Take 3: Little House: Bless All the Dear Children Review

This movie review was written before July 12th

Last year, I participated in Drew’s Movie Reviews’ Christmas in July Blogathon for the first time. My submission was about the Hallmark film, Christmas Camp. Unfortunately, the film was not as good as I had hoped it would be. For this year’s Christmas in July Blogathon, I already had my film selected before the event was officially announced. But this time, I decided to step away from Hallmark and expand my cinematic horizons. Recently, UP Network aired Little House: Bless All the Dear Children. Since I hadn’t seen this movie before, but had seen the show on multiple occasions, I chose this film for the Blogathon! Little House on the Prairie is a show that my family has enjoyed watching. In fact, I’ve talked about my favorite episode, “The Wild Boy” Part 1 and 2, in the editorial, “Bucky Barnes and Matthew Rogers: Paralleling Stories of Disability”. After the show ended in March of 1983, the creative team behind Little House on the Prairie created three films to tie up loose ends and give beloved characters a proper send-off. Little House: Bless All the Dear Children was the last of these three to be released.

I tried to find a more Christmas-y poster for this movie, but was unsuccessful in my search. So, as the next best thing, I took a screenshot of the film’s poster from my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Throughout the show’s lifespan, Little House on the Prairie was blessed to receive a strong starring cast. Even as actors came and went, the quality in acting never faltered. Most of the main actors from the show also appear in Little House: Bless All the Dear Children. Because of this, the consistency in the acting quality was maintained. The regular actors from the show appeared comfortable in their roles. It was also nice to see familiar faces and fan favorites. While I enjoyed watching the performances from the main cast, there were two performances from newcomers of the show that I found to be the most memorable. The first one came from Patricia Pearcy. In the movie, she portrayed Elsa, a mother who is mourning the loss of her baby. What I liked about her performance was the emotional range that was found. Toward the beginning of the film, Elsa learns about the fate of her child. This ends up being one of the most powerful scenes, as Patricia brings the emotional weight a moment like that requires. The second performance was Joel Graves’. He portrayed Samuel, a young orphan from Mankato. Anytime he was on screen, Joel had a sweet personality, which gave his character a likable persona. Samuel brought so much joy to the story, as he was an adorable and kind-hearted child.

The messages and themes: Within their nine seasons, Little House on the Prairie has incorporated important messages and themes into their episodes. These messages and themes have come in various forms, from exploring the horrors of child abuse in “The Wild Boy” Part 1 and 2 to showcasing the value of human life in “Times Are Changing” Part 1 and 2. Little House: Bless All the Dear Children also contains messages and themes that not only fit in the context of the series, but also in the context of Christmas. When Mr. Edwards asks Mr. Montague if he’d like any Christmas presents, Mr. Montague declines this offer, as he feels that Christmas has become materialistic. The idea of the commercialization of Christmas is just as relevant today as it was in 1984, the year this film was released. It also reminds the audience of the holiday’s original purpose.

The humor: Even though there are moments on the show where serious situations take place, Little House on the Prairie also contains moments of joy and laughter. The humor on this program is both wholesome and well-written. It is not only consistent on the show, but it also finds a place in Little House: Bless All the Dear Children. During the Christmas season, Nancy is responsible for finding the perfect Christmas tree for her family. She eventually locates one in the front yard of her family’s property. The hilarious part of this situation is that Nancy chooses the tallest tree she can find, causing the tree to crash through a window into her family’s living room! This moment reminded me of when Stephanie, from Full House, crashed a car through her family’s kitchen because she thought the “R” on the car’s control pad meant “radio” instead of “reverse”.

Christmas in July Blogathon 2020 banner created by Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews. Image found at https://drewreviewmovies.wordpress.com/2020/06/16/announcing-the-christmas-in-july-blogathon-2020/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Christmas spirit’s inconsistency: In most Christmas films, the spirit of Christmas can be felt throughout the story. In fact, there are times when it radiates off the screen. With Little House: Bless All the Dear Children, however, the Christmas spirit doesn’t feel consistent in the overall story. Some parts of the movie contained a strong sense of this spirit, like the narrative involving Jason trying to spread Christmas cheer. But Christmas spirit felt like an after-thought in the majority of the main plot, where Mr. Edwards, Almanzo, and Laura search for Rose. This made the narrative seem like it could have taken place in any time of year without making much of a difference.

Too many narratives: Little House: Bless All the Dear Children featured a total of six narratives. I understand that an end-of-series movie is meant to tie up story-related loose ends. But because of the screen-writer’s decision to squeeze as many sub-plots into the film as possible, it caused some of the narratives to feel under-developed or there for the sake of being there. A good example is Mr. Montague’s narrative, where it revolved around his views on Christmas. While it wasn’t a bad idea for a sub-plot, it didn’t really lead anywhere. Another example is Nancy’s narrative, where she is put in charge of picking out the Oleson family Christmas tree. Like Mr. Montague’s sub-plot, it didn’t lead anywhere. It also didn’t do any favors for Nancy’s character development or serve the overall story. If anything, it seems like she received her own narrative because she had appeared on the show for two seasons.

A quick and easy resolution: The main conflict in Little House: Bless All the Dear Children has been featured on the show before. In the season four episode, “My Ellen”, Laura gets kidnapped by her grieving neighbor shortly after their daughter passes away. Personally, I think the situation was dealt with better in that episode than in this Christmas movie. During her escape in the aforementioned episode, Laura leads her neighbor to their daughter’s grave to help them face their grief and realize the reality of the situation. In Little House: Bless All the Dear Children, Elsa’s grief and the seriousness of Rose’s kidnapping are glossed over when the conflict is resolved. I know that whenever a conflict arises on Little House on the Prairie, it is dealt with in a wholesome way. But it seemed like the situation was handled as easily and quickly as possible just to move on to the next narrative. I was also surprised that Laura didn’t disclose her kidnapping in relation to her daughter’s predicament. Had she brought up this past experience, it would have promoted the show’s continuity and helped Elsa face her grief.

Adorable Christmas card image created by Rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-greeting-card-vector_2824854.htm’>Designed by Rawpixel.com</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Rawpixel.com – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Little House on the Prairie is a show that has stood the test of time. Its wholesome programming, relatable messages, and memorable characters have won over the hearts of fans for decades. Little House: Bless All the Dear Children is an example of why people have fallen in love with this show. The consistency in acting and the lessons instilled on the audience help keep the tone of the show intact. Even though the movie had its strengths, I feel this particular story would have benefitted as a two-part episode. Smaller narratives, like Mr. Montague’s perspective on Christmas, could have been taken care of in one episode. The story of Rose’s kidnapping would have been the overarching narrative of both episodes. This choice would have also given the creative team more time to explore Elsa’s grief and reach a satisfying resolution to the episodes’ main conflict. Little House: Bless All the Dear Children is a fine and enjoyable film. Personally, I would have loved to see Matthew Rogers perform “O Holy Night” in sign language during Christmas Mass. But I guess we can’t always get what we want.

Now we’ve come to the part of this review where I select a guest for Drew’s Christmas Party. This year, I have selected Anjanette Abayari. I first became aware of her existence when I watched the music video for the Timmy T. song “One More Try”. I haven’t seen her other acting work and I don’t know much about her. But, based on what I read, it seems like she has experienced some serious situations in her life. The reason why I chose Anjanette for Drew’s Christmas Party is so she can, hopefully, receive more recognition than she may be currently receiving!

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

Have you watched Little House on the Prairie? If so, what is your favorite episode? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Christmas Camp Review

This movie review was written before July 14th

For the Christmas in July Blogathon from Drew’s Movie Reviews, I knew that I wanted to review a Hallmark Christmas movie. However, I was originally going to talk about Hallmark Hall of Fame’s A Heavenly Christmas. Because I forgot to record that movie and because I have a lot of movies stored on my DVR, I chose to review Christmas Camp instead. This is the latest Christmas movie from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Having a new Christmas film air in July is not a new concept, as this has been done on both of Hallmark’s channels in the past. What makes this film sound interesting is the idea of a Christmas-themed camp. This idea has never been featured in a Hallmark movie before, so I wanted to see how it would be executed in the story. Did this movie make me a “happy camper”? Take a sleigh ride through this review of Christmas Camp to find out!

Christmas Camp poster
Christmas Camp poster created by Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Crown Media Family Networks. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=143&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=307&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Christmas+Camp.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I was not familiar with Lily Anne Harrison’s acting abilities before watching Christmas Camp. In fact, this was the first Hallmark movie that Lily had ever starred in. Despite this, she did a good job with the acting material she was given! Because of her performance, her character, Haley, came across as a very pleasant individual. Another character that was a pleasant person was Jeff. Bobby Campo also did a good job at bringing this character to life, providing the charm and likability that made his performance enjoyable. The rest of the cast was talented! They complimented one another’s acting abilities and shined on their own merits!

 

The cinematography: For some of the scenes involving natural landscapes, the cinematography was really good! Anytime a snowy forest was featured in the movie, it looked beautiful on-screen. What stood out to me was a shot of a sunset behind a snowy forest. This was captured very well on film! There was other good cinematography inside the Christmas Camp. In one instance, a close-up of a gorgeous Christmas tree was shown before a scene began. This was a great way to showcase some of the facility’s Christmas decorations!

Christmas in July Blogathon 2019 banner
Christmas in July Blogathon 2019 created Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews. Image found at https://drewreviewmovies.wordpress.com/2019/06/18/announcing-the-christmas-in-july-blogathon-2019/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A pointless plot: The premise of this movie is a businesswoman being sent to Christmas Camp in order to find inspiration for an upcoming business project. But within the first ten minutes of the film, Haley’s boss gives the coveted business project to another employee. This made me wonder why she would entertain the idea of giving Haley the project if she already gave it to someone else? During her time at Christmas Camp, Haley discovers her idea for the aforementioned business project. This idea was found at the local community center, not at the Christmas Camp. It made me ask why she was forced to go to the Camp when she was able to find inspiration elsewhere?

 

A hypocritical message: The overarching message of Christmas Camp was to uphold Christmas traditions. However, this message ended up coming across as hypocritical. Earlier in the film, Haley shares that her Christmas tradition is taking a family vacation to the Caribbean and watching Christmas movies in the hotel room. Her boss thinks that she needs an “attitude adjustment” because her traditions aren’t “traditional”. Throughout the film, Haley is guilted into changing her Christmas traditions to align more with those of the Camp. Another guest of the Camp shared that one of his Christmas traditions was opening presents on Christmas Eve, due to his father being a professional basketball coach. Shortly after sharing this, the guest’s wife is critical about this particular tradition. Everyone has their own unique and special way of celebrating Christmas. So, for this story to look down on that is very frustrating.

 

Christmas Camp as an afterthought: The idea of a Christmas-themed camp is something that has never been shown in a Hallmark movie before. Because of this, I was curious to see how this concept would be incorporated into the story. Unfortunately, the Camp itself was treated as an afterthought. The activities associated with Christmas Camp seemed so interesting. Yet, most of these activities were barely shown in the film. One example is when the campers are required to pick out a Christmas tree and decorate it. However, the only person the audience sees doing this activity is Haley. Also, for a place called Christmas Camp, Haley’s bedroom was poorly decorated. It barely featured any Christmas decorations, which made the room look less than festive.

458653-PFQPMM-331
Cute Christmas image created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

After watching this movie, I’m starting to understand why Hallmark Movies & Mysteries aired Christmas Camp in July and not during their “Miracles of Christmas” line-up. This film had so much potential to do something different from other Christmas movies on the network. There was also potential to share a message that would have been relatable. Unfortunately, all of this potential was not taken advantage of by Christmas Camp’s creative team. Instead, I ended up getting the worst Hallmark movie I’ve seen this year, so far. I’m hoping that during Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ “Miracles of Christmas” line-up and Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up, movies as disappointing as Christmas Camp will be a rarity.

 

Before I end this review, I would like to add a name to the invitation list for Drew’s Christmas Party. The actress that I would like to see get invited to Drew’s Christmas party is Karina Arroyave. I’ve seen several of her acting work in various television shows and movies, including two Hallmark Hall of Fame films (Blind Spot from 1993 and Missing Pieces from 2000). I think she’s a very talented actress. But, at the same time, she is also very underrated. By suggesting Karina’s name for Drew’s invitation list, I’m hoping that she can, sooner or later, receive the recognition she deserves!

 

Overall score: 5.1 out of 10

 

Have you seen Christmas Camp? Do like watching Christmas movies in July? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen