Where your Heart Belongs (2022)

Mackenzie is a New York City marketing executive who values “likes” over being liked. She is called back to her small Vermont hometown to help her best friend, Olivia, plan her wedding, which has been moved up nine months because the bucolic church she loves so much had a last-minute cancellation and suddenly became available.

Nantucket Noel (2021)

Nantucket Noel debuted on The Hallmark Channel on Nov. 19, 2021, as part of Countdown To Christmas.

IMDb rating: 6.0 (as of Dec. 29, 2021)

Christina owns a toy store she inherited from her mother on a rundown wharf on Nantucket Island. The wharf loses a foot or two a year to the encroaching ocean, and half the boards on the wooden walkway are rotted through. This place is one bad Nor’easter away from being swept into the Atlantic.

A developer wants to buy the wharf, tear it down and replace it with a new structure. Christina can’t let go of the precious mural her dearly departed mother painted on one of the walls when she opened the store and refuses his entreaties.

Andy is a workaholic divorcee for his father’s development company. His ex-wife begrudgingly allows him to take their precocious daughter (nicknamed Wink) on a working vacation to Nantucket so he can show her the ins and outs of how to ruin people’s lives.

Andy arrives on the island and scopes out the wharf. Wink begs her dad to let her visit the toy store, and she promptly shoplifts a mermaid. When Andy finds out, he punishes her by pawning her off on Christina for a few hours each day so she can “work off” her debt to society. Christina gets free child labor, and he gets free babysitting. Win-win.

Christina tries to organize resistance, but most of the other store-owners have already cashed the checks (cha-ching!!) and are busy plotting how they’re going to blow this wad of cash.

Andy suggests she move her store to Main Street, where she’ll get more foot traffic and customers won’t have to worry about falling into the ocean. But Christina stubbornly refuses to budge and resents his meddling so much she goes shopping for a Christmas tree with Andy and Wink and then offers to help decorate the tree at their house.

Andy’s father sees Christina putting an angel on top of the tree and blows a gasket. He accuses her of seducing his son in an attempt to stop the development and promises her that he won’t change his mind no matter how many sexual favors she promises his son.

A lifetime of accumulated guilt catches up to the old man, and he decides to turn the business over to Andy before his acid-ridden gut spontaneously combusts.

Despite going on a romantic seaside walk with Christina the day before, Andy forges ahead with the project. This apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Forced to accept the inevitable, Christina agrees to the old man’s offer and moves into another location on Main Street. Andy decides to stay on Nantucket until the project is complete.

Relationship update: Christina tries to make it work, but festering resentment over losing her business eats away at their relationship, and she calls it quits before the new wharf is finished.

Actual review: This movie lacked heart, a good script and any sense of cohesion. The love story was clunky, and the two leads had zero chemistry. The dad was a rude jerk from beginning to end. Trevor Donovan seemed to be mailing this one in while awaiting his move to GAC Family TV in 2022.

My IMDb rating: 4 stars out of 10.

Christmas Together with You (2021)

Christmas Together With You debuted Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, on the Hallmark Channel as part of its Countdown to Christmas series.

Megan is an unlucky-at-love coffee shop owner who is best friends with Frank, a 70-ish widower who carries around a photograph of Claire, his first girlfriend from 50 years ago, and not his wife of thirty-plus years who recently died.

With her own love life in tatters, Megan urges Frank to look up his old flame. Odds are Claire’s either buried or married, and he wants to leave the past in the past. She ignores his wishes and stalks her on the Internet.

Turns out Claire is alive and kicking in a town a few hundred miles away, and Megan suggests a road trip. Once again Frank says he’s not interested in reliving the past, but after realizing how much effort Megan put in to finding her (thirty minutes of Googling and a short email to a stranger), he decides to go along on the off chance Claire still carries a torch for a guy she hasn’t seen in fifty years.

Megan stops to buy Frank a coffee. A rude lout on a cell phone lets his mangy mongrel of a mutt run amok and smash into Megan. She spills coffee all over her jacket. The boorish man shoves a wad of cash at her and mumbles an apology, all the while managing to keep his cell phone glued to his ear.

When Frank and Megan reach their destination, they check into the only inn in town. Lo and behold, the buffoon with the unruly pooch runs the lodge. Steve, a hotel hotshot who lives on the other side of the country, bought the place a year ago as an investment. He forced his parents to ditch their retirement plans and run it, but their indifference and incompetence has let the inn fall into a dangerous state of disrepair. Despite a list of one-star reviews longer than Courtney Love’s rap sheet, the inn continues to pull in paying customers and is somehow booked for the weekend.

Before Steve gives Megan and Frank the Joseph and Mary treatment and tells them the inn is full, an unhappy guest demands to be freed from this hellhole because the heat in her room isn’t working and she’s worried about catching fleas from that mangy mongrel Max, who lounges around the lobby licking his balls all day long. You’re in luck, Steve tells Megan and Frank, and happily boots out the old coot to give them a room that doesn’t even meet the standards for POWs set by the Geneva Convention.

Frank’s reunion with Claire gets off to a rocky start. She turns him down when he asks for a date and then blows him off when he shows up with a group of Christmas carolers and starts singing their song. Turned off by his tone-deaf caterwauling, she tells him she doesn’t want to set herself up for more heartbreak and stomps away.

This man can’t be trusted, and not because of his Christmas sweater.

Megan convinces Claire to give him another chance, and they enjoy a romantic dinner at a nice restaurant followed by a moonlit stroll. Their love seems to be rekindling, but Claire admits she can’t let go of the heartache and splits again, leaving Frank stammering more apologies.

Before leaving town, Frank writes a note to Claire explaining that he ditched her half a century earlier because her old man believed his daughter could do better (why Frank couldn’t have told her this face-to-face the first, second or third time she brought up how heartbroken she was beggars belief).

Unbeknownst to Megan, Steve’s mangy mutt Max somehow climbed into the back of her car undetected and pops up when they’re about halfway home. Given no choice, she returns to the Inn and drops off the stowaway. Steve, a heartless monster who didn’t realize his dog was missing for half a day, asks Megan to stay. Despite having spent little time alone together, she agrees.

Relationship update: Steve gets sued for all he’s worth when an octogenarian guest tumbles down the rickety steps his parents neglected to repair. Realizing Steve’s about to lose everything, Megan hightails it back to the city and her beloved coffee shop.

Real review: This movie was hard to watch. Niall’s character was unlikeable for so many reasons. The plot, what little there was of it, moved along at a glacier pace. There was zero chemistry between the two love interests, mainly because they hardly spent any time alone together. The attempts at comedy fell flat. Just a huge swing and miss by Hallmark. Won’t be watched again.

My IMDb rating: 4 stars out of 10.

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You, Me and the Christmas Trees (2021)

Olivia is a dedicated arborist for the University of Connecticut who is known as the tree whisperer. She’s also a major disappointment to her parents, who despite her shortcomings invite her to come home for Christmas anyway.

Olivia was supposed to get married over Christmas, but she called it off six months earlier. Not wanting to get grilled yet again by her taciturn parents, she searches for any excuse to avoid going home. When a hapless tree farmer calls her three weeks before Christmas to see if she can help figure out why all his trees turn brown a few days after being cut, she leaps at the chance to spend the holidays traipsing around the frigid woods of his farm instead of going home to her parents, who exude even less warmth than she’ll find in that frozen tundra.

Olivia’s GPS navigation system short circuits. She stops in the middle of a roundabout while she tries to figure out where she is and is promptly rear-ended by Jack, the aforementioned hapless tree farmer. He had spilled his coffee in his lap and wasn’t paying attention when the accident occurred, yet somehow blames it on Olivia.

Jack and Olivia overcome a start that is rockier than his farmland and get to work figuring out what is going on with his trees. Well, sort of. She spends most of her time taking in all the small-town charms of Avon, winning the design-your-own cider contest and charming all the townsfolk. While investigating his problem, she encourages Jack to diversify his crops, but he is hellbent on growing only trees and resents her meddling.

She figures out they are suffering from indigestion and concocts some colorful Alka Seltzer pills in her fancy lab at the university (now we know why tuition costs are sky-high). Her potion keeps the trees green a few days longer, meaning the town won’t become a living fire hazard until after Christmas.

A few plops and fizzes later, Jack’s trees are once again selling like hot cakes. Her work means the town will buy the official Christmas tree from his farm yet again, foiling the efforts of rival tree grower Duane, who somehow has a tree farm even though everyone in town hates him. Those people refused to buy trees from him even after Jack’s crop proved worthless.

Fueled by a jealous rage, Duane pays a couple of local ne’er-do-wells to poison Jack’s tree, but Olivia discovers their plan and saves the day with more of her magic potion.

Relationship update: Olivia cements her reputation as the tree whisperer, but when Jack follows her advice and plants a crop of tomatoes that wither on the vine the next summer, he dumps her.

Coyote Creek Christmas (2021)

Coyote Creek Christmas debuted Oct. 30, 2021, on the Hallmark Channel as part of its Countdown to Christmas series.

IMDB Rating: 5.7 (as of Nov. 23, 2021)

Dylan is a stoic single dad who gave up on love when his wife bolted a few years ago and left him to raise their scene-stealing son.

Paige is a career-driven woman in line for a big promotion at her event-planning business, but only if she can come up with one more killer project to add to her portfolio. With everything she’s ever worked for hanging in the balance, she shoves all that to the side and bolts to her parents’ small-town inn somewhere in the Rocky Mountains to spend a week helping them plan their annual Christmas festivities.

Unbeknownst to Paige, her parents have decided to sell the inn they’ve run for forty years, even though it’s doing better every year. They want to go out on top and see the world before kicking the bucket.

Dylan and his brother own a firm whose business model is to pay top dollar for highly successful inns, raze them and build luxury hotels in their place. A more prudent strategy would be to find struggling inns looking to sell for cheap, but this is Hallmark? Who needs a well-developed business plan?

Mom and dad make a half-hearted attempt to tell Paige their plans but fail and decide that’s enough. Besides, she’s happy with her event-planning career in Denver and has never expressed any interest in taking over the inn. They’ll just send her a postcard from Paris one day to let her know that she needn’t bother coming home for Christmas next year.

When Paige finds out from Dylan’s brother that her parents are selling the inn, she takes out her anger at Mom and Dad on poor Dylan, who stammers an apology for doing only what her parents asked him to do. The man’s been unlucky with the ladies, and now some hottie is giving him the business for no apparent reason. Poor Dylan can’t catch a break.

When word gets out the inn is for sale, they are inexplicably over-run by customers. Dylan comes to the rescue and orders a bunch of tents to handle the overflow crowd. If only the baby Jesus had been so lucky. And besides, who needs heat and indoor plumbing in the dead of winter in the Rocky Mountains?

Dylan convinces his brother they shouldn’t tear down the family inn but instead should expand it. After all, they’ve got people sleeping in tents in sub-zero weather, so this inn’s got something going on.

Dylan wraps up his evaluation and heads for the Grand Canyon, fulfilling a promise to his son. But the wise-beyond-his-single-digit-years tyke convinces Dad to head back to Coyote Creek and make amends with Paige. The hole in the ground can wait because Dad’s got a hole in his heart that only Paige can fill.

Paige realizes Dylan isn’t so bad and forgives him for, well, no one really knows for sure. But the point is she forgives him so they can move to the next stage of their relationship—the dry kiss. Arm in arm they lock lips and then watch a glorious fireworks display, oblivious to the terror it is causing their guests trying desperately to fall asleep inside those frigid tents on the front lawn.

Relationship update: Paige doesn’t get the promotion at work and, as usual, takes her anger out on Dylan, who realizes no woman is better than an angry woman and calls it off.