So far, I’ve seen nine of Hallmark’s Christmas films from this year. To me, most of them have ranged from ok to decent, with a few standouts. Since I haven’t reviewed a Christmas movie from Hallmark Channel yet, I decided to talk about one of the network’s more recent pictures, Christmas Under the Stars! This film was one of my most anticipated of the season. Jesse Metcalfe and Autumn Reeser reuniting as co-leads was one of my reasons why. I really enjoyed their first movie together, A Country Wedding, especially since they had good on-screen chemistry. Jesse and Autumn have never starred in a Christmas movie together, so I thought this would help make Christmas Under the Stars an interesting project.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Christmas Under the Stars had a solid cast! I enjoyed seeing each actor’s performance immensely, as they brought the best of what they had to offer, talent wise, to their roles. One example is how Jesse Metcalfe brings more emotionality to his portrayal of Nick than I expected. At some dramatic moments, it looked like Jesse was about to cry. Because he stars on a television show that features a variety of situations, it helps prepare Jesse for roles that require a certain amount of versatility. Clarke Peters is another example of how talented this cast is. His portrayal of Clem was very endearing, making this character easy to root for. Clarke also appeared to have good camaraderie with his co-stars. Speaking of camaraderie, what worked in this cast’s favor was the on-screen chemistry and interactions between the characters. These encounters felt believable, like they had come directly from real life.
The business side of Christmas tree lots: When Christmas tree lots are featured in Hallmark movies, they are either on screen for a short amount of time or the business aspect of them gets glossed over. In this movie, however, the story allows the business side of Christmas tree lots to be explored. It provides a unique perspective that is educational and intriguing for the audience. This also adds something that most Hallmark movies don’t incorporate. More often than not, I say that Hallmark needs to take more creative risks and think outside the box. The interesting way that a Christmas tree lot was showcased in this film is a good example of this.
The discussion of foster parenting: If a single parent is included in a Hallmark movie, that character’s relationship status is usually caused by divorce or becoming a widow/widower. Autumn Reeser’s character, Julie, is a single parent because she chose to be a foster parent. Even though this discussion of foster parenting was very brief, it represented a family dynamic that is rarely seen in Hallmark productions. It also provided an interesting component to Julie’s backstory. Because Julie adopted her foster child, Matt, it makes Christmas Under the Stars the second 2019 Hallmark Christmas film to include adoption in their respective film’s narrative.
What I didn’t like the film:
A semi-misleading synopsis: While I liked this film’s story, I felt the synopsis bent the truth to a certain extent. One example is the basic premise, where Nick loses his job. This idea reminded me of a movie I reviewed last year called Waffle Street. In that film, the protagonist not only loses his job, but the event was catastrophic on his life. The protagonist in Christmas Under the Stars didn’t have the same experience. Yes, Nick did lose his job. But he was still able to keep his high-rise penthouse apartment and his vintage Porsche. Another example is Julie’s occupation. When I was led to believe that she was an astronomer, I was so excited to see this profession incorporated into a Hallmark story. However, Julie’s job ended up being a science teacher. While this is an important career, the astronomy aspect was overshadowed.
The protagonists spending so little time together: Jesse and Autumn had good on-screen chemistry. What helped was them starring in 2015’s A Country Wedding together. But the difference between this movie and Christmas Under the Stars is how little time the protagonists spend with each other in the latter. Nick and Julie do become a couple, because that’s how Hallmark movies work. But when they eventually end up together, their union doesn’t feel earned. That’s because there was no build-up leading up to that part of their relationship. What also doesn’t help was how they barely identify the other person as a potential love interest. I understand that the screenwriter wanted to try something different. But, in this case, it didn’t work in the film’s favor.
An under-utilized subplot: In the film, Autumn’s character is trying to help a student who is always late to class. When this subplot was first introduced, I thought it would play an interesting role in the overall story. Since this is a Christmas film, the subplot had potential to be impactful and uplifting. But as the movie went on, it became too simplistic and was resolved way too easily. Because this subplot was competing with other story-lines, it felt more forgettable than it should have. This resulted in the subplot being under-utilized.
My overall impression:
Before watching this film, I was highly anticipating Christmas Under the Stars. This was a film that I thought I was going to fall in love with. While I liked the movie, it probably won’t become one of my favorite Christmas films from this year. Sure, it was good. The film had its strengths, such as the cast and some of the topics that were incorporated in the project. But the movie had flaws that prevented it from being great. Christmas Under the Stars is certainly one of the stronger picks from Hallmark’s Christmas line-up, as it is one of the network’s more memorable presentations. The creative team behind the film did a good job with the material they were given. It’ll be interesting to see what the quality of the rest of Hallmark’s Christmas films looks like.
Overall score: 7.7 out of 10
What do you think of Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups so far? Are there any movies that you are fond of? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!