Once Upon a Holiday (2015) - A Romantic Fairytale

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Looking back on my favorite Hallmark “Countdown to Christmas” originals, I am beginning to mentally sketch out a pattern. Any productions that have some kind of fairy tale connotation seem to land in favored spots. Such is the case with tonight’s all-new premiere. Trust me you’ll want to kick off your Thanksgiving vacation early with this cute story. 

Life is a series of responsible acts and proper etiquette for Katie (Briana Evigan). There is good reason for that, the reason being Katie isn’t an ordinary young woman; she’s actually a princess. The ruling monarch of a small kingdom, Katie is currently in the U.S. for a series of obligatory appearances, but all she can think about are the Christmas trips she experienced here with her mother. Her sense of nostalgia is too alluring to keep her to her aunt’s strict schedule. This inspires Katie to sneak away from her entourage – security, lawyer and her overbearing Aunt Margaret, for a few hours exploring the city through the lens of her camera.  

Through a meeting of chance, she makes the acquaintance of Jack (Paul Campbell). A contractor and business man with a heart of gold… Jack’s also had that kind-hearted heart broken. Meeting Katie gives Jack a sense that she might be hiding something, but from what he doesn’t know. All he does know is spending time with her feels right… 

Imitating an enchanting Prince and Me concept, this is definitely one of the TV productions you’ll want to set a reminder for. It’s as lovely as its title suggests and then some. The satisfying romance and engaging chemistry between its stars makes for an entertaining two hours. Seeing familiar faces on both of the primary actors was fun since I’ve seen Briana in one of the Step Up films (yep, that film franchise is one of my guilty pleasures!) and Paul is a face you may remember from Hallmark’s Window Wonderland. Suffice to say, I loved these two together. Also entertaining was Jack’s sister who earns a cute subplot that ends with the viewer wanting to applaud her finally realizing someone in her life was a little too “into” themselves. 

It’s rare that one of these films fully extends into something that can sell itself as being a “complete” ending. Somehow this one manages it. Sure there might be some questions lingering or perhaps we’d have hoped to see the story carry on, but that final scene is too fulfilling (and romantic) to gripe. Another fortunate positive is the script. It steers clear of grappling with a dramatic “break up” period that flails into hysterical dramatics which is nice considering the trope of a couple breaking up when a secret is outed is overused, especially in this genre.  

Making Once Upon a Holiday a must on this, the eve of Thanksgiving, should be how you end your pre-thanksgiving busyness. Between the charm that is predominately anchored in a fairy tale world (all without the overwhelming backdrops of castles or use of magic), there is also a story with purpose and of course, the trademark romance we love from these productions. With over half of the 2015 premieres past us, this has been one of – if not the favorite, my favorites of the year. It has everything a Christmas movie should and needs to impose not to mention the fairy tale connections don’t hurt its already satisfying story. It’s a keeper in my repertoire of holiday films. ♥

Photos: Hallmark


  1. Oh, how the girls in our family love Hallmark. We just watched Merry Matrimony and this movie tonight. I thought this one pretty cute (I like the actor; we love him in Winter Wonderland).

    I do not think any of the new ones yet will be in my particular "hall of fame." I am excited for the rest of the new movies this week!

    1. I'm with your family, Livia. :) All of their movies are SOOO cute even though I do have my favorites.

      I missed Merry Matrimony but that's okay. I'll look for it next year, and I'm glad you enjoyed this one too!

      I've had some new favorites from this year, but some I'd 100% agree with you; they were cute but not favorites. :)

      Thanks so much for visiting.

  2. Clearly I need to try and watch this one soon! Certainly sounds cute. And if it doesn't have the obligatory "break up over secrets outed" all the better! :)

    1. Right!? That is one plot twist that drives me nuts - the whole I'm-mad-at-you-and-we're-DONE thing wears thin. This one didn't have that feel even though Katie does have a secret. :) Let me know what you think if/when you catch it, Kara. :)

  3. Thanks for another great review Rissi! I just watched this movie, and thought it awash in Christmas magic myself, but thankfully not in an overly cloying or clichéd way. I greatly enjoyed getting to know these relatable characters and watching their stories unfold, something which was helped by a script which was both realistic and on point.

    I also think I've just found another hero to add to my ever-growing list of fictional guys I have a crush on; I loved Jack’s personality and interactions with pretty much everyone, and the way they portrayed his relationship with his sister, her boyfriend, and Harry and his wife was endlessly amusing. I agree that the resolution to his sister’s sub-plot was very satisfying, and I also appreciated how they chose to handle the big reveal in an unexpectedly understated but still emotionally impacting way. The ending quite a sweet way to finish while still being open-ended enough to stimulate the imagination on exactly how this relationship will work in the future, this movie has definitely become one of my favourite Hallmark offerings!

    Oh, I also watched Merry Matrimony, and I would absolutely recommend you try and watch it at some point; I don’t usually enjoy the premise it’s based on, but the chemistry between the two leads is VERY good.

    God Bless
    Eleanor Rose

    1. Hi, Eleanor! Apologies for never replying to this comment; how I missed your insightful comment, I'll never know.

      Anyway... thank you for the kind words. As always, I enjoy reviewing these and like you say, this one was certainly awash in Christmas magic which (for me) is ideal movie-watching this time of year. :)

      YES! The whole boyfriend plot was really cute! Made me glad to see the sister realize what a goofball the boyfriend was in the end. ;) The fact that there wasn't a big breakup or accusation at the end of this one made me happy. In fact this entire movie did! I'm hoping Hallmark will continue these contemporary fairy tales because they're darling. My favorite is (still) A Princess for Christmas but this one came a very close second.

      Ooo, thanks for sharing about Merry Matrimony. I missed that one in reviewing though will hopefully find it on DVD next year. It looked SO cute and I did really want to check it out. Glad to know the chemistry was good - that excuses most any minor flaws. :)


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