Before Pale Writer’s Maxwell Caulfield Blogathon, I had seen two of Maxwell’s three Hallmark films. These titles were Missing Pieces, a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie from 2000, and Second Chances, a Hallmark Channel film from 2013. With one movie remaining, I selected the 2015 title, I’m Not Ready for Christmas, as my entry for the event. From a network that features the same actors and actresses in multiple projects, it’s interesting to note that I’m Not Ready for Christmas was Maxwell’s only Hallmark Christmas movie. As is sometimes the case, my review of this film was also this blogathon’s only article discussing any Hallmark film. When the movie first premiered five years ago, I skipped it in favor of other titles. This is because it was being compared to Liar Liar, a film I had not seen in its entirety, but was aware of the general premise. Personally, I like watching Hallmark films that either seem less predictable or have a creative component. Because the type of story found in I’m Not Ready for Christmas is more unique than Hallmark films from the past three years, I finally decided to check it out!
Things I liked about the film:
The supporting cast: There were several actors in the supporting cast that gave stand-out performances. One of them was this blogathon’s star, Maxwell Caulfield! Even though he was only in a handful of scenes, Maxwell found a way to make his character, Greydon DuPois, memorable. This was achieved through a confident personality and a strong on-screen presence. Another stand-out performance came from Mia Bagley, who portrayed Anna Geller, Holly’s niece. Her sweet demeanor reminded me of Jenny Wilder from Little House on the Prairie. Anna, like Jenny, wanted the best for the people in her life. The Christmas wish Anna tells Santa, where she wishes her aunt were more honest, effectively shows this. Brigid Brannagh is an actress I’m familiar with because her 2011 Hallmark movie, A Crush on You. While watching her portrayal of Anna’s mom, Rose, I could tell her previous experience with the network worked in her performance’s favor. This could be seen in the scene when Rose and Anna are at Anna’s Christmas recital. While Anna waits for Holly to show up, Rose’s face shows disappointment as she knows what lies ahead.
The messages and themes: Hallmark’s Christmas movies feature a variety of messages and themes that the audience can relate to. In I’m Not Ready for Christmas, a major theme is honesty, as Holly works on telling less lies throughout the film. Toward the end of the story, Holly is faced with a professional dilemma that could end her career. Instead of choosing what will benefit her, she chooses to do what is right. Seeing a character deal with a real-life conflict and make a positive decision is something that the audience can appreciate. It can also inspire them to apply these messages of truthfulness and placing others before one’s self to their own life.
What I didn’t like about the film:
An inconsistent performance: When it comes to Hallmark’s Christmas movies, Alicia Witt’s entries have been hit or miss. While I liked A Very Merry Mix-Up and Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane, I was not a fan of Our Christmas Love Song. In A Very Merry Mix-Up and Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane, Alicia was given material that complimented her acting abilities, allowing her performance to come across as consistent. Alicia’s performance in I’m Not Ready for Christmas, on the other hand, was very inconsistent. There were scenes where emotionality shined through, such as when Holly and Drew were sharing their life stories over apple cider. But whenever Holly was under her truth telling spell, she sounded robotic. Alicia’s performance made those moments feel awkward and jarring. I know Alicia has what it takes, talent wise, to carry a film. However, I feel she was miscast in this particular role.
Little to no sense in the story: Several moments in I’m Not Ready for Christmas made little to no sense. One example takes place toward the beginning of the movie. Anna and her mom, Rose, are upset that Holly, Anna’s aunt, has chosen to attend a private dinner over Anna’s Christmas recital. They feel Holly will miss Anna’s performance because of her personal choice. But this movie was released in 2015 and I’m pretty sure Rose owns a smart phone. With that said, wouldn’t Rose record a video of Anna on her phone and show Holly the video afterwards? Speaking of Anna, another confusing moment happens when Anna interacts with Santa after the recital. In this scene, there’s no clear indication that the Santa Anna is talking to is the real deal or that they had ever interacted before. However, when Santa calls Anna by her name, no one questions how he knows her.
Solving a problem with a problem: An overarching conflict in I’m Not Ready for Christmas is Holly learning how to be honest with others. However, one of the ways she learns this lesson is for some of the other characters to lie to her. In one scene, Holly’s assistant, Jordan, asks for some time off so she can take care of her grandmother. But several scenes later, Holly discovers that Jordan was lying about her personal life. In reality, Jordan was on a date with her boyfriend at the same ice-skating rink Holly and Anna were visiting. I understand why Hallmark made this creative decision, as to remind the audience to treat others as they would like to be treated. But in this story, it felt like the script was trying to solve a problem with a problem. This misstep made the moments where Holly was changing her ways seem like positive outcomes were happening too conveniently in her favor.
A story that doesn’t feel Christmas-y: Despite this movie being titled I’m Not Ready for Christmas, the story itself doesn’t need to belong in the Christmas season. The themes of honesty and self-improvement can be found in any time of year. In fact, this exact plot could have taken place outside of Christmas and it wouldn’t have made a difference. While there are Christmas activities featured in this film, they were obligatory for the sake of reminding the audience that this was indeed a Christmas movie. The scenes themselves forced the film to pause the story instead of allowing those moments to find a legitimate place in the narrative.
My overall impression:
As I said in this review, a major theme of I’m Not Ready for Christmas is honesty. Therefore, I will be honest by saying I did not like this film. This movie makes the exact same mistake 2019’s A Cheerful Christmas did: putting so much emphasis on creating a pointless, Christmas remake of a well-known ‘90s film, that the creative team forgets how to make a good movie. The story has a more unique premise than other films from Hallmark’s library. However, the execution of that story was very poor. The truth telling spell Holly falls under does not lend itself to comedy. Instead, it feels awkward and jarring. What also hurts this film is not utilizing the Christmas elements within the script, causing the film to be devoid of true Christmas spirit. Instead of trying to copy what Liar Liar did almost thirty years ago, I’m Not Ready for Christmas should have been a combination of a modern twist on It’s a Wonderful Life and a Christmas version of the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘Monica’s Bad Day’. If this had been the plan, it might have brought something new to the table.
Overall score: 4.9 out of 10
Have you seen Maxwell Caulfield’s Hallmark films? Are there any Hallmark Christmas films you’d like me to check out? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!