‘Tis the season to be merry and watch every new holiday movie as it debuts. Each Monday, we’ll take a look back at the previous weekend’s premieres to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with a new list of superlatives.
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Longest Grudge Buried
For those of us who consider 2014’s The Nine Lives of Christmas a Christmas classic, it’s difficult to look at actress Chelsea Hobbs and not see Blair, the model who got Marilee fired and let Zachary’s cat, Ambrose, outside to get lost. But after Hallmark Channel’s Navigating Christmas, in which Hobbs plays a successful, recently-divorced mom trying to make the holiday special for her teen son with a stay in a lighthouse, we are finally ready to.
Least Predictable Ending
By default, Great American Family’s A Paris Christmas Waltz: Not because Leo (a fully committed Matthew Morrison) and Emma’s (Jen Lilley) dramatic number to “O Holy Night” didn’t win the yuletide dance competition. But because garland wasn’t hung on that railing in the film’s final sequence. You know they thought about it! Runner-up: BET+’s Sworn Justice: Taken Before Christmas, for its climactic Christmas Day church balcony brawl and bomb (!).
Best Replacement for the Standard Gingerbread House Competition
Hallmark Channel’s A Merry Scottish Christmas really got into the spirit(s) with the Morgan clan judging a distillery’s annual Christmas whisky competition. As good as reunited Party of Five co-stars Scott Wolf and Lacey Chabert were in the scenes where estranged siblings Lindsey and Brad were at odds, their bliss when the characters could enjoy themselves and each other was the real reason to watch.
Most Welcome Cameo
Hallmark Channel is all about the unbilled appearances this year, and A Merry Scottish Christmas had the cheekiest one to date. Chabert’s frequent dance partner Will Kemp popped up in a festive bar scene as her love interest’s brother-in-law. Although Chabert’s Lindsey only knew how to waltz and tango (a nod to The Christmas Waltz and The Dancing Detective: A Deadly Tango), Kemp’s Thomas showed her how to do the Highland Fling. If he wasn’t wearing something under his kilt, those high kicks would’ve been very interesting on set.
Best Supporting Canadian Actor
You spot a lot of the same folks in Hallmark movies year after year because casting Canadians when filming in Canada triggers tax incentives. Erik Athavale is one of those familiar faces, but he deserves a special shout-out: In this week’s Holiday Hotline, he was the boss overly invested in Abby’s love triangle, and earlier this month, he played the sarcastic but sage reindeer rickshaw driver in The Santa Summit. We see you, sir, and we appreciate you.
Most Hilarious Family Scene
Who doesn’t love a crowded-car gag when someone needs to get somewhere fast to profess his love, à la Notting Hill? Amazon Freevee’s EXmas took it up a notch with Graham’s (Robbie Amell) enthusiastic family’s slo-mo rush to get out the door screeching to a halt to put on their shoes before cramming into a two-door Datsun that wouldn’t start. Almost as fun: the majority of the family getting stoned on cookies accidentally made with THC butter and mom Jeannie (Kathryn Greenwood) sculpting a tiny snowman on her plate.
Joke Least Likely to Make It Into a Hallmark Movie
We doubt we’ll ever see someone, like EXmas’ Jeannie, wrap a present this shape for Aunt Mildred. “She’s gonna love it. She needs that,” quipped daughter Mindy (Veronika Slowikowska).
Best Duo We Didn’t Know We Needed
Heather Graham and Brandy Norwood are a riot in Netflix’s Best. Christmas. Ever! as Graham’s amateur sleuth Charlotte hopes to discover that her old college pal Jackie’s (Norwood) life isn’t as grand as it appears in her holiday newsletters. We suspected the twist with Jackie’s son (did Charlotte never ask Jackie why she’d skipped a newsletter that one time?), but we still could not explain to you how those ladies managed to fix that solar-powered hot air balloon. Honorable mention: Cher and Michael Bublé, whose “Home” duet was a poignant needle-drop in A Merry Scottish Christmas.
Having the Best Week Ever!
Madison Skye Validum co-stars in both Best. Christmas. Ever! and Disney+’s Dashing Through the Snow (our pick of the week, pictured). In the latter, she’s an effervescent spitfire, running interference between Santa (Lil Rel Howery) and her non-believer dad (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges). In the former, she’s a skeptical child genius out to prove Santa isn’t real. We’re happy her character’s faith was restored — and that the Best. Christmas. Ever! children, in general, got actual personalities — but shouldn’t the whiz kid have questioned why only two reindeer were guiding the sleigh dangling from that hot air balloon?
Sexiest Xmas Sweater
We’ve been seeing a lot of shawl-collar cardigans this holiday movie season, but Navigating Christmas’ Peter (Stephen Huszar) dons our favorite so far. The quasi-Fair Isle print fit the movie’s seaside setting, stayed true to his Scrooge character (it’s wintery, not Christmas-y), and paired nicely with his denim shirt and blue eyes.
Throughout Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ A World Record Christmas, Eric (the always tender Lucas Bryant) was a loving dad to Charlie (Aias Dalman), his wife’s son from a previous marriage. We got misty when Charlie, who’s on the autism spectrum, eventually showed Eric to the seat he’d been reserving for his absentee biological father: “You belong here,” Charlie told him. “You’re my real dad. You always have been.” Ah!
Most Likely to Be Real Snow
HOLD EVERYTHING! Did they actually film Lifetime’s Christmas Plus One during an actual storm? You could see stars Emily Alatalo and Corey Sevier’s breath and the snow collecting on their hats, coats, and hair in close-up. The steps up to this bench were messy enough to look like they’d legitimately been shoveled. (If this was a fake storm, bravo to the snow coordinator. Yes, that’s a real job title on holiday movies.)
2023 Christmas Movie Guide
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