD. This is a Pure/Flix offering so there are a few pro-Christian scenes. However, these are handled better than usual. Please believe us that such scenes are totally appropriate in a Christmas movie. Our problem with them is that they are usually so poorly written and awkwardly presented that they simply don't work. +
Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus
Santa's son has to find a wife before Christmas. This has been done many times but this version kept us entertained. Steve Guttenberg plays Santa's son a little too sweetly and his artificial "Ho Ho Ho" came too often but in spite of these problems it was fun watching his romance with a Christmas non-believer develop. +
Sleigh Bells Ring
Santa's magic sleigh brings a single mother and old flame back together. This movie is better than that brief synopsis suggests. The magic is so subtle that it adds mystery in that it makes you start wondering if it really is magic or simple happenstance. We wanted to like this movie more than we did, but the acting struck us as affected, the mother's daughter was a little too sweet and everything had an artificial feel.
Predictable romantic comedy about a lady reporter trying to get the inside scoop on a wealthy family and ends up falling in love with one of the sons. Although it takes place over Christmas it really has nothing to do with the holiday. It could just as well taken place any time of the year. It's not very good, but then it's not terrible either. This one almost got sent to the "avoid" list but we felt charitable.
The Sound Of Christmas
A lady piano teacher fights to save her school from a corporation planning to turn her building into offices at the same time she's falling in love with the business man negotiating the deal. We could tell how things were going to work out early on in this movie but that didn't stop us from enjoying it. Lindy Booth looks as great as ever as the female lead, though she tended to giggle a little too often. The intent was to make her appear younger, but several times it came across as unbelievable. We thought the male lead looked a little bland, but this was a pleasant change from the parade of cookie-cutter, square-jawed Hollywood males that seem to have dominated the season.
NEW!!! A Christmas Song
A famous lady singer gets stranded in a rural town and a family welcomes her into their home until her staff can get back to her. During her stay she falls in love with with their guitar playing son. This movie has a familiar plot but was better than others we've watched because it had several entertaining banters between the leads that were very believable and entertaining. The biggest problem was that when the two finally sang "the Christmas song" it wasn't very good and the male lead in particular didn't sound very good. Even worse, Hallmark repeatedly posted a large count down clock advertising another movie. This was so distracting we almost deleted the movie without finishing it. The only reason we stayed with it was to be able to write this review. The movie earned a solid "+", but Hallmark's almost ruining it to promote another show ended up giving it a -.
Thief drifts into a small town and helps the locals build up their businesses so the bank's deposits increase, which he then plans to steal. Love and compassion turn him around. While it's predictable, the story was done well enough that it might have made it to the "good" list if the lead actor, Tony Danza, didn't look so old and weary that many of the scenes he was in were uncomfortable to watch. This movie almost got banished to the "avoid" list. What saved it was that the ending wasn't sickeningly sweet like so many TV Christmas movies.
Ben Afleck plays a shallow, lonely business man who ends up at his childhood home over Christmas and hires the disfunction family living there to pretend to be his family so he can relive the happy Christmases of his youth. Many hilarious sight gags and an outstanding supporting cast almost make up for Afleck's over the top performance. The problem is that he's supposed to be a successful, wealthy advertising executive, yet no one who acts as flaky as he does could ever have made it in the corporate world. The movie's credibility also suffers from his paying the ridiculous amount of $325,000 for a few days of the family's life. Several sexually related scenes may offend some viewers, either because of the subject matter or the clumsy way in which the scenes were handled. I wanted to relegate this movie the the "Avoid" list, but several scenes had me laughing out loud so it got bumped up to the "barely okay" list.
NEW!!! The Sweetest Christmas
This enjoyable Christmas movie revolves around a struggling lady chef who gets help from an old friend in preparing for a gingerbread contest. They fall in love as expected and after a bump in the romance end up together. The weakest element in this movie is the male lead's young son, who is played a little too sweet to be believed. However, that is a minor quibble. One thing I particularly liked was that the gingerbread structure she baked really did look like it could win a contest. +
Three Wise Women
Another Christmas Carol movie. This time a hospital administrator is Scrooge. We couldn't stand to view another film using this overworked plot.
The Tree That Saved Christmas
A woman returns home to help her parents save the family Christmas tree farm. Many Christmas movies suffer from weak supporting casts. This one was a pleasant exception. The entire cast, with the exception of the bitter bank president, is believable. The plot may sound familiar, yet good production values and a good story line kept us interested in it to the very end. The final resolution was a bit cliched, but made acceptable by carefully setting it up. What prevented this mostly dramatic production from getting nominated into the "very good" category is that with the exception of one brief sight gag in the opening scenes, there wasn't any humor in the movie. It's not overly sad, but a few laughs during it would have lifted the mood enough to make it one we'd like to see again.
The Twelve Dogs of Christmas
Young girl struggles to change a town policy banning all dogs. Some good acting and writing make it worth a try if nothing else is on. The biggest problem for us was the dog catcher, who was played too mean to be funny and too silly to be believed.
The Twelve Wishes Of Christmas
silliness about a woman who squanders 12 wishes granted by a
fairy-God-mother. It's clumsily filmed in summer to cut production
costs. The connection to Christmas is minimal and several hiphop
songs don't fit the mood of the movie. It also gets preachy in a
couple of sports. Still, the female lead is enjoyable and the second
half of the film is interesting as she has to deal with the negative
consequences of her wishes. In spite of it's flaws we enjoyed
watching it, though we doubt we'll ever want to see it again.
An FBI agent takes a rough-around-the-edges nightclub waitress home over the holidays to protect her from the criminals she's supposed to testify against. The predictable follows in this poor remake of Remember the Night. Still, the acting and screenplay were good enough to hold our interest so we're giving it the nod to see once.
Under the Mistletoe
Ghost of a recently deceased father returns to help his son and wife get on with their lives. Very predictable and we thought the wife showed too much anger to be attractive but it had some fun moments. An interesting twist is that the ghost was as befuddled as the living characters. Some questionable special effects and a cliched ice hockey game at the end weakened the movie but all and all we'd recommend giving it a try.
NEW!!! A Very Country Christmas
Super famous country single returns to his small home town to rediscover his roots. During the process he meets and falls in love with a single mother. While there's nothing really bad about this movie, it almost got relegated to the avoid-at-all-costs list because it starts with him running out on a concert disappointing what looks like 50,000 fans, getting caught speeding then being let off because the lady police officer that stops him gushes over him to an embarrassing degree when she realizes who he is and him playing a mean joke on his future love interest when they first meet. The sum of these acts made him look like an inconsiderate jerk. We also felt the falling-all-over-themselves adulation of the women he meets was sexist and cliched. -
A Very Merry Mixup
A newly engaged girl travels to meet her fiance's family and accidentally ends up at the wrong house, where she falls in love with that family's son. Predictable but harmless movie that held our interest enough to enjoy watching once. The biggest problem is that the female lead acts childishly ditzy for the first half of the movie. Towards the end she presents a well acted dramatic moment that was very effective. This movie also suffers from another of Hallmark's generic music scores, which consists of mostly single notes slowly being played on a piano. So many of Hallmark's movies have similar music that they all seem the same. Towards the end this movie also suffers from some obviously staged scenes, but all in all we enjoyed it.
This movie is proof that not everything made during the golden age of movie making, the 1940s, was great. There isn't much of a plot to this sequel to Holiday Inn. It's just an excuse to string together scenes of the actors singing and dancing. The movie was made largely to capitalize on the enormous popularity of Bing Crosby's mega-hit White Christmas. This movie is okay to watch once to see the virtuosity of some of the performers, but ignoring that it almost deserves to be in the "movies to avoid" group.
A Wish For Christmas
Santa grants a young lady executive who people take advantage of her wish to have the courage to stand up for herself... but only for 48 hours. She uses the time prove her worth and save the company she works for. Along the way her gains to self esteem to carry on after the wish times out. This movie is much better than it sounds and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Best of all, this Hallmark release has an excellent sound track that's not overly loud. +
Wish Upon A Christmas
A corporate efficiency expert is sent to downsize a small ornament company in her hometown. She discovers the owner is her high school boyfriend and the predicable ensues. Very good production values and acting place this movie above many similarly plotted films. In particular, the efficiency expert is presented as being as much a victim of her job as the people she usually ends up firing, which makes it much easier to empathize with her. There's a subplot about Santa apparently crashing in the area and wandering around the town looking for a small bauble that's supposed to power his sleigh. While this sounds corny, it's handled so well that it doesn't detract from the movie. The twist of having him appear as a very dapper gentleman was both appealing and effective. +
Brother and sister conspire to bring their separated parents back together. This idea has been done so many times it came across a being lame. We could have accepted it if the writers had come up with some interesting twists but they didn't. What really killed this movie for us was the male lead. The actor portrayed him as such an absent minded nitwit that it was impossible to believe he was a successful lawyer. Even worse were the many artificial mannerisms that gave the character a slightly maniacal look. Finally, this movie was a complete rip-off as far as the title was concerned. It had nothing to do with Christmas, in fact it took place in a beach house in sunny California. If the movie hadn't opened with a few shots of Christmas decorations on the side of a mall I'd never have suspected it was supposed to be a Christmas movie. I'm guessing the production company realized the movie was a bomb and added a few token references to Christmas in the hopes that holiday viewers would be more willing to accept it. The trick didn't work on us.
All About Christmas Eve
Lady event planner struggles to plan a party for a big client, who just happens to have romantic intentions toward her, at the same time she's supposed to be on a romantic holiday with her selfish jerk of a boyfriend. She arrives home to surprise him and finds him in bed with another girl. She flies back to the job only to discover her assistant botched a key presentation in an effort to scuttle her chances at a promotion. This is supposed to be a romantic comedy but it felt more like a confused, soap-opera drama.
All She Wants For Christmas
Terrible. The female lead plays an accountant for a struggling Christmas ornament company with a giggly, over-the-top valley-girl personality that's ridiculous.
An Angel in the Family
Dead wife returns as an angel to help bring together her daughters who hate each other and sooth her aging husband who's starting to suffer from dementia. An extremely negative opening left us cold to whatever followed. Cliched characters and uninteresting plot make this a poor movie. Also, the plot isn't really about Christmas. Everything that happened could just have well taken place anytime. Playing Christmas music in the background doesn't make this a Christmas story.
The Angel Of Pennsylvania Avenue
During the great depressions, three children trek to Washington to obtain a pardon for their unjustly jailed father. Overly melodramatic to the point of being painful to watch.
Annie Claus Is Coming To Town
Santa's daughter goes to LA to see if she wants to live in thre real world. While there, she's romanced by an actor hired by an evil elf to keep her there. The female lead was so overly sweet that we could never get into this movie. Many scenes of the north pole struck us as being childish and weak acting made things worse.
Anything But Christmas
A man is so traumatized by unhappy Christmases provided by his abusive, unloving parents that he not only hates the holiday, he has a knee jerk reaction against anything to do with it. He takes his widowed, secretly pregnant girl friend, who has a young son, to meet his parents. While there, she catches him about to have sex with a girl from his past. Yet she still cares for him after storming off. His acting is unbelievable, the plot unbelievable, and several over the top characterizations unbelievable. so you won't be surprised to read that we found it unbelievable we managed to watch this mess.
Baby's First Christmas (Also titled The Christmas Baby)
Feuding lawyers are thrown together on Christmas Eve, fight, grudgingly work together to help people and fall in love. This is a typical Hallmark Channel formula movie that almost made it into the "okay to watch once" list. The music was better than many Hallmark offerings, the female lead was mostly believable, the child actress was better than average and the writers resisted the temptation to yield to the obvious cliched ending toward which the movie seemed to be ending. What ruined this movie for us was the male lead, a self centered, cynical corporate lawyer. The character never felt believable because his acting was weak. He seemed to be a collection of affectations rather than a real person. Also, he embraced his negativism so much that we couldn't identify with him. It's interesting to contrast his performance with Kevin Sorbo's in The Santa Suit. In that movie the cynical character could be empathized with because he came across as being a victim of his own cynicism. One last problem with The Christmas Baby is that most of the supporting cast was weak.
Back to Christmas
A woman gets her wish to go back in time one year so she can avoid doing everything that lead up to a failed engagement. What she learns is that the failure was more her fiance's fault than hers and that the man she should be with is her childhood neighbor friend. As silly as the plot sounds actually it worked better than expected. What ruined the movie for us was the marginal acting of the intended fiance and his unattractive and childish jealous behaviors. The rather flaky lady wish granter seemed out of style with the rest of the movie.
Billy Bob Thorton is a drunken, lecherous, abusive crook hiding behind a Santa costume. The constant flow of profanity, even after being edited for television, and crudeness goes so strongly against the Christmas spirit that we were revulsed by this movie.
Battle of the Bulbs
Two neighbors stage a relentless battle over who can put up the gaudiest Christmas display. This is a heavily conflict-based story which was counter to the Christmas spirit for so much of the movie that we ended up not caring how it ended.
Beethoven's Christmas Adventure also titled as Beethoven's Christmas
Silly and childish film about a talking dog helping a lost elf and teenager. We found it punishingly ridiculous.
A young woman's fiance' discovers that not only is she Santa Claus's daughter, but if he marries her he's in line to become the next Santa. The attempt to derive humor from adults acts flaky or quirky failed completely. Much of the behavior in this movie is unattractively childish. Santa has a very odd, harsh, angular look that wasn't appealing and the head elf looked and acted like a scruffy Boston taxi driver. Finally, Santa's daughter performing several lame magic tricks ended up making us feel this movie was a waste of time. It's too mature for children under twelve and too ridiculous for anyone over twelve.
A 40 year old man who's lost the Christmas spirit following the death of his parents enrolls in Santa school to be able to enjoy the holiday again. This is an interesting documentary but low production values and a script broken in many places by long narrative interview segments made this a movie we didn't enjoy.
Best Man Holiday
This big budget Universal film boosts outstanding production values and some great acting. But, it's really just a soap opera taking place over Christmas with Christmas or the Christmas spirit not playing a big part. Much of the tone was so somber and at times edgy that even had it been a true Christmas movie we doubt we could have enjoyed it.
Beverly Hills Christmas
Terrible. A heartless business woman is killed and has to earn her way into heaven by being a guardian angel to her spoiled teenage daughter. The acting was universally bad, the characters unattractive and production values some of the worst we've ever seen.
A disgusting slasher movie.
Poor special effects to make reindeer fly and talk make this fantasy ridiculous.
Businessman "rents" a single mother and her daughter to make a potential client think he has a happy family. Cliched and annoying characters and plot lines.
A Bride For Christmas
is a low-budget, weak remake of Julia Robert's hit movie Runaway Bride.
Other than a scattering of decorations it has nothing to do with Christmas.
A Bunny For Christmas (Also titled The Christmas Bunny)
This is a typical, heavy-handed and ponderous Christian Network production about a troubled young girl in foster care who has a fixation on a bunny her older foster brother shoots with a BB gun. Drearily sad for most of the movie the few bright moments weren't enough over come the melancholy this film evokes. Particularly annoying was a scene in the second half where the brother who shot the rabbit earlier, decides to use it as a crash dummy in a snowboarding experiment after it's mostly healed. The young girl justifiably attacks him yet the parents don't acknowledge he did anything wrong. This isn't boyish pranking, but two incidents of deliberate animal cruelty. Finally, the plot didn't have anything to do with Christmas. The movie could just as well have taken place any time of the year.
This is a dated, slow moving Australian western filmed in soft black and white in 1947 about children thwarting horse thieves. We fell asleep halfway through it so we can't recommend it.
A Cadaver Christmas
Silly science fiction story about a rag-tag group of people fighting zombies over Christmas.
Call Me Claus
Santa has 4 weeks to instill the Christmas spirit in Whoopi Goldberg, a hard-as-nails business woman designated to replace him. She's funny as a cynic but doesn't sell it when she turns nice. Lame with poor special effects and cliched elves.
Call Me Mrs. Miracle
Weak sequel to the mostly good Mrs. Miracle. An angel (Mrs. Miracle) helps save a struggling department store during the Christmas season. The main characters weren't as interesting or appealing as the original. The acting and writing also weren't very good. Particularly annoying was the female lead's egotistical, artificially unattractive boss. We wanted very much to like this movie but 20 minutes into it we both thought it was a waste of time. We suffered through to the end but nothing happened to redeem it.
People are losing the Christmas spirit and a board of overseers decides it's Santa's fault. He's directed to prove he still has a place in Christmas by instilling the Christmas spirit in three selfish boys. This movie had so many things wrong with it I wanted to turn it off after five minutes. In spite of this I ended up watching the whole thing, asking myself all the time why I was subjecting myself to such torture. The reason hit me as I started typing this review. For all its weaknesses it had something all the other movies I'd watched so far during the 2011 season lacked: it was about Christmas. All the others were stories that occurred over Christmas but didn't have much do do with either the holiday or the Christmas spirit. This movie, on the other hand, was 100-percent devoted to the value of Christmas, something sadly lacking in most movies of this genre. Having said that, I still have to warn interested viewers to avoid this movie at all costs. What's wrong with it? Let me count the ways:
1. It's filmed in Atlanta to excuse the fact that it doesn't look like winter. This was done to reduce filming costs.
2. Lame, childish special effects that were embarrassing to watch.
3. Santa was played as a weirdly spaced-out character who was uncomfortable to watch.
4. Santa's elf, a full-sized man, looked and acted goofy, silly, creepy, strange and obnoxious. This was the worst elf I've have seen in over 300 Christmas movies.
5. Production values were extremely poor. The number of sets was kept to a minimum and those were as plain as could be. For example, it was supposed to be a board of Santa supervisors that put him to task. Yet to save money the producer only hired one person to deal with Santa offering the lame excuse that the other board members were busy with other things. Worse still, the meeting wasn't even held in a board room. Santa and the one supervisor simply met in an empty hallway of some building.
6. The title is misleading. The movie isn't about cancelling Christmas, only firing the actual Santa. The board member states they they will retain all the image and merchandising rights to Santa.
7. The dialog is lame and accept for the female lead, the acting was mostly poor.
8. The board member is presented as someone who has personal issues with Santa, yet the audience is left hanging as to what they are and how they will be resolved.
9. When we see Santa in full garb, beard, suit, etc., he looks scruffy and unappealing.
10. What the board is and how it works are never explained.
I could go on but I think you get the idea. Unless you enjoy visual self-abuse we strongly recommend avoiding this movie.
Catch A Christmas Song (Also titled Catch a Christmas Star)
The movie had a contrived, artificial look and feel that turned us off after five minutes. Regrettably, waiting for it to get better didn't help. A widower's precocious children bring him together with his high school sweet heart who is now a famous singer. Painfully predictable.
A Carol Christmas
Tori Spelling plays a selfish, self-absorbed talk show host who gets the "Christmas Carol" routine. Cliched situations, cheap special effects, predictable writing and "B" grade acting combine to make this flick a waste of time.
A Chance of Snow
While snowbound at an airport, a separated wife and husband meet and circumstances force them to resolve their issues. Though not badly acted, there's an offensive thread running through the plot that made it a real turn-off. The couple separated because the husband had an affair. All through the movie the husband's affair is portrayed as a minor, almost innocent, transgression while the wife's anger and frustration at it is portrayed so as to make her seem selfish, unreasonable and that the affair was really her fault. Both of us found this anti-wife prejudice disgusting. Also, the fact that all the action took place in an airport made the scenery boring.
Tom Arnold is unattractive as a Christmas cynic who is subjected to a gimmicky, hip version of that overworked theme: A Christmas Carol.
Christmas at Maxwell's
Overly somber movie about a family dealing with their terminally ill wife and mother. They take in an old man as a Christmas guest and he ends up providing miraculous cures for both the mother and the daughter when she falls and hits her head. Although this takes place over the holiday it's more of a christian faith movie than a holiday movie.
Christmas at Water's Edge
The opening scene has a senior angel showing a new angel his first assignment on a heavenly television screen: a young woman devoid of the Christmas spirit. Predictable with poor special effects.
The Christmas Baby (Also titled Baby's First Christmas)
Feuding lawyers are thrown together on Christmas Eve, fight, grudgingly work together to help people and fall in love. This is a typical Hallmark Channel formula movie that almost made it into the "okay to watch once" list. The music was better than many Hallmark offerings, the female lead was mostly believable, the child actress was better than average and the writers resisted the temptation to yield to the obvious cliched ending toward which the movie seemed to be ending. What ruined this movie for us was the male lead, a self centered, cynical corporate lawyer. The character never felt believable because his acting was weak. He seemed to be a collection of affectations rather than a real person. Also, he embraced his negativism so much that we couldn't identify with him. It's interesting to contrast his performance with Kevin Sorbo's in The Santa Suit. In that movie the cynical character could be empathized with because he came across as being a victim of his own cynicism. One last problem with The Christmas Baby is that most of the supporting cast was weak.
This movie had a mass-produced, cookie-cutter feeling from the very beginning. Obtrusive, monotonous piano background sound track did nothing but hurt the formula plot of a nice, hardworking girl and a morose young man she's works for falling in love. She's too sweet and he spends most of the movie with his shirt off. The characters were so cliched that after 20 minutes we didn't care how the movie ended, only that it couldn't end soon enough. One particularly annoying feature was repeated scenes of the man's vineyards with the vines not only clothed in bright green leaves but with bunches of grapes hanging from them. The movie starts one week before Christmas in California. Everyone knows that grapes ripen in Spring and summer. In December the vines look completely dead. In their effort so reduce costs by filming in summer the producers made it clear they thought viewers were idiots because no effort was made to hide this error. In fact, several scenes emphasized it in an effort to capitalize on the romance of wine making.
A Christmas Blessing
This movie opens with a firefight in Afganistan where a soldier gets killed, leaving behind a wife and four children. What follows is a chronicle of his wife and children dealing with his loss and trying to make new lives for themselves. Most of the acting was good and the story line interesting, but there were so many unattractive scenes and situations (teen gang issues, young people with attitude problems, a young girl getting drugged, cliched male stereotypes and one very unattractive character) that left us feeling very negative about it. The connection to Christmas was weak for most of the movie.
The Christmas Blessing
Starring Neil Patrick Haris, this story is about a doctor returning home after losing a patient. It's a sequel to The Christmas Shoes that depends too much on having seen the original. It has too many story lines and a young boy dying at the end of the movie soured it for us.
Silly romantic comedy about a lady school teacher who's secretly a bounty hunter. While it takes place over Christmas it has nothing to do with the holiday and could just as easily have happened any time of the year.
The Christmas Bunny (Also titled A Bunny for Christmas)
This is a typical, heavy-handed and ponderous Christian Network production about a troubled young girl in foster care who has a fixation on a bunny her older foster brother shoots with a BB gun. Drearily sad for most of the movie the few bright moments weren't enough over come the melancholy this film evokes. Particularly annoying was a scene in the second half where the brother who shot the rabbit earlier, decides to use it as a crash dummy in a snowboarding experiment after it's mostly healed. The young girl justifiably attacks him yet the parents don't acknowledge he did anything wrong. This isn't boyish pranking, but two incidents of deliberate animal cruelty. Finally, the plot didn't have anything to do with Christmas. The movie could just as well have taken place any time of the year.
The Christmas Candle
This turn of the century costume drama about a minister coming to a small town with a history of angels blessing candles that provide miracles was a little too heavy in religious themes and drab looking for our tastes.
Lady jewel thief hides out in her home town and discovers love and the value of home. Painfully predictable and the girl playing the lead has an extremely tired look around her eyes. It gave us the impression she hated being in this movie but had to do it for the pay check.
The Christmas Child
Better written and acted than many made-for-TV Christmas movies, but so sad that we can't recommend it. Also, the preacher and sheriff are extremely cliched characters.
The Christmas Choir
Inspired by actual events, an accountant forms a choir of homeless men to help them and the mission they rely upon. Although it was cliched, hokey, and unrealistic, we nonetheless enjoyed this movie until a little over halfway through when the writer decided the plot needed some conflict so out of nowhere he had the main character throw a tantrum and gives up on the choir. It was so artificially staged that it ruined the rest of the movie. Almost as bad was another hard-to-believe tragedy near the end.
The Christmas Clause
Lea Thompson, whom I normally like, tries too hard in this movie about a harried mother of three who makes a wish to a mall Santa to have a glamorous life. Within minutes her children pummel her with so much attitude and mean-spirited behavior that she passes out to awaken in the life she thought she wanted. The predictable happens as she learns how much she misses her real life. She wakes from a three-day unconsciousness caused by a fever to discover it was all a dream, but one from which she learned valuable lessons. Similar to Holiday Switch and just as bad.
Christmas Comes Home To Canaan
In this sequal to Christmas In Canaan, Billy Ray Cyrus once again fights racial prejudice in his home town. This time out he also finds love in a doctor helping his son regain the use of his legs. Christmas has nothing to do with the story and 90-percent of it takes place during summer and Spring.
David Hasselhof is downright weird as an over-the-top professional Christmas organizer hired by workaholic parents to run their Christmas. He looks so out of character that he made the entire movie unbelievable.
A lady executive goes to a small town to purchase a local cookie company. She meets the handsome owner and the expected happens. The lack of chemistry between the two leads, the marginal acting ability of the male lead, too many overly perky secondary characters and a plot that been used almost as often as The Christmas Carol made watching this movie a challenge.
This was a new movie in January, 2016 when we first reviewed it. It was misrepresented in December as still being new.
Melodrama about a couple in a troubled marriage trying to survive a small plane crash in the wilderness over Christmas. The plot and all the faults are virtually identical to Lost Holiday reviewed farther down this page.
Another knock-off of the Christmas Carol theme. This time a girl publicist is visited by a dead client to show her how she's mistreated her ex-boyfriends to convince her to make amends. Poor acting and grating characters made this painful to watch.
Businessman managing a real estate venture discovers the dance studio of the lady instructor he's hired to teach him how to dance is scheduled to be torn down. The situations are contrived and the male lead's acting struck us as a little weak. Still, this movie isn't totally bad so we're ranking it as one of the best on the avoid list.
A Christmas Detour
Candice Camaron-Bure plays a ditzy, hyperactively perky character traveling to meet her fiance's parents. She gets stranded with a anti-romance man and the predictable happens. Ms. Bure's character felt artificial and affected. We could never believe in her. Also, much of the dialog struck us as contrived. As serious as those issues are, the biggest problem with this movie is that it suffers from yet another of Hallmark's annoyingly persistent, repetitive background sound tracks. It's not overly loud, but it never stops. It keeps droning on and on until that was all we could focus on. We like Ms. Bure and have enjoyed many of her movies, but this was one we couldn't wait until it ended. It's not the worst in the "avoid" list, but it's one we never want to suffer through again. The conection is extremely weak.
Unfunny remake of Groundhog Day. A Christmas-hating divorced father goes home for the holiday. He's so frenetically sarcastic that before ten minutes had passed neither of us cared what happened to him. He was such a jerk that he hated the idea of spending a single day with his son. It was unbelievable that anyone would have married him in the first place.
George Raft stars in this 1940-era movie about three adoptive sons who return home to prevent their mother from having control of her estate taken away. This isn't a Christmas movie because the only purpose of Christmas (eve, actually) is to serve as a time for them to meet the judge who will review the case. Ninety-percent of the story is really about the lives her three sons have led, and isn't very interesting. One son saves the day in the last two minutes of the movie by blackmailing the lawyer trying to get control of her estate in an artificial and contrived ending.
Christmas Every Day
Yet another failed attempt to use the Groundhog Day plot to show how someone mean learns the virtue of embracing the Christmas Spirit. The problem is that during most of the movie the 13-year old boy, who is the subject of the movie, is so unattractively self centered that by the end we didn't care what happened to him. His conversion didn't ring true and I regret to say that in our opinion he wasn't a good enough actor to carry the movie, though perhaps that's more the script's fault. Two silly special effects added to this movie's problems.
A psycho stalks "bad" little boys and girls. Disgusting.
The Christmas Gift (Sometimes billed as The Christmas Wish)
John Denver plays the widowed father of a young girl. He's sent over Christmas to evaluate a quaint town for development. Along the way he falls in love with the town and a lady post office manager. This movie has an overly contrasty look that causes enough eye strain to be uncomfortable after a few minutes. Additionally, it suffers from being noisy, several continuity errors, weak acting and forced dramatic situations.
The Christmas Heart
Financially strapped family discover their teenage son needs a heart transplant. In a parallel plot line, the semi-criminal adult son of a single mother gets fatally injured leaving is pregnant girlfriend alone. The predicable happens as the first boy's town folk work together to get the second man's heart into town for the transplant. There was far too much tragedy and sadness to make this movie pleasant to watch and the ending was predictable.
A Christmas Hope
Please see A Christmas Wish below.
Low budget Sci Fi channel thriller about a meteor causing a deadly freeze around a small town. Ridiculous concept weighed down with cliched characters that has nothing to do with Christmas other than it happens during the holiday.
Christmas in Canaan
This story about racial prejudice is being relegated to the 'avoid' list not because it's a bad movie, but because it has practically nothing to do with Christmas and the vast majority of it takes place during other seasons of the year.
Christmas in Compton
Some of the acting was quite good, several characters interesting and the situations unexpected... but, the negatives of low production values, an overly accertive and harsh soundtrack, several chiched African-American stereotypes, flat acting by much of the supporting cast and urination humor overpowered the positives.
Christmas in Connecticut (1992)
Dyan Cannon stars in a lame remake of Barbara Stanwyck's 1945 classic.
Christmas in Conway
The movie is an uncomfortable mixture of comedy and tragedy as a man struggles to build a Ferris wheel in his back yard while his wife is dying. Other than being filmed in summer to reduce costs, production values were high, the writing good and the acting believable. But, the overriding sense of sadness mixed with moments of comedy created a jarring effect that we couldn't enjoy.
Christmas in July
Dated 1940s humor haunts this Preston Sturgess film about a man who thinks he's won a contest and goes on a spending spree. It has nothing to do with Christmass, other than he buys gifts for all his friends.
Christmas in Palm Springs
Mostly filmed in Palm Springs to reduce production costs, this Pure/Flix offering is a weak remake of the Disney classic The Parent Trap where two children contrive to bring their separated parents back together. The male lead was unattractively irresponsible and flaky and everything felt affected.
Christmas in Paradise
Single parents on a cruise with their children meet and fall in love. Each has a cliched good kid and one with attitude, the soundtrack is annoying, the director uses too many split screen effects and the editing is choppy. This movie gave us both eyestrain. Adding to this long list of negatives is some weirdness about the three kings from a Caribbean nativity scene coming to life and appearing sporadically throughout the movie.
Christmas in the City
Struggling single mother take a job in a department store to earn money to save her father's toy store. We felt she was overly positive and one dimensional while her daughter came across as unbelievably sweet. The antagonist in the story was a lady efficiency expert who was played far too over the top to be believable. The cliched ending of the mother falling in love with the store manager and the store's Santa turning out to be the real Santa didn't ring true. This isn't a TV Christmas movie we can recommend to watch.
Christmas in Wonderland
Terrible. The children of a financially strapped family find $200,000 in counterfeit money dropped by two inept thieves. The silly, infantile behavior of many supporting actors made this movie painful to sit through.
A Christmas Kiss
This is a predictable romantic comedy about an interior designer working for a mean boss and falls in love with the boss's boyfriend. The lady boss is so viciously self centered that she didn't come across as believable and soured the entire movie for us. An early scene where the female lead and her love-to-be meet in an elevator that seems on the verge of falling was totally unbelievable because instead of reaching for the emergency phone they fall into each others arms for a passionate kiss. Worse still, immediately afterward she runs away from the man she instantly fell in love with. Several dialog scenes between three girl friends felt forced.
A young woman helps a family friend restore a mountain lodge while falling in love with him. In the strictest sense this isn't a Christmas movie because all but the last scene takes place between July and December and Christmas itself isn't a theme of the movie. Some people may feel the omnipresent Christian ethics voiced many times during the movie to be a little forced and contrived. Because it's not about Christmas, but rather a place called The Christmas Lodge, I can't recommend it as a Christmas movie. I also felt it was a little slow moving. The acting was generally good and some of the scenery was beautiful.
Paranoid anti-Christmas postal manager orders a mail carrier to spy on a girl sent by the home office to answer all of the letters to Santa. The boss's character was clownish and the female lead character was so sweet as to be silly. The predictable happens. This one had us groaning in agony within the first half hour.
A Christmas Memory
Overly-colorful and quaint characters make this depression-era story of the emotional trauma about a hard-as-nails aunt sending her nephew off to boarding school difficult to watch. While it doesn't end as expected, the ending is so sad it robbed us of Christmas spirit rather than boosted it. The connection to Christmas is so weak as to be almost nonexistent.
Christmas Miracle At Sage Creek
This is a slow moving, low budget 1880s American western about people overcoming hardship and prejudice. It's not a bad movie but we didn't enjoy it. Western lovers might find it watchable. +
A Christmas Mystery
A woman hires a detective to help her locate the man who has been sending her recently deceased mother Christmas cards. While the mystery is mildly diverting, the fact is this is the worst misrepresentation of a Christmas movie we've ever watched. Filmed in sunny southern California in summer to reduce production costs, there are hardly any even token Christmas decorations to be seen, only twice did we notice anything vaguely familiar as Christmas music, and in one case it was a jailed convict humming it as if he was deranged, and the plot had absolutely nothing to do with either Christmas or the Christmas spirit.
A Christmas Note
A young woman finds a note in the belongings of her estranged mother who has recently died stating she has a brother she never knew existed. With the help of a new friend she searches for her lost sibling. We found the ending an unbelievable coincidence but the bigger problem was that this isn't a Christmas movie. It takes place over Christmas but the holiday plays practically no role in the picture. It's not a bad movie, but as a mystery it moves a little slow. +
Christmas on Chestnut Street
A disgusting movie about a Christmas decorating contest that turns everyone into win-at-any-cost monsters. Vile humor derived from an man's affliction with Alzheimer's, cliched character humor from a Frenchman and a dwarf, crude language and a brawl over Christmas ornaments make this one of the worst Christmas movies we've ever seen.
A sweet girl endures hardships in an orphanage. Cliched situations and characters coupled with amateurish acting made this difficult to watch.
The Christmas Parade
A newscaster finds out while on the air that her fiance is cheating with someone else. Humiliated, she runs away, crashes into the fence of a small town judge and is sentenced to community service. This is a remake of The Christmas Pageant. Although production values are good and the entire supporting cast is excellent, this movie is ruined by the valley-girl affectations of the female lead. Her over active behaviors and sarcastic expressions soured us on her in the first few minutes, and I regret to say that even late in the movie when she turns into a better person many of these annoying mannerisms are still present. She seldom smiles and when she does it doesn't look real. During most of the first half of the film, she walks with such an exaggerated hip swing that I thought she was going to split in half at the waist. It wasn't comical, just silly. She looks like she should be a pretty girl, but her expressions and body language render her so unattractive we couldn't wait for this movie to end.
A Christmas Proposal
Ruthless land developer Tom Arnold plans to wipe out a quaint town to build a new ski resort. He sends his top headhunter to close the deal in spite of opposition lead by the young man's former girl friend. The predictable happens. Lame acting and screenplay weaken this movie. It's also not really a Christmas movie in that Christmas doesn't have anything to do with the plot.
This movie demonstrates a growing pattern in many of Christmas movies we viewed in 2008. To reduce production costs the movie is shot during the summer and to cover this glaring problem some lame comment is made early in the movie to the effect that it's odd that snow hasn't fallen yet. This is so obviously false, because scenes are filled with summer plants in full flower and trees in full leaf, that it's an insult to the viewer's intelligence.
A Christmas Reunion
A lady executive inherits her aunt's bakery and reopens it with her ex-boyfriend who shares the inheritance with her. It didn't take long for us to dislike this movie. Denise Richards has a very strained look to her features that was uncomfortable to watch. The two leads try to portray entertaining banter, but it came across as overly harsh. Most of the acting was weak enough that we never believed in this movie so we're recommending people avoid it.
A Christmas Romance
This movie starring Olivia Newton-John as a widowed mother struggling to keep her house from bank foreclosure could have been alright except one of her daughters displayed an annoyingly negative attitude and the bank officer sent to inform her of her status, who later becomes the love interest, is so self-centered that we hated him from the start.
The Christmas Secret
Richard Thomas is a great actor but even his skill couldn't make this movie about a flying squirrel expert becoming obsessed with the science of flying reindeer believable.
The Christmas Shoes
This movie was so sickeningly tender and the boy playing the lead such a poor actor that it was painful to watch. (Stories about someone's slow death are extremely difficult to write, direct and act and have only been successful a very few times. Dark Victory starring Bette Davis is one of the best.)
A Christmas Snow
Workaholic restaurant owner gets trapped by snow with her boyfriend's young daughter and an old man over Christmas. The daughter is cliched as being resentful that the woman may take her dead mother's place. She's so offensively obnoxious during the first half of the movie that it really turned us off. While the acting is mostly good, the overall tone is so somber that it didn't make us feel like Christmas. Additionally, like many movies produced for the Christian Network, this one gets a little heavy handed at times as it pushes its religious agenda.
The Christmas Stallion
Drab production values and cliched characters with Scottish accents didn't help this movie about a man returning home to save the family horse ranch. The biggest problem was that this isn't really a Christmas movie. It could have taken place any time of the year.
The Christmas Star
Ed Asner stars in this 1986 Disney movie about a cynical escaped convict mistaken by children as Santa. In the process of using them to recover stolen loot, he's converted to a good guy and saves their parents from being evicted from their home on Christmas Eve. A greedy landlord is artificially mean and a couple of miracle-type scenes felt out of place. The movie feels very dated and with its other problems relegates it to the "avoid" list. One good thing is that unlike so many movies shown during the 2011 season, Christmas themes are echoed throughout the story.
A Christmas Story
Although this movie received several positive reviews, neither my wife nor I could get into it. The adult voice-over reflecting a boy's feelings as he tries to convince his parents to get him a BB gun for Christmas sounded forced, over exuberant and distracting. Production values were poor with many sets seeming jumbled and confusing.
A Christmas Story 2
A harsh looking, overly frantic sequel to A Christmas Story. The teenage background narrative was distracting, the score annoying and the overall feel that was supposed to come across as quirky was really bizarre. In this incarnation the boy who wanted a BB gun in the original is now a teenager and suffers the predictable types of teen angst.
Poor older brother magically swaps bodies with his younger, cold, successful brother. The both grow from the experience. As silly as the plot sounds, we found it quite entertaining. The reason we relegated it to the "avoid" list is that although the ending takes place around Christmas, the movie really has nothing to do with the holiday. It could have taken place anytime of the year.
A Christmas Tale
In French with English subtitles. Catherine Deneuve stars in a movie about a family holiday where the matriarch is discovered to be ill. Graphic violence and obscene language turned us off on this movie as did the fact that Christmas was only used as the excuse for bringing the characters together.
Single mother who doesn't believe in Christmas takes her son to visit his grandfather in a remote northern town. He discovers a sleigh he thinks is Santa's and hides away in it to sneak into Santa's Factory. His mother searches for him while doing so catches a glimpse of an arm in a Santa suit and somehow this convinces her Santa is real. Lame acting, obvious blunders, cliche'd situations and a couple of unattractive characters made this a poor Christmas movie for us.
The Christmas Tree Miracle
Dysfunctional family falls on hard times, are taken in by a Christmas tree farmer and rediscover their faith. Cliched characters, marginal acting, predictable plot and a family that was so unattractively self centered combined to make us hate this movie after just ten minutes. Sadly, it never got better.
A soldier and woman meet and fall in love during a brief lull during World War II and vow to reconnect after the war. Everything about this movie felt fake, starting with the opening credits which were painfully corny to watch. After that things got worse. The opening scene shows two women trudging through a muddy forest in the middle of a was zone... wearing spotless designer clothes complete with perfectly coifed hair and hats. The acting was affected and the dialogs artificial. The biggest problem was that the producers tried to make what was supposed to look like a big budget production with a far too small budget.
Low budget thriller about a meteorologist searching for his lost children during the holiday after a tornado attack.
A Christmas Visitor
William Devane stars in this movie about the ghost of his son, killed in the Gulf War, coming back to fix things at home. The story was sad and I found the patriotic gestures too forced, and I say this as a 20-year veteran of the Air Force.
The Christmas Visitor
This is a harmless, "G" rated family movie about a 1890s sheep ranching family struggling against a drought and mean land baron. While there are a few passing references to Christmas, it felt more like a western drama. Filmed in Australia, where Christmas takes place in summer and filming expenses are corresponding lower, it spends most of its time dealing with the hardships of sheep farming rather than Christmas. I found the cliched ending where a young boy melts the hearts of both a thief and an embittered land baron to be too predictable to be entertaining. This movie features a common weakness that pops up from time to time with televised features. Someone who didn't watch the movie wrote the description of it to go with the title and this description is simply copied and forwarded along with the movie where ever it's shown. The problem is that no one checks to make sure it's correct. In this case it isn't. The description states that the movie is about a young boy mistaking a gold miner as father Christmas. In reality, the man is a vagrant and thief who's blackmailing the land baron.
Business woman called away on a job leaves organizing her wedding to her fiance. Confusion results. This isn't really a Christmas movie since the holiday has no effect on the the plot.
Christmas Wedding Baby
A dysfunctional family of three daughters and their mother endure personal issues while planning the wedding of the youngest daughter. While the acting is mostly good, the fact that the movie had nothing to do with Christmas or the Christmas spirit other than having the final scenes take place on Christmas and the mother being so viciously self centered, bordering on psychological abuse, resulted in it's being relegated to the "avoid" list.
Christmas Wedding Date
Unattractively cynical and self centered woman returns home over Christmas and by reliving the same day over and over (a la Groundhog Day) learns the Christmas spirit. Hardly ten minutes passed and we began looking forward to commercials so we could have a break from this movie. The young woman is so mean at one point she aims an cynical trade at a young girl scout try to sell Christmas cookies. Most of the supporting characters were unattractive and the humor was unfunny. Add to this a magical taxi driver and you have a mess worthy of missing.
The Christmas Wedding Tail
Talking dogs scheme to get their masters to fall in love and marry. This is a lamely written and acted summer-time romantic comedy with a couple of Christmas songs added as background music to make it qualify as a Christmas movie. It didn't work for us as either a romantic movie or a Christmas film.
Christmas... Who Needs It
Painfully low production values and weak acting made this movie an agony to watch.
A Christmas Wish ( Sometimes billed as A Christmas Hope)
The tragic tone of this movie about a marriage on the verge of divorce, a sick orphaned baby and a young girl who's single mother just died in a car crash make it uncomfortable to watch. Besides that, although it takes place over Christmas the plots don't have anything to do with the holiday.
The Christmas Wish (Sometimes billed as The Christmas Gift)
John Denver plays the widowed father of a young girl. He's sent on Christmas to evaluate a quaint town for development. Along the way he falls in love with the town and a lady post office manager. This movie has an overly contrasty look that causes enough eye strain to be uncomfortable after a few minutes. Additionally, it suffers from being noisy, several continuity errors, weak acting and forced dramatic situations.
A Christmas Wish
Painfully out of date stop motion animation, extremely poor film quality and contrived situations make this 1950 movie starring Jimmy Durante impossible to watch without going blind in one eye.
Christmas With A Capital "C"
Cynical businessman returns to his small town Alaskan home and attempts to quash Christmas to support a business venture. We found the battle between the Christian Mayor and atheistic businessman to be so unattractive it was uncomfortable to watch. Produced by the PureFlix company, it follows a religious hard line that might make some people uncomfortable. Also, it was unclear whether the businessman's motives were financial or person because of an old conflict with the mayor. There are few interesting twists, but in the end it was too predictable to recommend.
Christmas With Holly
A young man with a mute orphaned niece meets a jilted bride over Christmas. Like the vast majority of recent Christmas movies this one has nothing to do with the holiday spirit. The first quarter of the movie feels jumbled. In the end we classed it as an awkward, slow moving romantic comedy with an uncomfortable element in the mute girl.
Christmas with the Kranks
This isn't really a movie with a plot but rather an excuse to string together a series of sight gags. I found one scene where a neighbor's cat is abused to be particularly offensive. How can something like this claim to represent the Christmas spirit?
Christmas with Tucker
Young boy fights to get a dog away from an abusive owner. This is a slow, oddly familiar drama. Much of the acting felt forced and some slow motion scenes of the boy playing with the dog looked very dated.
Christmas With The Andersons
Self absorbed, superficial, financially irresponsible parents of two arrogant kids who dump attitude on everyone find themselves in financial trouble and are forced to downsize their annual lavish Christmas party. In they process discover what's really important in life. The acting was so weak, the characters so unappealing and the situations so corny that we hated this movie before the first commercial break could relieve us of watching it. By the time everyone started acting human we were completely alienated couldn't have cared less.
Christmas - Who Needs It
Poor production values, unconvincing acting and an odd, live-documentary style of filming made this a painful movie to watch.
A Cinderella Christmas
This time around, Cinderella is a pastry chef working in her father's small entertainment business while her mean sister bedevils her and steals all the credit for her work. We understand that we're supposed to hate the evil sister, but in this incarnation we hated her so much that she ruined the movie for us. It wasn't just that she was bad, but that anyone in their mid-twenties could act so childishly was unbelievable. Another problem was the the actress playing Cinderella was so odd looking that we winced every time she appeared.
A Cookie Cutter Christmas
Two unattractively competitive women use a holiday baking contest to fight for the affections of a widower. All the actors' acting felt affected and the tone was so negative that we started fast forwarding after only fifteen minutes.
A Country Christmas
Santa gets dithery and crashes into a country barn. Two young children find him and his elf and help him to get back to normal. Weak acting, silly concept, low production values and a set of opening credits that are so childishly simplistic they made us want to delete the movie before it had started. Our mistake was not doing so. Learn from it and avoid this movie at all costs.
A Country Christmas Story
Dolly Parton has a few brief spots in this musical melodrama about a young girl competing in a televised music contest at Dollyland. Even though the writers resisted the cliched ending that was expected, the connection to Christmas was so weak and the situations were so contrived that we feel we can't recommend it.
Crazy for Christmas
Howard Hessman is over-the-top as a rich man tossing away hundred dollar bills during Christmas as he stupidly and clumsily tries to bond with a daughter from an affair with her mother. Particularly offensive is the cliched portrayal of two elderly women.
This is a grating, unattractive thriller about a family Christmas trip gone terribly wrong.
Debbie Macomber's Mr. Miracle
Rob Morrow is childishly clueless as an angel on Earth for the first time to help a young woman to get her life back on track. His performance was so ridiculous that it ruined what might have been a nice movie.
Deck the Halls
Single mother business woman recaptures the Christmas spirit from her new neighbor who is employed as an advertising specialist at the toy company where she works. The problem is that this guy is supposed to be quirkily enigmatic but the actor goes so over the top that he comes off as an irresponsible flake. And guess what... he ends up being the real Santa.
Deck The Halls
This is a lame suspense movie about a lady private detective's father who's kidnapped a few days for Christmas. Filmed in L.A. in summer to reduce production costs, it has nothing to do with Christmas other than that's when it takes place. Christmas spirit and themes play no part in this movie so we can't really call it a Christmas movie.
Deck the Halls
Danny Devito plays the inconsiderate neighbor from hell as he attempts to put enough Christmas lights on his house to be seen from space, igniting a mean spirited feud with his straight laced neighbor. Similar to Christmas with the Kranks, this movie is little more than a string of antagonistic sight gags. The overall atmosphere is distinctly non-Christmas.
Sheriff and widowed father Dean Cain finds Santa unconscious in a snow storm. The local DA prosecutes him as deranged and therefore dangerous. The new, attractive legal aid defense attorney, who has a romantic history with Cain, defends Santa with Cain's help. As ridiculous as it sounds, this movie nonetheless was interesting enough to hold our attention. However, we found Cain's love interest overly confident to the point of unattractive arrogance, several continuity errors, some unfunny bathroom humor and a silly football game brought the movie down to the point where we simply couldn't enjoy it.
A Dennis the Menace Christmas
Horrible. Unattractive people behaving unattractively. Making a joke out of almost burning someone's house down does not fit in with our concept of Christmas. The universally bad acting almost makes this mess laughable, but not quite. Robert Wagner, who was once a respected actor, must have been in dire straits to star in this disaster.
The Dog Who Saved Christmas
Marginal acting doesn't help this remake of Home Alone with a dog protecting a home from to inept thieves over Christmas. The dog's voice-over actor struck a good tone, but was presented so strangely when relating to other animals that viewers come away thinking that animals use telepathy to communicate.
The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation
The same problems that plagued the first entry into this series haunt this movie. This time out, Zeus saves the poodle of his dreams from two dog nappers while his family is on a ski vacation.
The Dog Who Saved The Holidays
This time out super-smart Zeus and a younger dog protect a Christmas vacation home from more inept thieves. The was identical to The Dog Who Saved Christmas and just as bad.
Dolly Parton's Christmas: A Circle Of Love
Dolly Parton as a young girl struggles with her impoverished family to find the money to buy her mother a wedding ring while also canvassing to play the part of Mary in the school Christmas pageant. Dolly Parton fans will probably love this movie even though she's not in it. We thought it was too dated to enjoy, like a saccharinely sweet episode of the old Walton's TV series. We also didn't appreciate Dolly Parton introducing the movie with a song while she stands in front of a sign for her Dollywood amusement park. It struck us like one of those Kay Jeweler movies that make us think we're watching an infomercial.
A Dream for Christmas
In 1950, a country pastor moves his family to Los Angeles during the Christmas season. This movie felt hokey, like an over-long episode of Little House on the Prairie or The Waltons, but with weak writing and lame acting. Production values were very low.
Susan Lucci as Ms. Scrooge, a cold hearted department store manager. Offensively cheap special effects and the use of the overworked Christmas Carol idea make this a good movie to avoid.
While the idea of a human being raised by Santa as an Elf then sent to New York to be with his real father is creative, we found the humor edgy and so frenetic that the movie didn't pull us into it. And yes, this is the moderately successful movie starring Will Farrell.
Eloise at Christmas Time
Unattractively spoiled and inconsiderate young girl terrorizes the hotel where she lives. Terrible.
An En Vogue Christmas
A Christmas concert to save a failing theater serves as an excuse to give the music group En Vogue screen time. It felt artificial from the start with several contrived scenes used to provide an excuse for their singing.
Ernest Saves Christmas
Retiring Santa enlists super Christmas fan Jim Varney to help convince a children's actor to become the next Santa. Mr. Varney has a few funny sight gags and humorous muggings into the camera, but that's about all the movie has going for it. A sexily dressed teenage girl seems out of place as Varney's comic foil, a Jewish movie director is a painfully cliched stereotype and production values are weak. A big disappointment is that with so much of the movie focusing on Varney, the viewer starts feeling that he should be the next Santa. When that doesn't happen you're left with a sense of disappointment.
A Fairly Odd Christmas
Horrible. Painfully childish dialog and acting worsened by embarrassing silly animated sequences combine to create a movie that redefines how bad a Christmas movie can be. It's so gratingly busy and noisy that we couldn't force ourselves to finish it. Appears to target overactive children under the age of six. Avoid at all costs.
Unattractive con man, at one point he steals money from an elderly man by making him pay COD for a box he thinks his wife ordered before she died, grabs two runaway orphans off the street and hires a too-sweet lady to act as his wife and their mother so he can inherit $20M from an uncle. The predictable happens.
The Family Stone
Straight laced business woman, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, spends Christmas with her in-laws to be. Her intended fiance's family is formulaically quirky and greet her with ridicule and hatred. She calls her sister to come and provide support and the expected happens. An interesting movie to watch because of top notch acting, but stripped of that the plot is predictable. This movie also suffers from "kitchen sink" syndrome. That is, the writer throws in so many interesting family character twists that it becomes unbeleivable. For example: one son is gay... but that's not interesting enough so they make his partner African-American... but that's still not enough so the gay son is also deaf... and the mother has cancer, and the family is ultraliberal while Sarah jessica Parker is ultraconservative and on and on and on.
Finally, the movie could have taken place at any time of the year and nothing would have changed. Christmas only serves as an excuse to get the family together. It really doesn't play a significant part in the story line.
A Fare to Remember
Advertising lady connects with an enigmatic cabby on her way to discovering fulfillment. The female lead exhibits so many stupid behaviors (losing her purse, losing important documents, failing to verify transportation arrangements and dancing on a curb to attract a cab when there aren't any cabs around) that it was totally unbelievable that she'd ever have been a success. The male lead begins with such offensively off-the-wall behavior that in the real world he'd have been locked up long ago. These two problems ruin the very few good moments later in the movie.
Ridiculous story about a teen who travels back in time to save his girl friend. The constant, angry flow of profanity make this movie an offense to the Christmas spirit.
A Firehouse Christmas
The lead female character is so unattractively self centered and manipulative that after the first 15 minutes we didn't care how the movie ended, only that it would do so as soon as possible. In the final few minutes we learn why she is the way she is and she comes around, but by that time the movie was ruined for us. The plot is about this character using her daughter's Christmas presents from her ex-husband as blackmail to force him into helping her promote her relationships book. This is a Kay Jeweler's production and as always it ends with the opening a ring box with a huge KAY JEWELER's logo on it. This is such an insultingly blatant imbedded commercial that it made us feel as if we'd wasted the previous two hours watching an infomercial.
The Flight Before Christmas
A jilted girl flies home and gets trapped with a man she meets on her flight. At first there's friction but in time they fall in love. Mayim Bialik is usually good, but her character in this movie was so annoying we lost interest very quickly. We remember at least one instance of off-color humor that we didn't enjoy and an annoying soundtrack that didn't help.
Flirting with Forty
A mother nearing forty, but looking twenty-something, decides to do all the things she dreamed of but never had the courage to pursue. While doing so she falls in love with a younger man. Every person in this movie is unbelievably beautiful but that doesn't make up for the fact that the occasional Christmas decoration seen stage-left doesn't make it a Christmas movie. I'm not saying this is a bad movie, or a good one either, just that it's not really a Christmas movie and shouldn't be billed as one. It could take place anytime of the year and the plot wouldn't be affected.
Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn play a happily "un"married couple forced to spend Christmas with each of their four divorced parents one at a time. Crude, ridiculous and even violent humor is sandwiched between several anti-family and anti-marriage dialogs to create a movie that deeply offended us. Christmas only served as a reason to bring people together in conflict. Any holiday could have served the same function. If you enjoy watching two abusive brothers and their young children strangling, hitting and kicking another brother while their father laughs, you may enjoy this film. We didn't.
Friday After Next
Crude humor about rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube getting mugged by a storefront Santa. Aside from the subject matter, this film has a low budget look that was extremely unattractive.
Girlfriends of Christmas Past
Three recently jilted girlfriends conspire to take out revenge on their ex boyfriends. This movie is guilty of gender bashing in its portrayal of most of the male leads as selfish jerks. We also didn't enjoy the girls many times laughing as their pranks cause bodily injury to their ex's. One of the girls eventually finds love and this turns her around, but by then the movie's mean tone had alienated us. If you like laughing at people getting hurt, you may enjoy this movie. We didn't
A Golden Christmas
A single mother returns to the family home after distancing herself and son from everyone and announces she wants to buy the home only to discover that it's already been sold. She proceeds the scuttle the sale. Complicating the plot is the fact that the buyer is the childhood friend she longs to reconnect with. Attractive actors do well with their parts in a plot that promises some interesting scenes. The problem is that the lead character is so arrogantly self righteously and self centered about the house being her's that it completely turned us off for the entire movie. She eventually comes around but by that time her mean spirited machinations to take the house away from the the owner ruined what could have been an entertaining film. Also, the magical golden retriever who acts as the cupid to bring the two together is farfetched.
A Golden Christmas 1, 2 & 3
Childish series about talking golden retrievers saving Christmas. The advertised titles may vary.
The Good Witch's Gift
This is the third entry of the "Good Witch" series. The movie's only connection to Christmas is that her wedding takes place on Christmas Eve. Other than that it's all about the problems of pulling the wedding off while she solves the problems of all the people around her. If you like watching Catherine Bell smile sweetly then you'll enjoy this movie, but don't think that you're going to get a Christmas movie.
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
While this movie admirably shows off Jim Carey's physical virtuosity, the fact is that the makeup design and behavior of the inhabitants of Whoville are so unattractive that this movie has a very uncomfortable edge to it.
Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever
A young girl becomes able to read the mind of a cat with a grumpy expression. What follows is a ridiculous series of misadventures with the grumpy cat constantly mugging into the camera. Even forgetting the silly plot, this movie fails miserably because the main joke is the cat's permanently grumpy expression. It's funny the first time you see it and brings a slight smile the second time, but after that it's like listening to the same joke over and over again. The producers decided to use a young woman to provide the voice over for the grumpy cat, which did not fit. The expression and attitude would have been matched better to an older man's voice. The things the grumpy cat said were supposed to be ironic, but instead came across as unattractively sarcastic. Some bathroom humor and amateurish special effects didn't help. All together we rated this as the worse movie of 2014. -
A Heartland Christmas
The movie is a convoluted mess: starving horses, threatening townsfolk, poor young newlyweds, people with selfish attitudes and a bossy wife who doesn't care for anyone or anything in her relentless drive to host the perfect Christmas open house made it feel like the director didn't know where he was going with it. Add in weak acting and lame writing and you have a movie that never should have been made. As hard as we tried we couldn't stand to watch more than the first hour.
The Heart of Christmas
Family and neighbors stage an early Christmas for a 3-year boy dying of leukemia; based on a true story. This isn't a bad movie, but it's so unrelentingly tragic that we can't recommend it. This may sound shallow, but we're looking for lighter, happier stories to brighten our Christmas season.
Help For The Holidays
An elf is sent to help a married couple rediscover the Christmas spirit. An overly-assertive, overly-busy soundtrack grated on our nerves after only 5 minutes. Summer shooting to save production costs wasn't handled believably. Two cliched children were clones of similar characters seen in dozens of other movies. We rate this as an artificial, annoying TV Christmas movie with nothing to recommend it.
Hercules Saves Christmas
Ridiculous story about Santa's telepathic dog, he talks without moving his lips, named Hercules who's sent to reinstill the Christmas spirit in a surly young boy. Cliched characters, childish special effects, lame writing and poor acting make this a real mess.
A Hercule Poirot Christmas
David Suchet is outstanding as Agathy Christy's Belgian detective and the mystery is interesting but this movie has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, other than that's when it takes place.
Hitched For The Holidays
Girl and guy connect on-line because they both need a fake romantic partner to help them through some awkward situations during the holiday. Much of the background music felt artificial and contrived. This seems like a minor issue but it created a grating feeling that made the movie difficult to watch. Although the couple agree that the relationship is platonic and that it'll end as soon as Christmas ends, the predicable happens. Several corny, cliched characters and a weak connection to the Christmas spirit make this romantic comedy a poor investment of time.
Barry Boswick plays a 65-year old adulterous husband seeking a divorce from Cheryl Ladd so he can marry his 30-year old girlfriend. Most of the mood is so sad and the connection to Christmas so weak that we can't recommend this film.
Repeatedly promoted as a Christmas movie, this film takes place completely over Thanksgiving. It's a predictable plot about a jilted woman who hires an actor to play her fiance at a big family Thanksgiving celebration. Fans of the popular TV series Cheers will be alienated by the beautiful Shelly Long as an older, overweight mother.
College students get held hostage by two bumbling thieves trying to steal some college artwork. Cliched characters from a poor teen movie populate this film and although they are supposed to be in college, offer such juvenile behavior that watching them made us cringe.
Holiday High School Reunion
Girl attends a high school reunion hoping to reconnect with her high school crush. We've never heard of a reunion over Christmas, the movie was filmed in summer to reduce production costs, it had a noisy, confused feel, Christmas served no purpose other than as a backdrop, several girl-gab scenes were artificial and some odd insert scenes came across as more arty than effective.
Holiday in Handcuffs
A girl whose boyfriend dumps her right before a family gathering, kidnaps a handsome man at gun point to force him to fill in. Interesting concept ruined by the lead actress because she portrays her character in such a frenetic, scatterbrained manner that it's both unbelievable and jarring.
Holiday in Your Heart
Rising country singer, played by LeAnn Rimes, learns important lessons from a past great singer, played by Bernadette Peters. This movie has only the slightest connection to Christmas and could just as easily taken place any time of the year. For the most part it's just an excuse to showcase Ms. Rimes' singing ability.
Dance instructor enlists his estranged son to help a girl win a dance contest. This is a teen romantic melodrama that has little to do with Christmas or the Christmas spirit. It could have taken place anytime of the year.
young wife and mother dissatisfied with a life with love but in
poverty dreams of marriage to a rich, successful man. She bumps her
head and after awakening, crawls through her clothes drier into the
life she imagined she always wanted. It turns out the life she
dreamed off wasn't as sweet as imagined. Lack luster acting couples
with a predictable script to produce a movie worth avoiding.
A Holiday to Remember
Divorced mother moves back to her hometown. Her teenage daughter and a runaway boy are so cliched and have so much attitude that this movie was painful to watch. It stars Randy Travis and amply displays the limitations of his acting.
girls from different sides of the track trade psyches when they wish
upon the same star at the same time. Lame.
Home by Christmas
I like Linda Hamilton, but she looks so old and beaten up in this movie about her being a homeless person that it was painful to watch. Additionally, she and a friend conning their way into a real estate sale was totally unbelievable. (Sometime listed as Home for Christmas. There appear to be two other movies with the title Home for Christmas.)
The Homecoming: A Christmas Story
The is the 1971 movie that started the classic TV series The Waltons. While we enjoyed the series, we had to admit we found this movie looked and felt dated, overly quaint and slow moving.
Homeless for the Holidays
The opening looked so strange and the voiced-over narrative during the credits sounded so odd that we were on our guard after the first seconds of this movie. Things didn't get better. Weak acting and writing coupled with low production values gave this film an artificial, forced feel that left us longing for commercial breaks.
How Sarah Got Her Wings
A girl dies and has to help someone before getting into heaven. Grade B acting and a painfully cliched ending made this a poor entry into this overworked theme. Worse still, the director and actors tried for quirky but ended up with silly.
Lame, low budget science fiction thriller about global warming causing earth-threatening earthquakes. The only connection to Christmas was that that was when it took place. It's marketed as a Christmas movie because it's so bad that's the only way people can be tricked into trying it.
I'll be Home for Christmas
Horrible. Self-absorbed wheeler-dealer college student has to be bribed to come home for Christmas. One of his schemes falls through and his dissatisfied clients, whom he was helping cheat, glue him into a Santa suit and leave him in the middle of the desert. He struggles to get across country in time for Christmas, not to be with his family but to win the car with which his father bribed him to come home. A few humorous sight gags during his journey, like his being befriended by a vulture, don't come close to saving this unattractive movie. One problem right off the bat was that the lead actor was supposed to be a college student yet looked more like a high school freshman. Even worse, his targeted girlfriend looked to be 25 and enough taller than him that it was unbelievable that they'd be a couple. The final nail in this mess's coffin is that it wasn't really a Christmas movie. It could have taken place any time of the year.
I'm Not Ready For Christmas
A lady advertising executive constantly lies to get her own way and excuse broken promises. When she breaks her niece's heart once too often, the girl asks Santa to make her always tell the truth. which he does. The first twenty minutes of this movie were okay to watch because the lead actress was attractive, vibrant and if she didn't tell the truth or dodge out of a promise, she gave the impression she was being mischievous or forced into it by circumstance rather than being mean. We actually looked forward to seeing her get what she deserved and how it was going to turn her around. The problem started when the niece's wish took hold. I suppose the actress thought she was projecting the idea that she'd lost control of her mouth, that it was talking all on its own. It didn't work. Instead what we felt was creeped out. Her mouth movements seemed so strange it was like a demented doctor had replaced her mouth with something robotic. It was very unpleasant to watch. Worse still, the vigor with which she hurled the truth at everyone made her statements sound more like insults than confessions. A minor quibble, but one we both picked up on, is that Santa's beard was so obviously fake that it looked like a tangle of polyester thread had been glued to his chin. The mustache wasn't even properly glued down so a clear gap was visible between the mustache and the skin under it. We had a similar issue with the title. It didn't seem to hint at what the movie was about, which is unusual for Hallmark productions.
This movie is a remake of the Jim Carrey classic, Liar, Liar, in which he plays a lawyer forced to tell the truth after his son makes a birthday wish for him to do so. Regrettably, it's not nearly as good.
It Nearly Wasn't Christmas
Santa, Charles Durning, considers cancelling Christmas because people have become so selfish. Terrible production values, affected acting and two of the ugliest elves I've ever seen ruined this movie.
It's Christmas, Carol
Mean lady publisher gets the Christmas Carol treatment. Painfully predictable with no twists to make it interesting.
Michael Keaton plays an inattentive father who's killed in a snow accident. One year later he's reincarnated as a snowman to help his son. Ridiculous premise not helped by a creepy looking snowman that would be more in place in a slasher movie.
Psychopath is killed in a toxic soup of chemicals and turns into an evil snowman. This is even worse than the Michael Keaton version above.
Jingle all the Way
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a father willing to do anything to get the latest must-have toy for his son, including theft and violence. Many people like this movie and applaud it for Arnold's comedic skills and the satiric look at the commercialization of Christmas. We felt it was so harsh it failed to reflect the Christmas spirit.
Jingle All The Way 2
Larry The Cable Guy's low brow humor failed to make this sequel any better than the original.
Just In Time For Christmas
William Shatner looks very strange as a magical messenger transferring a woman three years into the future to see how her choice of career over love turns out. Other than decorations this movie doesn't have much to do with Christmas. We were never able to believe in either the story or the characters. Christopher Loyd (Back To The Future) in particular seems out of place.
The three ghosts get the wrong address and end up at the neighbor next to the Christmas hater. An interesting idea ruined by the male lead being unattractively flaky and actually almost as anti-Christmas as his mean neighbor. The ghosts were ridiculous characters.
The Kid Who Loved Christmas
Drama about a musician who looses his wife and struggles to maintain custody of his adopted son. The plot is all about the father's situation and only has a passing connection to the holiday. Production values were poor.
Comedy-horror movie about a boy who summons a demon that terrorizes his family over the holiday. Not our cup of tea.
Kristin's Christmas Past
Thirty-something girl drinks magic champagne and dreams about going back in time to spend time with herself as a teenager to hopefully prevent her from making mistakes that ruined her life. The film opens with the female lead acting so offensively unattractive that we almost turned it off after ten minutes. It got better after that but there was still to much conflict for us to enjoy it. One interesting twist was that she learned that she couldn't change the past. The purpose of the dream (or was it real?) was to teach her to change her present. Still, for us this wasn't enough to save this movie.
Last Ounce of Courage
Son killed in war inspires the Christmas spirit in those he left behind. Over the top patriotic themes combined with a sound track composed of mostly military marches result a hokey feel that ruins what could have been a good movie. Poor acting and cliched characters don't help.
Looks Like Christmas
single parents feud over the production of their children's high
school Christmas show. The feud was so mean spirited that by the time
the two leads discovered they were in love and started working
together, the movie was ruined for us. Another problem was the father
was made to look like a bad guy because he was struggling to hold
onto a job he needed to support his daughter. His work repeatedly
forced him to miss parts of the production, but his accepting the
responsibility to work to provide a house and food was presented in
such a way as to make him appear to be a bad father. Finally, Anne
Heche played her character with so much frantic energy she became
grating to watch.
Melodrama about a couple on the verge of divorce getting stranded while snowmobiling. Supposedly based on a true story. The wife was relentlessly critical for so long that by the time things started turning around we didn't really care if they were found or not. There were also far to many artificially angsty subplots.
Love At The Christmas Table
Story about a man returning to his hometown after five years to try and marry a girl from his youth. Obviously edited for television, the story progresses through scenes of many past Christmases neatly fitted between commercial breaks, following the ups and downs of the two friends' relationship. We like Christmas romances but this one didn't work for us. Part of the problem was that the two lead actors didn't look old enough for the characters they were supposed to be playing.
Love's Christmas Story also sometimes titled Love's Christmas Journey
Good production values and attractive actors give this movie a good start... but then things go bad very fast. First, like more and more Christmas movies it's filmed in summer to save production costs. Second, that characters are all cliched and uninteresting. Third, the connection to Christmas is almost nonexistent. It could just as easily taken place any time of the year. Fourth, at 4 hours long even if it was a great movie it would be hard to watch it in one sitting. The plot is as cliched as the characters and one the Hallmark has recycled many times. A young widow goes west to live with her widowed brother and in so doing finds love and thwarts an evil land developer. The only difference is that this time it's a western costume drama taking place in the late 1800s. This movie is sometimes broken into two, 2-hour segments to lure in the unsuspecting.
Struggling single mother wins a lottery but loses the ticket when her car is "borrowed" by a clutsy character to get his sick friend home. The story revolves around the friend trying to return the ticket. This could have been a "good to watch once" movie except for the clutsy friend who is so self centered and weasely inconsiderate that instead of being comic relief he's disgustingly offensive. Another glaring problem is that to stretch out the difficulty of returning the ticket the writer invokes a ridiculously impossible accident where the ticket gets stuck to the bottom of the heroine's son's boot. The connection to Christmas is only a token gesture and like many such movies the plot could have occurred any time of the year by simply changing a few words and two sets. Particularly artificial was one scene where to give the impression that it was supposed to be cold, a store front Santa in a heavy Santa suit could be seen wrapping his arms around himself as if he was freezing, at the same time everyone around him were wearing much lighter clothes and walking by unaffected by the supposedly low temperature. Small details like this jump off the scene to destroy what little credibility the movie had.
Tomboy girl at a 1890s boarding school for rich girls discovers a poor girl hiding in the forbidden attic so she can pretend to be attending the school to which she always wanted to go. The dialog was so artificially stilted that none of the girls sounded believable. The story takes place around Christmas but the holiday or its spirit didn't play an important part in the movie. It wasn't about Christmas at all, rather about how the tomboy was going to convince the cliched mean head mistress to accept the poor girl as a student.
The March Sisters At Christmas
Superficial, modernized version of Little Women as sisters come together over Christmas to prevent their mother from selling the family home. It has nothing to do with Christmas and actually takes place mostly around Thanksgiving.
Marry Me For Christmas
Another retelling of the old plot of a lady conning a man to pretend to be her boyfriend to appease her family. Except for the annoying musical background, this isn't a bad romantic comedy, but it has nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas other than a very few decorations scattered around. It could just as well have taken place any time of the year.
Marry Us For Christmas
We felt this situation comedy about a busy career couple struggling to manage their long distance relationship while planning their wedding was overly contrived. Also, other than a few token Christmas decorations in the background it doesn't have much to do with the holidays or the Christmas spirit.
Santa helps two couples find love in this romantic comedy. Discovering love and the Christmas spirit were good elements in this movie as were the two main romantic leads. However, the Santa didn't feel quite right to us and three particulary childish special effects put us off. As a cook, I found one aspect of the movie ridiculous. One girl was supposed to be able to make the most delicious cookies in the world because of her secret ingredient. This was vanilla, one of the most common additives to cookies. Making out that it's unusual was ludicrous. The soundtrack was particularly annoying. It was too loud and paced to reflect the intended mood of the moment so exactly that it made the movie feel like the actors were repeating every line. After watching it we agreed it wasn't that bad, yet we cringed at the thought of watching it again even though we couldn't explain why. For that reason we're relegating it to the avoid list, though one of the best in it. +
Merry Christmas, Baby
Mother wants to throw an expensive one-year birthday party for her baby. Practical husband resists. Complications arise and she discovers things worked out for the best after all. There were so many cliched characters that the movie looked like the writing staff didn't know how real people behave.
Merry Christmas, Drake and Josh
Two young men get ordered by a judge to help a little girl have a happy Christmas. Filmed in Spring to save production costs. Weak acting and writing.
We were able to overlook the weak acting, lame writing, cliched African-American stereotyping and the mean-spirited plot about a woman planning to ruin her ex-husband's wedding, but when this poor excuse for a movie made a joke about leaving a child locked in a car we turned it off. Every year children die in this manner. When this happens, the child doesn't just stop living, they are literally cooked alive over a period of hours. It is one of the slowest and most excruciating ways to be killed... and this film makes a joke about it. I know right know someone's reading this and saying, "Lighten up man, It's just a joke." But I'm sorry, there are some subjects that simply shouldn't be joked about because doing so can lead to complacency and from that to the death of a child. --
A lady advertising executive has to work with a man who dropped her back when she was in college with him. Predictable plot, cliched characters and weak acting make this movie hard to watch because it seemed to drag on forever.
Merry X-Mas (also titled Merry Ex-Mas)
a publicity stunt, a woman fakes a photograph of her having an
affair with her security guard (an unshaved Dean Cain.) His wife sees
the photo on television and within minutes starts divorce
proceedings. The movie had a ugly edge from the very start,
maintained for almost the entire length of the film by the wife's
unattractively sarcastic, manipulative, perpetually drunk mother.
Several other unpleasant characters completely soured us on this mess.
Mistletoe Over Manhattan
Santa is losing the Christmas spirit so Mrs. Claus goes to New York to find something to help him recapture it. She ends up working as a nanny to a family that's breaking up. Mr. and Mrs. Claus act so soppy it's almost like they are children. Once in the big city she's a mixture of cluelessness and wisdom that seemed contradictory. The two children in the marriage were cliched characters and several situations felt artificial and forced. This isn't the worse Christmas show we've watched but we caught ourselves wanting to click on the fast forward button so often we can't recommend it.
A young lady misses the chance of a lifetime to join a local singing group because the group's leader chooses and old friend instead. Attempted slapstick that ends up looking silly, characters dripping with unattractive and affected attitude, and acting that was supposed to come across as quirky but ended up looking childish renders this a good movie to miss.
Noisy, frenetic, unfunny comedy about a suicide help line service being foreclosed on over Christmas.
A Mom for Christmas
Olivia Newton John, who normally I love, plays a mannequin brought to life by a lady angel to fulfill a young girl's wish for a mother for herself and a wife for her widowed father. This "B" grade production was written as if no one knew where they wanted to go with it. Cheesy special effects and music reminiscent of The Exorcist gave the movie a disjointed feel. The ending is so predictable it made us wince.
Cicely Tyson is over the top as a cold pawn shop owner who gets the Christmas Carol routine.
The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas
Even Munster fans will have a problem with the poor acting in this story of little Eddie Munster having a hard time dealing with a school bully and his family's recent move to the US from Transylvania. The caste overplay their roles generating the uncomfortable feeling that they are trying too hard and in so doing make it impossible to accept them.
My Dad Is Scrooge
Bathroom humor five minutes into this movie, unattractive characters, weak acting, poor production values and painfully cliched stereotypes made this story about a father who's not only anti-Christmas but also would rather work than spend time with his overly-sweet children during the holidays excruciating to endure.
My One Christmas Wish
A lady social worker who grew up in foster care advertises for a family to share Christmas with as she works with four troubled teen girls. We wanted to like this movie by the UP network because its sentiments were in the right place. But it was so slow moving and dreary we couldn't get into it. It left us feeling sad.
Cynical single mother falls in love with a mall Santa that turns out to be, you guessed it, Santa's son. Weak writing, lame acting and predictable situations made this movie a challenge to endure.
My Secret Santa
Driven business woman goes home for Christmas, drops a penny in a wishing well wishing for love and suddenly starts receiving notes from "Secret Santa." It turns out he's a boyfriend she grew up with who died, but through some sort of dimensional warp is trying to reach out to her. Just when everything seems to have fallen apart she wishes again for him at the well, nothing happens so she drives off and has an accident. When she awakes it turns out her life was all a dream and the man who died was really alive and her boyfriend. The movie was filmed in summer to reduce production costs and had very little to do with Christmas. It was really more of a ghost story. As improbable as the plot sounds the writers and director handled it surprisingly well, almost elevating it to the okay-to-see-once list. But, the "and then she woke up and everything was a dream" ending made us groan in disappointment so much that we felt cheated. It's too bad because production values and acting were mostly good.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
If you enjoy Chevy Chase's constant comic mugging you'll like this movie. We found it repetitive, crude and a complete waste of time. I have to admit, though, that I did enjoy the scene when he turns on all 1,000,000 Christmas lights he put on his house and the drain on the power grid maxes out the town's generator station.
Eighteen year old amateur blogger has a tree planted for him on his first birthday selected by a contest to be planted in the White House ellipse for the new national Christmas tree. As he and his father truck it across country, the marketing manager at the corporation sponsoring the planting decides to have it cut instead of planted so that the contest can be repeated every year. We wanted to place this movie in the "see once" list but couldn't because it has too many cliche's and is painfully predictable. The father is the cliched ultra-serious widower type, the son is the cliched irresponsible youth and the marketing manager at the corporation is the cliched heartless business man. Particularly annoying are the son and his girl friend. Miscasting actors that are obviously in their 20s to play teenagers makes them hard to accept and their using a few too many 'like's in conversation makes them appear artificial. Keri Matchet as the father's new love interest is the best thing in the movie, but not enough to save it. The second the movie discloses the evil corporation's plants to kill the tree are revealed, the way the tree will be saved is ridiculously obvious. Finally, in spite of this being a movie about the national Christmas tree, Christmas plays a very small role.
Naughty or Nice
George Lopez is a radio sports shock jock trapped into being nice. The expected happens. My biggest quibble is that on three occasions the main character crossed the line about what is acceptable abuse and in so doing becomes ugly. Once that line is crossed it's hard to empathize with the character. For example, he makes a joke out of announcing on the radio to thousands of people that his teenage daughter has hairy legs and needs to shave them. In real life this sort of thing would make her the laughing stock at school for years to come. Also, the twist at the end was unbelievable and unnecessary.
The Night Before, The Night Before Christmas
Santa takes off a day early, crashes, looses his memory and ends up with a disfunctional family. Slow, predictable, weak writing and unispired acting make this a good one to miss. One of the stand-out negatives of this movie is that Santa doesn't look like Santa and his suit seems scruffy.
The Night They Saved Christmas
Lame dialog and weak acting make a ridiculous story about arctic drillers threatening to destroy Santa's workshop painful to watch. Grade B production values and Paul Williams' silly characterization of Santa's head elf don't help. What's amazing is that many talented people participated in this mess: Art Carney, Jacelyn Smith, Paul Williams and Jackie Cooper just to name a few. (Sometimes also listed as The Night They Saved Santa.)
This is a low budget, artsy movie about passengers on a train on Christmas Eve trying to solve the mystery of a man who dies on the train. Very interesting to look at but not what we enjoy for a Christmas movie.
Penelope Cruz plays a woman engaged to an excessively jealous policeman. His jealousy is so extreme it's offensive. Add to this a silly story line about an old man thinking the policeman is the reincarnation of his wife and the whole thing becomes an unredeemable mess.
A reporter finds a note from someone who died in an airplane crash written to someone named "T." She writes a series of stories about trying to find who "T" is. The movie's not that bad, though a little too sweet at times, but isn't in any way a TV Christmas movie and the few Christmas decorations in the background doesn't make it one.
Nothing Like The Holidays
Cliched Puerto Rican family gathering with too many subplots. The acting was good but infrequent coarse language and the fact that Christmas is hardly mentioned make this a movie we consider not worth watching.
A Nutcracker Christmas
This is a well made drama about a lady who has success as a ballerina snatched from at the last second by fate. Years later, she has to work with her ex-ballerina boyfriend to help her niece also become a ballerina. Although there are many scenes of dancing the Nutcracker, this movie isn't really about Christmas or the Christmas spirit. It could have just as easily been about any dance taking place any time of the year. We might have been okay with that if the overall mood of the movie wasn't so somber. When it comes to Christmas movies we're looking for something that's fun.
An Old Fashioned Christmas
A rich American brings her granddaughter to England to meet a royal flame who's fallen on hard times. His wife plans to marry his son to the granddaughter to save the family estate. This is a typical, though not bad, 1900 costume piece that we're relegating to the avoid list because although it's supposed to occur over Christmas, despite all the green grass and trees, the plot has nothing to do with Christmas.
Once Upon a Christmas
Santa thinks the world has lost belief in him so he threatens to quite. Good daughter decides to visit a non-believing family to convince them to embrace the Christmas spirit and in so doing restore Santa's faith. Bad daughter attempts to thwart her. Lame and ridiculous ending with a glowing-light, laying-on-of-hands scene that was painfully hokey.
Once Upon a Holiday
A princess runs away for a day of adventure in New York, is befriended by nice guy, falls in love and everything ends happily ever after. This very poor remake of the outstanding Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn suffers from a muffled audio track that makes everyone hard to understand, an overly loud and repetitive background music and a gross miscasting of the princess. The actress appears to have been selected for the role based on a weak resemblance to Princess Katherine of Britain. In fact in the movie she's even referred to as Princess Kate. It was such an obvious attempt at audience manipulation that it was insulting. As for the actress herself, her deep, husky voice was difficult to understand at times and not pleasant to listen to at others. Physically she projected far too muscular an image to be associated with what most people think of when they imagine a princess. We don't mean to sound overly critical, but in one scene she was running and her gait was so awkward it looked as if she was wearing lead shoes. We really wanted to like this movie because it starred the always excellent Paul Campbell, who's become a Hallmark regular. But it ended up being so uncomfortable to listen to and boring to watch that we feel we have to warn people that this is one to avoid.
Henry Winkler plays a con man so unrelentingly self centered and manipulative for so long that by the time his visiting 8-year old son turns his heart around, that we couldn't believe it and didn't care. Additionally, other than the barest mention of Christmas this movie has nothing to do with the holiday.
One Christmas Eve
This isn't really a movie, but a sequence of ridiculous catastrophes that bring together a group of people on Christmas eve. It starts off with a man getting stuck with a puppy he doesn't want, then he breaks his ankle trying to force it on a single mother with two irritating children, who take him to the hospital where their van gets towed for illegal parking, but not before her son breaks his arm falling down a hole in a construction site, where her daughter looses her coat and gets hypothermia, after which the guard who had the mother's van towed gives them a lift home, but his car breaks down and while waiting for a tow two armed men show up and rob everyone. And that's just the first half of the movie. It goes on and on like that, painfully grinding through unfunny misadventures that don't seem to be connected by anything resembling a plot. The strangest thing is that in spite of all this action the movie drags. The lead actress's hyperactive acting didn't help.
One Magic Christmas
A wife and mother who's cynical about Christmas has to suffer through her husband's unemployment, eviction from their house, her getting fired, her husband's murder and her children's kidnapping and death while an enigmatic field agent for the spirit of Christmas lurks nearby performing a variety of minor miracles. In the end he takes one of her children to visit Santa to provide proof to the wife that Santa exists. When she embraces the spirit of Christmas he rewards her by shifting her back in time so that through a couple of acts of kindness she prevents a bank robbery, saves the robber's life and even convinces the mean boss that fired her to give her the holiday off. In spite of all this action the movie plods. The acting is generally lame and most of the characters are boring cliches. Production values are extremely low. Particularly annoying is the implication that if the wife hadn't embraced the spirit of Christmas she would have been left to suffer even though none of the tragedies were her fault. This doesn't sound very much like the spirit of Christmas too me.
Osone-Ke No Ashita
1948 Japanese movie with English subtitles about the problems of a mother over Christmas in post WWII Japan who adopted a pacifistic stance during the war. This drama is very heavy and while it may be an excellent movie, the grainy, jittering image and noisy sound track made it impossible for us to enjoy.
Overly quaint, poor mountain family struggle through a year of tragedy. This movie has only the slightest connection to Christmas.
Two distressed families struggle through the holiday season as they rekindle their faith. This is typical of the UP (Uplifting) Christian network: melancholy situations and a dreary sound track combine to create a sad tone that the happy ending fails to overcome. We also found it slow moving with bland acting.
The Perfect Christmas
A lawyer gets fired three days before Christmas while his wife discovers she's pregnant, all while they have a house full of guests. Once again we felt this summer Christmas offering from Hallmark suffered from an overly loud music track and occasionally muffled voices, though not as bad as in some Hallmark releases. The biggest problem was that it felt like the director couldn't decide if this was supposed to be a comedy or a drama. Some of the situations that could be viewed as tragic were handled almost flippantly, but not lightly enough to make them humorous. Fans of the early 1980s series Buck Rogers may find it interesting to see how the female star of that show, Erin Grey, looks playing a cliched stepmother.
A Perfect Christmas List
An ailing grandmother tricks her daughter and granddaughter into performing Christmas tasks to get them to reconnect. This movie felt very artificial and contrived from the first scene. The romantic male lead was also not a very good actor. This was another movie filmed in summer to reduce production costs. Streets lined with trees in full leaf and flowers blooming around every house were unbelievable. Things don't look that good even in southern California in December.
A Perfect Day
There are three things wrong with this Rob Lowe movie released in March of 2008. First, although the final scene takes place during Christmas it's not a Christmas movie because Christmas has nothing to do with the plot. Second, the plot of a nice-guy writer seduced by sudden success and turning into a self absorbed egotist is cliched. Third, the surprise revelation at the end of the movie was so poorly written that it felt contrived.
A Perfect Holiday
Young girl asks Santa for a husband for her divorced mother. The movie opens with a childishly animated credit sequence, then employs silly special effects as a man chases a runaway bill. From there it quickly goes downhill. Predictable, cliched, weak writing and acting. Queen Lativa's narrative mugging into the camera was particularly distracting.
The excessively adorable girl of an overly curmudgeon single father saves an injured reindeer thinking it's Prancer. The deer is captured, put on display, she gets injured trying to free it and the deer saves her live by laying next to her to keep her from freezing until help arrives. The last scene shows the obvious truth about the reindeer. The entire movie was corny and unbelievable.
A Princess For Christmas
In this weak remake of Little Lord Fauntleroy, an American girl caring for the children orphaned when her sister and royal heir husband are killed is called to the ancestral home of the children's grandfather, a Duke. The children warm his bitter heart and she finds love with his son. Every single character and scene in this movie is a painful cliche. One adult character has a scene that's so childish it's embarrassing to watch. This is actually a lame romantic comedy that could have taken place any time of the year. One particularly odd problem is that the royal family is supposed to be German yet all of the principle characters have English accents. I'm giving it + because while it's not very good, it's still more watchable that most of the movies in this "avoid" list. So if you choose to watch it consider yourself warned. Think of it as the best of the worst. +
Richie Rich's Christmas Wish
Adolescent silliness. The ridiculous toy gimmicks might entertain children... if they're very young.
The Road to Christmas
Lady fashion photographer gets stranded in the middle of nowhere. A single father and his daughter give her a ride to her supposedly dream wedding. The expected happens with painful predictability.
A Rose For Christmas
A bossy executive tries to take over the management of the construction of his business's Rose Parade float. We thought the executive was a little too arrogant to be enjoyable to watch and while this movie takes place over Christmas it isn't really a Christmas movie. It's about building a float for the Rose Parade, which occurs almost a week later. There are many movies in this category that are far worse, so we're giving it a + sign to let people know it might be okay to watch as long as they don't mind it not being about Christmas.
NEW!!! A Royal Family Christmas
children try to get their divorced parents back together. If you
enjoy cliched African-American stereotypes, weak acting and even
weaker writing, this movie might work for you. It didn't for us.
Plodding soap opera involving betrayal, death, suicide, guilt, sacrifice and eventual happiness. This movie has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas except for a few scenes that take place on Christmas. Also titled Anne Tyler - Saint Maybe. (Anne Tyler was the author of the novel upon which this movie is based.)
Cheesy low-budget 1959 European-made fantasy about Santa fighting the devil. TCM's programming director should have been fired for airing this mess.
Santa Baby 2
Unlike the very good original, this sequel in which Santa decides to retire and turn over the family business to his daughter, is a good movie to pass on. It has a harsh, frenetic look and an excess of angry conflict. Jenny MaCarthy isn't as believably as an efficient business woman as she was in the first movie and that takes a lot away from it.
Santa Buddies/Santa Paws
We found this Disney movie to be irritatingly sweet. It about talking puppies with animated mouths helping Santa to restore the Christmas spirit in the world. "B" grade special effects and a dreary beginning with a lame narrative to explain the plot quickly established that this wasn't a movie for us. Very young children may be entertained once they get past the opening few minutes.
Santa Buddies/ The Search For Santa Paws
Talking puppies save Christmas again when Santa is hit by a car and losses his memory. This one suffers from the same problems as the first Santa Buddies with the added detractions of being an ineffective musical, using an orphaned little girl in a cornily manipulative manner, a cliched mean orphanage manager and a Santa that looked a little creepy to us.
The Santa Clause 2
Tim Allen has to get married or lose his position as Santa Claus. He also has to deal with his now teenage son who has turned into a graffiti vandal. While Santa's away dealing with these problems a creepy looking artificial Santa is used to keep things running at the north pole. This movie tries too hard.
Santa Claus, the Movie
This is one of the strangest movies I've ever seen. The first hour is a heavy-handed account of how Santa Claus came to be. It's stylistically archaic, like a grade "B" presentation of a European myth. The second half is like a completely different movie took over the plot as one of Santa's elves leaves and hooks up with an unscrupulous toy manufacturer. Like a mixture of Monty Python and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory held together with low budget special effects, the second half, filmed in an oddly flat-looking manner, is bazaar to say the least. John Lithgow has some funny lines as the toy manufacturer but many times he plays it over the top. This is a good one to miss.
Santa Conquers Martians
Avoid at all costs! Lame special effects, childish acting by adults, embarrassingly poor writing, a ridiculous plot and production values so bad they'll make you go blind in one eye make this one of the worst Christmas movies of all time.
Silly, low budget movie about Homeland Security shooting down Santa. He's taken in by a nurse while two silly Homeland Security agents try to trap him into revealing where his sleigh is so they can steal its technology. This movie frustrated us because while the plot and acting were terrible, the actor playing Santa was one of the best we've ever seen. Still, he couldn't save it from being relegated to the "avoid" list.
Santa's son gets arrested for breaking into a house. The police think he was stealing presents, not leaving them. Some interesting twists in the first third of this movie get it off to an interesting start. But, it quickly deteriorates with the introduction of a couple of coarse characters, several unfunny slapstick scenes and it ends with ridiculous special effects and sickeningly sweet and artificial sentimentality. The most disappointing aspect of this movie isn't that it ended up poorly, but that by changing just a few plot and character details it could have been a keeper.
Santa Paws and Santa Paws II
Painfully simplistic plots about Santa's Great Pyrenees puppies helping to save Christmas. The amateurish lip animation to make the puppies appear to be talking is no better than what was used 70 years ago, and to much poorer effect, in movies such as The Road To Morocco. No dog can act. But well trained dogs can be directed through a series of actions that create the appearance of emotion. An excellent example is the original Benji movie. In the Santa Paws series the dogs appear to be vacantly looking around waiting for something to happen. The contrast with their animated lips creates a jarring disconnect. Very young children under the age of 6 may find these movies entertaining but adults should avoid them.
Santa gives a broke and jobless man in a failing marriage all his powers along with the responsibility to make Christmas happen. The man uses his powers to try and fix his life, but only makes things worse. This movie had a desperate, frantic feel that turned us off.
Leslie Neilson seems as confused about what he's doing in this movie as the amnesiac Santa he portrays. This is an unfunny "low-B" movie filled with uninteresting characters. The particularly poor special effects by themselves make this a great movie to avoid.
The emphasis is on physical-abuse comedy in this unpleasant version of A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray plays it over the top as a anti-Christmas, counter culture TV network president. None of the characters were believable and the acting in general was extremely poor.
Second Chance Christmas
Good acting and production values make this a thoroughly watchable drama. But, the tragic plot of a stepfather and son bonding following the death of the boy's mother and the fact that most of the movie takes place after Christmas rendered it so sad and disconnected from Christmas and the Christmas spirit that we can't recommend it as a Christmas movie.
NEW!!! Second Chance Christmas
A wife in an unhappy marriage looses her memory and her husband uses it as an opportunity to save their marriage. We found the lazy husband such a jerk that after 15 minutes we hated this movie so much nothing that followed redeemed it.
Linda Hamilton is good as the German mother who convinces American and German soldiers to leave their guns outside her cabin over Christmas. The story is interesting and the acting good yet I put this movie in the "avoid" list for one reason: although it's supposed to be based on a true story I found it impossible to believe that a battle-hardened, German-hating sergeant would lay aside his weapon and allow his men to be out numbered just because a woman stamped her foot, metaphorically, and told him to so. Even if he was trusting enough for his own sake, to place his men in jeopardy was too difficult to accept. Perhaps if the scene had been staged more believably it might have saved this otherwise good movie.
Horror story about detectives hunting a killer Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
A stereotypically unsympathetic work-comes-first father drives his photographically gifted teenage son to run away over Christmas. The boy lives on the streets making a living selling photos to a magazine. Predictably, everyone ends up finding the spirit of Christmas, love, and the son gets reunited with his father.
A Smoky Mountain Christmas
This could have been a nice little movie about a frustrated country singer who escapes to a mountain hideaway, meets the love of her life and has a merry Christmas. But, someone decided that wouldn't hold viewer's attention so they added a troop of too-cute orphans, a lecherous sheriff, a buffoonish tabloid reporter, mean orphanage matrons and even a witch. Watching this movie gives the impression the director or writer kept throwing things at it in the hopes these tricks would support the plot. It comes off as one of the worst movies we've ever seen. Dolly Parton plays the singer and is relentlessly provided contrived situations to sing, the child actors can't act and poor Lee Majors uncomfortably plods through his scenes. I like Dolly Parton but even she couldn't save this mess.
Santa's son (Tom Cavanagh) looses one of the reindeer to a zoo hunter a week before Christmas and uses a spacial warp (like Stargate) through a mirror to find the animal. Stereotypical sassy young boy, perky blonde, lecherous bad guy, dithery old people and everyone trying too hard make watching this mess pure torture.
Snow 2: Brain Freeze
Santa (Tom Cavanagh) looses his memory in this sequel to Snow and the hunter from the original movie, now down on his luck, sees this as an opportunity to even the score. The actor playing the hunter portrays his character with such gleeful badness that it almost saves this movie. The problem is that Cavanagh is so over-the-top frenetic that the movie becomes ridiculous.
Cliched characters are tiresome in what is supposed to be an Italian family, except the father is African American and the two daughters are Hispanic. We have nothing against mixing ethnicities to create interesting interactions but this felt artificial, like the casting director decided to add one of everything in an attempt to please everyone. Also, the mother, one of the daughters and her husband are unbelievably selfish. (At one point they try to take over the other daughter's apartment and expect her to pay for the rent because they can't afford it. Then they give her attitude because she doesn't think it's fair.) The theme of the story is that the single daughter doesn't like her life and gets pulled into the ideal Christmas world inside a snowglobe. Magically, things, including two of the globe's inhabitants, come back with her into the real world. In the end she finds the man of her dreams and learns to love the family and life she has. It was a cute idea handled very poorly.
A Snowglobe Christmas
Alicia Witt, whom we usually like, seemed lost in this movie about a grinchy movie director visited by a magical bell ringer who makes a snowglobe hit her in the head so that she's sent inside the snowglobe to spend time living the married family life she always dreamed about to teach her how to be a nicer person. If that sentence reads overly long, it's an attribute shared by this movie. It annoyed us from the first moment and I'm sorry to say it didn't get any better. But, if you like watching Alicia Witt, and who doesn't, this is one of the few "avoids" you might want to try. +
Sons of Mistletoe
Overly cold hearted daughter of a philanthropic man plans to sell his business and cancel all his charities after he dies. Excessively buoyant director of a boys home romances her and tries to get her to change her mind. Cliched characters and plot combine with pedestrian performances to make this a movie to avoid. Some people may feel I'm being unfair but the lead actress looked so anorectic that her face had an unattractive, almost skeletal, appearance.
A Star For Christmas
The grating electric music accompanying the opening sequences set our teeth on edge so much we almost deleted this movie before two minutes had passed. However, we stuck it out. Seemed like a good idea at the time. What we got was a noisy, frentic, silly movie about a movie star filming in a small town and ending up helping a struggling cupcake baker in her store. Complicated and improbable loves results. This annoying romantic comedy has nothing to do with Christmas accept a few lame decorations.
So many troubled people, a young boy with a virulently-negative attitude and the kidnapping of a sick baby made this movie so revolting we couldn't finish it. Maybe it has a redeeming finish but the first half was too bad to endure.
Filmed in summer to reduce production costs, this movie about an African-American family's holiday get-together isn't really a Christmas movie. It's about bringing together a collection of people with problems for the sake of entertainment. We found it impossible to believe that one family could have so many different types of people with such a wide range of personal issues. Seveal violent scenes made us wonder if we were watching an underworld crime movie.
Thomas Kincade's Christmas
This is a melodrama about eight conflicted people being trapped in a church over Christmas. During their stay they all find their way to happiness and rediscover their faith. The acting, with the exception of the young boy, was mostly good but the tone was so overpoweringly dreary that the uplifting moments at the end weren't enough to leave us feeling anything but sad.
3 Day Christmas
The father of a disconnected family turns off all utilities to his house and forces his family to spend three days there to grow closer. Unbelievable plot that had practically nothing to do with Christmas. We found the sound track particularly irritating.
Success-driven business man sees his wife die and an angel grants him the chance to relive the last three days of her life. There's a desperate melancholy running through this movie that doesn't make watching a pleasant experience. The ending is painfully predictable.
NEW!!! Three Holiday Tales
A retired couple help a young couple get back together. Filmed in Florida to reduce production costs, this movie is okay to watch as a romance story but it has nothing to do with Christmas. It's not a bad movie, it just isn't really a Christmas movie.
Three Wise Guys
Tom Arnold is a sleazy casino owner who sends three thugs on a mission to kill an informer. Along the way they meet their match in a pregnant woman named Mary. Filmed in Las Vegas in Summer to reduce production costs, this movie employs a lot of silly, slapstick humor to entertain. It starts off with prostitutes, murder and glorifying archetype criminals. Also, the story could have just as well been adapted to any season. We can't recommend it.
The Three Wishes
Dean Cain plays a financially challenged husband who runs a toy factory. He invites three boys to spend Christmas with him. They think he and his wife are only going to adopt the one of them they like the most so the boys engage in lying, deceit and sabotage in a mean spirited battle as each tries to become the favorite and get adopted. The child actors aren't that good, the war-to-be-the-favorite is offensively not in the Christmas spirit and the ending was so predictable that it was obvious after five minutes of watching.
Tis The Season For Love
I'm highlighting this movie to emphasize a persistent problem that used to plague so many Hallmark productions. Tis The Season For Love had everything going for it: great production values, entertaining plot, good acting and attractive actors. Sarah Lancaster in particular was gorgeous and appealing as a struggling actress returning home over the holidays to discover what's important in her life. This is a movie that could easily have made it into the "Must Watch" category. Yet ten minutes into it we started fast forwarding. The cause was that Tis The Season For Love was yet another example of Hallmark's insistence of forcing viewers to suffer through an overly loud, generic, repetitive musical sound track. When combined with a frequently muffled voice track it gave us headaches. In Tis The Season For Love the music isn't background, it's foreground, meaning that in many places it sounds louder than the actors voices. If the problem was with our hearing or TV, then it would be the same for everything we watch, but it isn't. Why Hallmark and its production companies continue to ruin so many otherwise excellent movies is a complete mystery to us. Please believe me when I state that I have nothing against Hallmark. We enjoy many of its movies every year and Hallmark has made many we cherish and watch over and over. We just wish they would listen to their movies before releasing them and adjust the music loudness so it doesn't interfere with understanding what the actors are saying. Lifetime and many other similar companies don't have this problem, so why does Hallmark? The fact that some Hallmark releases don't have this problem suggests the fault lays with one particular production company that makes and sells the offending movies to Hallmark. If so, then why doesn't Hallmark order them to tone it down a little? We're beginning to think Hallmark considers these loud soundtracks as one of its trademarks. If so, then someone needs to tell Hallmark that it's an unattractive trademark. Although we put Tis The Season For Love in the "avoid" list, we encourage everyone to give it a try. It has a lot going for it and hopefully they will be able to ignore the music. I just wish we could have.
Compare this movie to the excellent soundtrack in the Hallmark movie Magic Stocking and you'll appreciate how a much better soundtrack kept at a lower volume improves a movie.
Tis The Season For Love had so much good going for it that I rerecorded it in a different time slot to see if something was wrong with the first transmission. I forced myself to watch it again and observed several interesting things. First, this movie was not produced by Crown Media, one of Hallmark's worst offenders in making movies with loud soundtracks. Second, in the opening scenes, the problem isn't just that the soundtrack is too loud, but also that it's pitched so close to the pitch of the two ladies speaking that it's difficult to differentiate their voices from the music. Later on there are several scenes where the soundtrack is still loud, but it's pitched higher than the voices and it's much less annoying. Finally, there are scenes where there is no music at all and during these scenes Tis The Season For Love really shines. Unfortunately, such scenes were too few to save the movie for us.
Once again, please give Tis The Season For Love a try. Hopefully the musical soundtrack won't bother you as much as it did us. UPDATE!!! As of 2016 Hallmark seems to have stopped releasing movies with overly loud soundtracks.
Together Again For The First Time
blended family get together over Christmas. Opens with a long
narrative that made us feel like the author felt he had to hold our
hands to get into the plot. He was right. There are so many
unattractively silly, mean, selfish characters that it quickly became
painful to watch. Most of the attempted humor was conflict driven
with enough off-color references to make it offensive.
To Grandmother's House We Go
We don't mean to be unkind but the sad fact is that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are terrible actors. Besides that, their constant bickering spoil the Christmas spirit in the movie about their decision to take off to visit their grandmother and managed to get kidnapped along the way by two inept thieves. The male lead's acting abilities are equally unimpressive and odd black and white snippets from old westerns cut in as he's driving around singing Roy Rogers' songs give the film a disjointed feeling. Add to this the fact that it had little connection to Christmas and what you end up with is a complete waste of time.
The Town Christmas Forgot
big city family gets stranded in a failing town over the holiday.
They end up joining in, helping many people recover their Christmas
spirit and save the town from bankruptcy. We wanted to like this
movie because even if it was predictable, if done well it could have
been a good movie, as Christmas in My Hometown was. But, it
suffers from so many cliches that it's painful to watch. The father
is too much "let's embrace the situation and have a great
holiday", the wife is a dancer who gave up her dream to become
an excessively successful business woman, the young son is overly
adorable, and the teenage daughter is disgustingly spoiled with
sarcasm dripping off every word.
A Town Without Christmas
Child writes Santa to say he's going to kill himself to help his parents. Public outcry develops and a reporter struggles to figure out mystical clues and dim memories of his own past to save the child. I found it ridiculous, unfunny and unsatisfying.
Trapped in Paradise
Three brothers rob a bank on Christmas Eve. Two of the brothers are so goofy and stupid that instead of being funny they were offensive, an impression quickly supported by an abundance of crude profanity.
'Twas the Night
A rebellious teenager and his con man uncle steal Santa's magic orb and sleigh. The uncle uses them to rob people, the boy finds out and returns the sleigh to Santa. Corny and lame.
Twelve Dates of Christmas
Cheap remake of Groundhod Day, with a girl reliving the same day until she can learn to be less self centered and open her heart to a man she meets and mistreats on a blind date. Other than a little snow and a few Christmas decorations this movie has nothing to do with Christmas. Predicable with a lame special effect.
The Twelve Dog Days of Christmas
The young male lead begins the movie with such a virulently cynical attitude toward everyone and everything that when he finally turns into a nice person, which is the result of his working off community service at a dog shelter, we couldn't care less. Weak acting and writing only added to our misery as we endured this UP (Uplifting) production.
Twelve Disasters of Christmas
Low budget SciFi Channel fantasy about a series of global disasters threatening to destroy the world by Christmas. The key to our salvation lays in magic powers handed down to a teenage girl. Ridiculous.
The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
A struggling artist gets hired by a handsome, young executive to do his Christmas shopping. The predicable romance happens. Besides being marred by yet another of Hallmark's movie-ruining soundtracks, this particular film suffers from weak acting and affected dialog by most of the supporting cast. The two principle love interests are okay but not good enough to make up for the rest of the crew. We recommend watching the very similar and much better A Gift Wrapped Christmas.
The Twelve Men of Christmas
While the first few minutes and the last few take place during two sequential Christmases, the bulk of this movie takes place during the year between them as a New York ad saleslady moves to Montana to take the only job she could find after being fired for creating a scene when she discovers her boss having an affair with her fiance. Even during the brief time when Christmas is in season the movie plays little attention to it, consequently this really isn't a Christmas movie. Add to that the irritatingly nasal voice of the lead actress and you get a movie that isn't worth the time to watch.
The Twelve Trees of Christmas
Booth, who was so good in Christmas Magic, came across as a
little too bubbly in this movie. Combine this with a predictable plot
and a few child actors who read their lines with painful stiffness
and we had to relegate this film to the avoid list. It's not nearly
as bad as many of the others, but it was weak enough that we felt
we'd wasted our time watching it. The plot is about a librarian
trying to save her beloved library from the heartless developer who
wants to tear it down to build condos. As expected, she saves the
library, melts his heart and they live happily ever after.
Twice Upon a Christmas
Sequel to Once Upon a Christmas. Santa's evil daughter is at it again, this time selling off the old homestead. Good daughter returns with her children to save the day. Silly.
Tyler Perry's/Madea Christmas
While African-American drag Santa's aren't our usual viewing choice, we have to admit this one made us laugh... for the first five minutes. After that it was like hearing the same joke over and over. While this movie had a few very truly funny scenes, some unattractive bathroom humor towards the end soured us on it.
Five children without their parents get stranded in a snowed-in airport. Mean security guards try to control them. They resist. The connection to Christmas is almost nonexistent and the comedy revolves around children outwitting bumbling adults. Early in the movie viewers are treated with a scene where 100 adolescents have a belching party.
The Ultimate Christmas Present
Two 13-something girls find Santa's weather controlling machine and use it to create a winter storm. Lame writing, plot and acting.
Bar singer Dolly Parton dies and is given one chance to save her soul: instill love in a family consisting of a widowed father and his two children. The father is the stereotypical man burying himself in work and neglecting his children. They are stereotypical kids with attitudes, yet beneath it all have hearts of gold. Dolly is okay but instead of figuring out how to solve the problem herself keeps turning to St. Peter for help. This weakens her character. Several scenes were painfully contrived to provide her with the opportunity to sing. Don't get me wrong. I like Dolly Parton and appreciate her as both a singer and an actress. It's just that in this movie the writers and director didn't give her much to work with.
One interesting note is that Allison Mac, later of Smallville fame, portrays the young teen daughter.
A Very Brady Christmas
My wife and I were wincing in pain before the opening credits finished on this film. Watching it made us feel as uncomfortable as if hundreds of spiders were crawling over our skin. The weird style of writing and acting made it seem more dated than movies made back in the 40s. I acknowledge that there are fans of the Brady Bunch who will love this film, but for us it was a fingernails-on-blackboard experience to watch.
A Very Cool Christmas
An unattractively self-centered 16 year old girl meets a Mall Santa, who happens to be the real thing, and precedes to give his look an up-to-date makeover. George Hamilton seems uncomfortable, and in some scenes ridiculous, as Santa. The movie begins with a weird dream scene and ends with the usual cliches. Like many current Christmas movies, this one's filmed in summer to save production costs. Not even southern California looks that good in December.
A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas
Terrible. Christmas is used a vehicle for crude humor, profanity and glamorizing drug use.
A Very Married Christmas
Happily married man discovers his wife's been unhappy for a long time, has had a affair and is leaving him. Feeling lost, he signs on as a mall Santa in the hopes of going out with a woman he sees working with the program. This movie has a edgy, weird feeling caused by the subject matter and many flashbacks and vignettes. The one good thing about it is that it features the always attractive Keri Matchet.
A Very Merry Daughter of the Bride
Daughter of a mother-daughter wedding planning business tries to break up her mother's wedding. Although this takes place during the Christmas season the connection to the holiday is so weak that should not be called a Christmas movie. Forgiving that, the movie still suffers from a predictable plot and the lead character too light and flaky to be believable.
What I Did for Love
Young lawyer accompanies his fiance to her widowed and bitter father's ranch for the holidays. Everyone picks on the clueless city boy until he finally proves his worth. Predictable plot and cliched characters. The only connection to Christmas is that the holiday is used as the excuse for the daughter to bring her boyfriend home. Particularly offensive are two painfully obvious imbedded commercials for a well known jewelry chain.
When Angels Come To Town
Katey Sagal (Married... with Children) has several funny scenes as a bookkeeper angel sent down from "the home office" to knock field agent angel Peter Falk back in line. The portrayal of the heavenly realm being as bureaucratically bogged down as earth was refreshing. The spoiler for this movie was the male lead whose knife-lipped portrayal of a son heartlessly modernizing a family ornament company was nothing short of vicious. At one point, as he hands an employee her last paycheck before firing her he smiles with relief as he says how much he's looking forward to not writing paychecks any more. The frantic vehemence of the actor's portrayal of his character soured us on the movie after just 15 minutes. If that was the only problem we would have bumped this one into the "okay to see once" list. But, a stereotypically mean social worker and the female lead's self-absorbed younger brother forced it to be relegated to the dungeon. Too bad too, because with a few changes this could have been a "must see" movie.
While She Was Out
Kim Bassinger is trapped in a mall over Christmas Eve and terrorized by hoods. Poor acting, writing, a unattractive theme for a Christmas movie and it could have just as well taken place any time of the year. I recommend skipping this one.
Will You Marry Me
Young Jewish girls gets engaged to a man whose family goes overboard at Christmas. The engagement brings the families together for a culture clash. The actress playing the young girl has such an annoyingly nasal voice that listening to her was like listening to nails being dragged across a blackboard. The girl's mother was unattractively arrogant and the boy's parents unbelievably enthusiastic about anything Christmas.
Horror story about college students getting stranded on their way home for Christmas and suffering through some ghostly experiences.
The Wishing Tree
A teen at a private school acts out because his parents neglect him. His caring teacher gets through to him and his cold mother. We felt the weak acting by the male lead and the mother hurt this movie. The fact that the story could have taken place over any holiday means this isn't really a Christmas movie. It's harmless but predicable.
2016 Season Comments
Hallmark finally got control of the background music sound levels. The result was that not one of this year's movies was rendered unwatchable by the persistent problem of musical soundtracks that are so loud they make it difficult to hear what the actors are saying. This single change helped make this a very good season for new TV Christmas movies. Almost all the new movies were good enough to recommend watching once and one earning a 'must see' rating: A Charming Christmas starring Julie Benz.
Another big plus was the complete abscence of children with attitude.
One mildly disturbing trend is a subtly sexist view Hallmark seems to be projecting on many of the female leads in its movies. Almost all are successful business women who end up in a small town where they fall in love with a man who's opted for the more meaningful style of living that emphasizes home and family. The implication is that all these women are lost as far as their value systems are concerned and need a man to show them the right way to live.
Another problem is that there were three movies where a lady seems to die, find love, then wake up to discover it was all a dream. This 'and then-little-Johnny-woke-up-and-it-was-all-a-dream' sort of ending is so lame it should be outlawed.
Finally, we didn't appreciate Hallmark releasing a movie in January of 2016 then repeating it in December and calling it a 'new' movie.
To end on a more positive note, the average production values were the highest we've seen for any season.
We believe that this was an excellent TV Christmas movie season.
2015 Season Comments
Overall 2015 was a good season with over half of the new movies rated good or better and one, A Charming Christmas, a definite 'must see' that we purchased on DVD. Sadly, several Hallmark productions still suffer from overly loud soundtracks.
2014 Season Comments
The was one of the best seasons ever with two great movies added to our 'must see' collection: The Christmas Ornament and the outstanding Window Wonderland. It was also a frustrating season because far too many Hallmark productions that would otherwise have been excellent were ruined by painfully loud and generic music soundtracks. The prime example is Tis The Season For Love.
While preparing the Christmas movie reviews on this page I noticed several mistakes were repeated again and again which either weakened or ruined what would otherwise have been good movies.
The most common problem concerns the plot where a cynic is converted by love or the Christmas spirit into being a better person. Far too many movies start off portraying this character as unattractively mean. I understand that the actor or director may be trying to emphasize "before and after," but making the character too mean prevents the audience from forming an empathic bond with him or her. This is the obvious problem with A Christmas Romance. A better approach, as executed in A Holiday for Love, is to have a basically good character forced into doing something bad. Equally good is to have the character regretting doing cynical things but forced into it by circumstances beyond their control or haunted by an unfortunate experience in their past. Either way, it's important for the audience to know that the character has remorse.
Equally important is the quantity of the cynicism. Even if the character regrets it, a constant, unending torrent of cynical behavior is such a turn-off that the audience quickly loses empathy for the character.
The type or quality of cynicism must be carefully metered. For example: the character should never make a young child cry because in the audience's mind this crosses the line from redeemable cynicism to unforgivable meanness. The female lead character in the movie If You Believe commits both this and the error mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Too many Christmas movies are simply familiar romantic plots recycled using Christmas as a backdrop. The fact that it's Christmas doesn't significantly impact the plot. Titling such movies as a "Christmas movie" is misleading. The audience will quickly realize it's being baited-and-switched and will think less of the movie because of it.
Quality control is also a big problem with most Christmas movies. Writers, producers and directors should appreciate that just having a Christmas tree in the background doesn't issue them a free pass to cut corners on production values or good acting. One cheap special effect can turn an otherwise good movie into a laughing stock. In the case of special effects it's better to do without than use something obviously artificial and second-rate. Christmas Magic is a very good movie about a Christmas angel that doesn't have a single special effect, yet it's far more effective than every special effect heavy movie we've viewed. If for some reason "cheap" can't be avoided, then at least keep its impact to a minimum. The cheesy "Christmas powder" used at the end of Santa Jr. is a good example of what to avoid.
A growing trend in many of the new Christmas movies is to reduce production costs by shooting during the summer and to cover this glaring problem with some lame comment made early in the movie to the effect that it's odd that snow hasn't fallen yet. This is so obviously false, because scenes are filled with summer plants in full flower and trees in full leaf, that it's an insult to the viewer's intelligence. Audiences pick up a lot of subliminal impressions from unitended reality. For example, in one scene in Christmas Angel, which was filmed in winter, the subtle sound of crunching snow under the actor's feet as he walks along a street created more reality that the acres of fake snow blankets used in most movies.
I appreciate that because Christmas movies aren't given a great deal of respect, it's not economically practical for production companies to invest a lot of money in such movies. But, the suggestions above could be implemented without additional cost. Why they aren't is a complete mystery to us.
During the 2011 season I noticed a significant increase in the number of times an older movie was renamed to trick people into rewatching them. Every time I discover one of these bait-and-switch movies I feel cheated.
During the 2011 season I also kept track of the number of new movies made during the year. I was astounded that Hallmark alone produced over a dozen new movies. It would seem that the demand for this market, at least for television, is great enough to support a significant industry in this genre.
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