Here at 18 Cinema Lane, I try to review movies that have been recommended to me by my readers. Typically, I watch movies and write about them in the hopes they are good. But in the case of this review, I’m approaching this film a little differently. In the comment section of my article, ‘The Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time’, one of my readers, Not a fan of Carrot Cake, shared their worst Hallmark movie they’ve watched. That film is the latest Hallmark Movies & Mysteries title, Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. Their thoughts on the movie intrigued me. It made me wonder if it was worse than Francesca Quinn, P. I., the worst Hallmark movie I’ve ever seen. So, without further delay, let’s solve this mystery by reviewing Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery!
Things I liked about the film:
The camaraderie between the cast members: In a movie series, a group of actors will become familiar with one another’s talents and personalities. This familiarity creates a consistency that can be seen in the characters’ interactions. That consistency allows these interactions to come across as believable in the eyes of the audience. As Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery is the seventh film in its series, the camaraderie between the cast members remained continuous not only throughout this story, but also throughout the series! When Hannah, portrayed by Alison Sweeney, and Norman, portrayed by Gabriel Hogan, interacted with each other, their friendship felt genuine. As Hannah’s mom, portrayed by Barbara Niven, discussed her concerns about her daughter’s safety, that discussion between mother and daughter was presented realistically. These interactions were not only the result of the camaraderie between the cast members, but also the cast members displaying an understanding for their characters and their stories!
The inside jokes: Hallmark has a history of incorporating humor into their mystery series. Typically, this humor can be heard within the dialogue between characters or shown through hilarious situations. In Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Hallmark related inside jokes were woven into the script. Frustrated by Hannah’s involvement in the murder mystery case, Mike’s boss tells Mike Hannah is acting like a podcaster. This statement is a reference to Alison’s other mystery series, Chronicle Mysteries. Over lunch, Hannah’s mother, Delores, brings up how Hannah and Mike’s upcoming wedding is never discussed. That conversation references how Hannah and Mike have been engaged since Murder She Baked: Just Desserts, a movie that was released in 2017. These inside jokes provide “Easter eggs” for fans of the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series, as well as fans of Hallmark’s mystery films!
Use of clues: Some mystery stories utilize clues in order for the mystery to be solved. This is the case for several of Hallmark’s titles, including Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. The movie’s mystery begins in 1995. Therefore, one of the clues is a pager, which was used to determine who the victim called before they passed away. Another clue was a set of keys. But these keys helped set up a timeline for the mystery’s events. The incorporation of the clues in Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery combined the past and present in a nice way. It also showcased a variety of objects that could be used to solve a case!
What I didn’t like about the film:
The underutilization of Mike: Since the series’ inception, Mike has always played an integral role in the story of Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen. Because he is a professional detective, he provides a unique perspective to a movie’s case, especially compared to Hannah’s perspective. But in Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Mike wasn’t given much to do. Instead, Hannah solves the mystery single-handedly, relying on Mike less than in previous films. The “opposites attract” dynamic between Hannah and Mike was missing, which took away some of the series’ charm. It also does Cameron Mathison and his character a huge disservice.
Lack of “coziness”: The Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series has garnered a reputation for being a “cozy” mystery. Despite the stories containing murder mysteries, the stories themselves don’t feel too dark in tone. Instead, humor and pleasant character interactions break up the serious nature of the murder mystery. In Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, however, that “cozy” feeling was absent. While I did like the inside jokes woven into the script, the overall tone of the movie was serious. The lack of light-hearted subplots didn’t help either. In context with the series as a whole, this film causes a tonal shift that feels jarring.
Mike and Hannah’s relationship: For this part of my review, I will include spoilers for Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. If you have not seen this movie yet and are interested in watching it, please skip ahead to the part of my review titled “My overall impression”.
The majority of Hallmark’s mystery series contain a romantic relationship between the male and female protagonist. More often than not, these relationships grow as its series progresses. In the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series, viewers have witnessed Hannah and Mike go from being neighborhood friends to a romantic couple. As I mentioned in this review, they became engaged in Murder She Baked: Just Desserts. But in Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Mike and Hannah’s relationship was not prioritized as in previous movies. They didn’t spend much time together in this story. In fact, Hannah spent more time with Norman than with Mike. This creative choice caused Alison and Cameron’s on-screen chemistry to feel weaker compared to other films.
Like I said earlier in this review, Delores mentions how Hannah and Mike’s wedding hasn’t been discussed. I also mentioned how Mike and Hannah got engaged in a movie that was released over five years ago. During that time, fans of the series have been waiting for Hannah and Mike to finally walk down the aisle and say “I do”. But in the last twenty minutes of Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Hannah ends her and Mike’s engagement. Why, you ask? Because she was upset Mike didn’t tell her he was filling his boss in on developments she and Mike found in relation to the story’s mystery. Hannah seems so justified in her choice, she, through a monologue, compares her ended relationship with baking bread, saying something along the lines of the ingredients needing to be respected. Personally, I feel Hannah’s decision to end her and Mike’s relationship was unnecessarily spontaneous. Looking back on this movie, it makes me wonder if Hannah and Mike breaking up was Hallmark’s excuse to discontinue this series?
My overall impression:
I chose to review Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery in an attempt to see if it was worse than Francesca Quinn, P. I. Like I said in the introduction, I also reviewed this movie in response to one of my readers. Now that I’ve seen the film, I can honestly say, in my opinion, it is nowhere near as bad as Francesca Quinn, P. I. However, it is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen this year, so far. In a recent article from The Wrap, Alison Sweeney confirmed another chapter in the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series. Without spoiling Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, all I can say is I have no idea how this is possible. Other than solving a mystery, this movie put the series in a standstill. The film’s creative team didn’t provide a reason for the fans to get excited for the next story. From Mike being underutilized to the lack of “coziness” in the latest chapter, I’m wondering if this series will be another mystery series that will unceremoniously end? I said in my editorial about Francesca Quinn, P. I. how Hallmark’s priorities no longer lie with the mystery genre. Reflecting on that film and Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, it seems like I may be proven right.
Overall score: 5 out of 10
Have you seen Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery? What do you think is in store for the Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen series? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!