It’s been a little while since I last reviewed a Hallmark film. In fact, this is my first Hallmark movie review of 2023. Since 18 Cinema Lane recently received 455 followers, I thought this would the perfect opportunity to write about a Hallmark production. Besides, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Last year, I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate (as a Blog Follower Dedication Review). Even though I thought it was just fine, the movie had potential to start a new series. Out of the newer mystery films to premiere on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries this decade, so far, Curious Caterer is one of only two to receive a sequel. I will admit when I first read the synopsis for Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, it sounded like a repeat of the first film. It also didn’t help how the trailer revealed very little information about the movie. However, as a thank you to every one of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers, I’m serving up this review of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ latest mystery title!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: When I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate last year, I complimented Nikki Deloach, Andrew W. Walker, and even Kendall Cross on their solid performances. Nikki and Andrew returned to this second chapter with equally strong portrayals of their respective characters! Throughout the film, I was impressed by the strength of the cast as a whole. Every interaction appeared so natural, I was immersed in the story! A great example is when Goldy and her friend, Marla, are unknowingly delivering evidence to Detective Tom’s office. In this scene, Goldy and Marla explain how they conveniently crossed paths with Mason, Tom’s detective partner, in the parking lot. Displaying genuine confusion on their faces, Marla and Goldy bring some of the murder victim’s paperwork, in an attempt to simply help in any way they can. Not wanting Goldy to be involved in official detective work, Tom tells both women how they are interfering with an investigation. During this interaction, Tom carries a stern tone in his voice and a frustrated look in his eyes, displeased with civilians interrupting his work. Meanwhile, Mason displays an easy-going, yet professional persona, trying his best to do his job right. This blend of personalities, emotions, and expressions created a scene that was not only well acted, but was hilarious as well!
The humor: Limited amount of humor was one of the flaws of Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate. This prevented the audience from receiving a break from the story’s heavy murder mystery plot. In Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, however, more humor was incorporated in the script. Like other mystery series on Hallmark’s second network, the humor felt like it belonged in the world of Curious Caterer. While Goldy and Marla are creating a mystery board, Detective Tom arrives at Goldy’s back door. Because this back door contains a see-through window, Tom can see exactly what Marla and Goldy are doing. When they see that Tom has arrived, Goldy and Marla try their best to cover the board up, as they know Tom would disapprove. With a irritated look on his face, he points to the door knob, demanding Goldy open the door. To me, this was one of the funniest scenes in the movie, as the intended ideas were expressed with very little dialogue!
Marla’s involvement in the mystery: In most mystery series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the protagonist’s best friend either has a small role in the mystery or isn’t involved at all. Curious Caterer: Grilling Season gave Marla, Goldy’s friend and co-worker, a greater opportunity to participate in the mystery. During the creation of the mystery board, Marla was thinking up suspects and speculating on their motives. Meanwhile, Goldy was providing insight into other possible theories. Marla also shares information with Goldy about two possible suspects. Creative decisions like this one allow the Curious Caterer series to try new things and stand out from the network’s other mystery titles!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Providing far-reaching or no explanations: At the beginning of the movie, Goldy is catering the birthday party of her friend, Susie. Tom is one of the party’s guests, who appears to personally know the hostess. Within the dialogue, though, Tom’s relationship with Susie was never explained. In some mystery stories, explanations for clue discoveries and motive reveals can be so far-reaching, most audience members would have never figured it out on their own. Without spoiling the story, far-reaching explanations were found on a few occasions in Curious Caterer: Grilling Season. For me, this made the mystery less interactive. I also think this could frustrate some viewers.
The under-utilization of Olive: Last year, when I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, I talked about how the audience didn’t receive the opportunity to get to know Goldy’s daughter, Olive. This is because she was featured in a handful of “don’t blink or you’ll miss her” moments. In Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, the audience learned a little more about Olive, such as her participation on a softball team. But similar to the first film, her appearances in the story were limited. This was disappointing, as I was hoping Olive would receive a greater role in the story. Perhaps she could have helped Goldy solve a mystery, with both mother and daughter looking for information related to a case.
No close-up shots of the food: As I talked about the cinematography in Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, I shared my thoughts on the close-up shots of some appetizers Goldy served. Those shots gave the audience an idea of the kind of catering service Goldy provides. At Susie’s birthday party in Curious Caterer: Grilling Season, however, there were no close-up shots of the food. Even Susie’s birthday cake was not featured on screen. Catering plays such a vital role in Goldy’s story, as that is her business. So not featuring a few close-up shots of the food not only feels like a missed opportunity, it takes away some of this series’ identity.
My overall impression:
As I stated in the introduction, Curious Caterer is one of only two newer mystery titles to receive a sequel on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Like I also stated, I had my concerns about the sequel feeling like a repeat of its predecessor. Even though both films share some similarities, I found Curious Caterer: Grilling Season to be a stronger movie than the first chapter! There were times when the sequel improved upon the flaws made in last year’s title, such as incorporating more humor. A sense of consistency was found in the second movie, as the acting was just as strong as it was in the first film. But Curious Caterer: Grilling Season proves this series still has room to grow. The series has so many ideas for future stories! Since Nikki and Andrew have starred in their fair share of Christmas movies, maybe a Christmas mystery is possible? Or a mystery relating to Olive’s softball team is on the horizon, either focusing on the theft of a trophy or a coach is framed for poor sportsmanship? As of the publication of this review, there have been no announcements for upcoming Curious Caterer films. But as the saying goes, “the sky’s the limit”.
Overall score: 7.4-7.5 out of 10
Have you seen Curious Caterer: Grilling Season? Would you like to see this series continue? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!