It’s been four months since I last reviewed a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film. To fix this, I chose to write about the newest sequel, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift! I saw the first movie when it premiered four years ago, which I thought was just ok. Therefore, I was not asking Hallmark to grant this title a second chapter. Despite not being a fan of JL Family Ranch, I wanted to watch the sequel with an open mind. Providing Hallmark Movies & Mysteries related content was also my intent. Earlier this month, in a Word on the Street story, I talked about JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift’s trailer. In that article, I said the trailer made the movie feel like it took a tonal shift from the first movie. But unless I watched the movie for myself, I wouldn’t know how this shift would affect my movie-viewing experience.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Most of the cast members from JL Family Ranch appeared in the sequel. This worked in the cast’s favor, as they knew what to expect from each other, talent-wise! Teri Polo had good on-screen chemistry with her co-stars, especially those that appeared in the first movie. She also gave her character, Rebecca Landsburg, a stoic persona. This creative choice allowed the audience to see how having so much on her plate really affected her. When James Caan’s character, Tap Peterson, appeared in the film, a sense of defeat could be seen and felt. This was caused by events that take place within Tap’s subplot. In a scene where he goes to the bank to ask for a large sum of money, facial expressions and body language effectively show what is going on in Tap’s mind. New faces in this cast also found their way to shine! Judson Mills is one example, portraying a new character named Caleb Peterson. Though he was only in select scenes, his performance still left a memorable impression on me. One scene showed Caleb on his phone, talking about an important matter. As the scene plays out, Caleb goes from looking concerned to being on the verge of tears.
The scenery: The scenery in JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift effectively reflected the characters’ rural lifestyle, presenting a stylized version of a ranch family. Sweeping establishing shots captured the green pastures surrounding the family’s bed and breakfast. Picturesque fields were shown in scenes where characters ride their horses. When Rebecca and her fiancé, Henry, are having a private picnic, they are sitting next to a river. The clear blue of the water paired with the surrounding grass nicely. These locations promoted the ideas of the calm and tranquility a rural setting can offer!
Tap Peterson’s house: There have been some gorgeous houses to grace the backgrounds of Hallmark’s productions. Tap Peterson’s house in JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift is one of them! Its white exterior boasts a traditional colonial style, complete with a manicured front yard. The interior design within the house displayed a well-to-do setting fit for the prominent rancher Tap is. In one room, the rich wood on the walls complimented a cream armchair with a red pattern. Another room contained white walls showcasing blue and green glass plates. Each design choice was elegant and classy, creating a timeless look in each room presented on screen!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Poor audio: While I haven’t seen Follow Me to Daisy Hills or Falling for Look Lodge, I have heard there are audio problems within these movies. It seems like poor audio has become commonplace in Hallmark’s productions lately, as JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift contained the same flaw. All of the characters sounded muffled whenever they spoke, especially when scenes took place outdoors. Because of this, it was difficult at times to understand what was being said. I’m not sure if music or microphone related issues are what caused the movie’s audio to be poor. What I am sure about is this problem was consistent throughout the film.
Too many cliches: I know Hallmark loves their cliches like Santa loves milk and cookies. But JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift incorporated too many cliches that have been featured in many other Hallmark films. Four of these cliches were discussed in my list of the top ten worst cliches from Hallmark movies: the “we’re not together” cliché, the “it’s not what you think” cliché, the “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché, and the “planning a wedding in an unrealistic time period” cliché. JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift also showcased cliches that I’ve never talked about on my blog before, such as the “save the (insert establishment here)” cliché and the “owner of a bed & breakfast trying to impress a travel critic/writer” cliché. If Hallmark knew they were going to use any of these clichés in this movie, they should have put a new twist on them. One idea is to have the travel critic/writer be one of the character’s exes. This way, it creates a compelling conflict of interest dynamic.
Convenient resolutions: On multiple occasions, situations in JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift were resolved too conveniently. One example can be found toward the beginning of the film. After a surprise wedding proposal, two travel writers that had come to the bed and breakfast a day early decide to leave sooner than expected. When John tells them there will be an engagement brunch that same morning and when the writers discover all the food of the brunch are “farm to table”, the writers’ impression of the bed and breakfast quickly begins to change. The circumstances that caused these writers to change their perspective were placed at a convenient time in the story. But because of how everything in that situation happened so quickly, it made the resolution seem like it was met too conveniently.
My overall impression:
In 2018, I named Marrying Mr. Darcy the tenth worst movie I saw that year. My reason was how the film could have been better than its predecessor, but ended up being a disappointment. JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift made me feel the same way. The 2020 sequel was a disappointingly average film that never reached its full potential. Instead of receiving an exciting new chapter, the story was drowned in clichés and convenient resolutions. It also didn’t help that the project’s audio was poor. While there are things about this movie I liked, such as the talented cast and Tap Peterson’s house, the script itself didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. When it comes to movies, a story is what makes or breaks that project. In the case of JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, the narrative didn’t do it a lot of favors. As a matter of fact, the movie itself is proof why its predecessor did not need a second part.
Overall score: 5.6 out of 10
Did you watch JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Tell me in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!