Christmas Movies: Mini Reviews

Monday, December 23, 2013

Since I’ve posted so many Christmas movies, I thought that repetitively reviewing televised seasonal movies may have grown tiresome for you all. But, I do like sharing about favorites and the like, so instead of “full” reviews, I’m sharing just some "quick" thoughts on some of the Christmas movies I have recently watched… and this will maybe be the last (*sniff, sniff*) of the Christmas films reviewed around here considering the date. However I am making no promises… especially since I have more yet to watch and you never know, that may mean some show up in the week after Christmas.  

Featured here is not one or two but five of the recent Christmas movies I’ve either re-watched or seen for the first time this year. Read on below to find out more about them.

Christmas Bounty (2013)

Have you ever watched a crazy Christmas movie in which everything goes array or one that uses a “meeting the parents” ploy to add pressure? (Think Christmas with the Kranks or Deck the Halls.) That basically sums up this new movie. Starring ABC Family Channel alumni, Francia Rasia, the story follows a teacher, Tory whose world is about to get a whole lot of complicated. In a successful relationship, this Jersey girl is about to get everything she ever dreamed of until an ominous phone call lures her back home to her roots – and her former life. The family business is an unusual one to say the least and along with her parents, it turns out Tory has a secret life – she’s a bounty hunter! Things get more interesting when her boyfriend shows up unexpectedly, Tory’s ex Mike still works with her parents and the man she once put away isn’t taking it well. 

In a nutshell, Christmas Bounty was cute. There was nothing fantastic about it or anything unique but seriously, I laughed through the entire 70-minutes. And if you’re wondering if that runtime is a type-o, no you read that right – this one is a shortie which on the upside is nice since most movies of this genre can get away with telling a story in a reasonably brief amount of time and anything else is just awkward pieces of material to fill time. Sometimes the absurd does get in the way of “realistic” story-telling, however what filmmakers were striving to do was create an extensive gap between the world Tory came from and the world she created for herself. Bridging this drastic of a chasm doesn’t always work but… For this script, everything comes together nicely. Francia, Mike Mizanin and Company thrive without taking anything too seriously plus for all of you adrenaline junkies, there are some decent action sequences here which too is distinctive to the “safe” reliability of Christmas movies. If you liked The Bounty Hunter or any Christmas movie that takes crazy to a whole new level, check out Christmas Bounty.

Parental Review; there are a few instances of profanity and maybe one or two innuendoes. Immodest clothing (jokes are made about Tory’s mother wearing low-cut tops).

A Christmas Kiss (2011)

Life isn’t exactly how she planned but for Wendy Walton (Laura Breckenridge), working as an assistant to New York’s most-respected interior designer is where she needs to be for now. As an aspiring decorator herself, Wendy hopes that getting her foot in the company her boss owns means that someday, she’ll earn her own clients. But Pricilla (Elisabeth Röhm) is a demanding boss to say the least; instead of giving Wendy the opportunities she knows Wendy has the talent to pull off, Pricilla has her running out for coffee and petty jobs that Wendy complies with at the drop of a hat. Things become more complicated when Wendy shares a spontaneous kiss in the elevator with a stranger, a stranger that turns out to be the wealthy Adam Hughes (Brendan Fehr) – and coincidentally, Pricilla’s boyfriend. 

Sprinkling in some fairy-tale charm and plenty of Christmas cheer, this is one of the most endearing Christmas movies from its respective yearly line-up. With festive settings and “magical” moments, this adorable romantic comedy is part Cinderella fable and part Christmas script festooned with an overabundance of holiday ornamentation. If I were to be nitpicky, I’d complain about the wardrobe which could have been otherwise cool but… eh, nothing is ever quite right. You know how in movies there is usually that one scene you anticipate (maybe, a ball or proposal) and you think the character will be dressed to the nines...? Yeah, that moment in this movie is quite the letdown but the silver lining is that Laura Spencer has a role in this movie albeit a small one and I have to confess it was fun going back to watch this now knowing her role as the sweet Jane Bennet from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. That alone is worth something. Fairytale lovers, be sure to check this one out.

Christmas Magic (2011)

Lindy Booth stars in this Hallmark original and it tells the story of a successful career woman who becomes an accident victim only to wake up with a “spirit guide” who tells her that in order to cross over, Carrie must help a single father come to terms with his life and help him rediscover the meaning of life. Anyone who likes movies like Family Man, A Christmas Carol (or any of its dozens of re-tellings) or the classic Jimmy Stewart It’s a Wonderful Life will no doubt pull similarities from all three of those combined into this movie. It offers alternative perspective while placing its heroine on a path of what could-have-been all the while teaching her what it means to indulge in that perspective rather than viewing life through a narrow gaze of worldly prosperity. 

At its heart, this is a good movie. If you scrutinize it too severely, cracks begin to appear and you wonder at writers again spinning for us a tale of such pseudo-sorrow and lost promise. The unique seal of this film is how “real” its characters are. You see each of them and feel like they fit the mold of their character – no one is miscast or visually seems misplaced and that’s part of what makes the movie work. Sure, the price of that is a simple, family-friendly romance that doesn’t use chemistry in a sparks flying sort of dynamic to further or enhance the moments between Carrie and her would-be beau yet all the same, the scenes were sweet. There are some priceless (sappy) moments, decorations galore and a little Christmas magic for anyone to behold. 

Coming Home for Christmas (2013)

Five years is the gap between when sisters Kate (Carly McKillip) and Melanie (Britt McKillip) last spoke. Eldest Kate left the family home on the day of Mel’s wedding and though the O’Brien family lives in the same small town, the girls haven’t seen or spoke to each other since that day. Suddenly everything changes when Kate learns that their parents (George Canton, Amy Jo Johnson) have separated. Those five years melt away and instead of some foolish feud with her best friend Kate realizes that in order to give her family the same Christmases they enjoyed growing up, she needs Mel at her side… even if that means pulling off the impossible.

This Norman Rockwell inspired movie may be one of the sweetest of 2013 yet. I quite enjoyed watching it and willingly got wrapped up in its simplistic charm and genuine moments of truth and family. A relationship between sisters isn’t always well scripted however I thought this one was fair, honest and easy to relate to. Despite the blank space of five years in which the girls were absent from the others life, when these two finally meet again, there was a sense of awkwardness, maybe but above all their past – the friendship between them was foremost at the center and in the ensuing scenes they may not have figured it all out, but I couldn’t help but smile at their reminiscing or the cute scene of them reconnecting over music. Fun trivia fact is the actresses who play these parts are the Canadian musical sister duo One More Girl which is why music plays such an important role in the lives of their characters.  

Just as any Christmas movie should be, at its core, this story is about family and for once it was refreshing to watch a film that didn’t lose focus of the relationship between Kate and Melanie. It was a nice switch up not to encounter a romantic comedy back dropped with Christmas although, never fear, sweet romance does play a role – and I quite adored it (although admittedly, this could have to do with the hero being a former marine… who doesn’t love a hero in uniform, right!? *wink*). If you’re interested in something new this holiday season, look into this one. Loved the scenery, characters and in general, everything – it reminds us that no matter what happens, family is important and we’re never too old to come home for Christmas.  

Parental Review: mild references reveal that a married man wasn’t faithful to his wife and was a flirt only interested in marriage for appearances sake.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2008) 

This is one of my very favorite holiday movies. It’s one of Hallmark’s oldie but goodies and recently I just re-watched it. This one tells the story of a single mother, Jen (Brooke Burns) with a list-making, type A personality. For this Christmas, Jen is planning on hosting the most perfect Christmas ever… only trouble is, she doesn’t have a clue how to make a turkey and all the trimmings. With her uncle Ralph (Henry Winkler) visiting for the holidays, it’s important to Jen not only to give her son a special day but also to impress her future in-laws and all of that is going according to plan until Ralph brings a stranger (Warren Christie) home with him.

There is something about this movie that is just… irresistible. The cast works well together and I adore the chemistry between the leads. Adding in some spunk is something that comes from Henry Winkler’s corner and he nails every one-liner he has. Young Brian is also quite cute and fun in a very serious kind of way – think reflections of Susan from Miracle on 34th Street. Adding some humor is the rare appearance of a nosy neighbor and of course Jen’s worry over manufacturing a perfect, old-fashioned Christmas. The only thing about this one that may not set well with would-be viewers is its bad case of “insta-love.” If you consider the timeframe, it’s hardly realistic to expect Jen to react as she did over Morgan and vice versa however romantic that I am, I accept it and also don’t take anything too seriously. If you keep that forefront, then you’ll understand why this film has the most popularly coined phrase to describe this season as its title!  

What about you, friends? Do you have a favorite Christmas movie from this year… or any? Share in the comments, you know I’d love to read about it.


  1. Oh I want to see all of these.
    Especially Christmas Bounty.
    I liked Holiday Engagement this Christmas.

    1. Christmas Bounty is really cute, Juju. Made me laugh the whole way through.

      Loved Holiday Engagement; it was really cute! Plus I liked seeing one of my favorite Rizzoli & Isles actors in it. ;)

  2. We just watched The Christmas Card, last night - I love that movie!!! I had watched half of it before, but missed the beginning, and it was way better (and more emotional) when I watched the beginning. :)

    Merry Christmas Rissi, and a Happy New Year!!

    1. Aw, yes! I get what you're saying about Christmas Card. That IS a precious movie - one of my all-time favorites - plus I love that it honors the military. Glad your family enjoyed it.

      Same to you, Evelyn. Merry Christmas - and happy 2014!

  3. What channel was Coming Home For Christmas on? Or where did you hear that one????

    Merry Christmas my FRIEND <3

    1. I'm pretty sure Coming Home for Christmas is a direct-to-DVD release, Ella. It may be on somewhere on TV too but I saw it on DVD and it's listed as a "video only" release. Hope you can see it (let me know what you think if you do) - I really liked the sister relationship and it was cool to know the actresses were really siblings.

      Same to you! MERRY CHRISTMAS, friend! Hope you and yours enjoy a fabulous holiday. <3

  4. I love your Christmas movie reviews, Rissi! There are so many Christmas movies and your reviews help me pick the best ones (simply can't watch them all!) This year I rewatched A Princess for Christmas (still lovely) and watched A Christmas card and Christmas with Holly for the first time. Plus the British Christmas comedy Nativity 2, but that one you didn't review ;-)

    1. Thanks for saying that, Birdie! I'm always conflicted whether or not to go all Christmas-review crazy this time of year but in the end, I go for it. :)

      Same here; I re-watched A Princess for Christmas (LOVE that one) and Christmas with Holly (which is seriously precious) though I didn't see Christmas Card this year. I'm pleased to know you saw 'Holly,' hope you liked it.

      I saw your Nativity 2 review! It sounded quite funny, glad you shared. :)

  5. Oh my word, I LOVE "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year". There's just something about it, and I can't help but laugh no matter how many times I've watched it. It's become a classic around here, I watch it every year! Normally Hallmark movies are a one-time viewing for me, but that one.... it's just awesome. So glad to see in mentioned on your list! :)

    1. Same here, Valerie! There IS just something about 'Time of Year' that makes me giggle each time I see it. It's sparkling with great humor (thanks largely to Henry Winkler) and I like the cast for once (sometimes SOMEONE is miscast in these TV films). Every Christmas, we re-watch the new-to-DVD Hallmark Channel movies as well as those that are "old" favorites and this is always on the list. :)


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