Since I happened to see Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For right after I saw the latest episode of When Calls the Heart, I felt that I needed to write a review for this movie. Also, it’s been two months since I last reviewed a mystery film from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, so it was time for me to get back to talking about mystery movies. I remember when this project was first announced at Hallmark’s Winter TCA Event last year. At the time, I wondered how this series would be any different from the other mystery series that had already been established. In a Word on the Street story last August, I talked about how the movie was about to go into production. This led me to speculate whether the film would be released in Fall of 2018 or early 2019. It looks like I was right in one of those predictions, as this movie premiered in early March. Did this movie stand out from all the other mystery movies on the network? The only way to solve this mystery is to read my review of Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For!
Things I liked about the film:
- The acting: I thought the acting in Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For was good! Ever since this project was first announced, I was excited to see Lacey Chabert and Brennan Elliott star in another movie together. This is because I’ve enjoyed their performances in other Hallmark projects. In Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For, both Lacey and Brennan did a really good job portraying their characters! Their performances display a sense of believability and emotionality that is required in a mystery story. They also had a good amount of on-screen chemistry. I also think the supporting cast did a good job in their acting performances! I’ve always enjoyed watching Barbara Niven’s performances in other Hallmark productions. So, it’s no surprise that I found myself applauding Barbara’s portrayal of Tess’s aunt, Candace. Her versatility helped make her character seem as realistic as possible. Even though Candace was only on-screen for a limited amount of time, I’m hoping this character can play a bigger role in future movies.
- The incorporation of crossword puzzles: Every mystery series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has their own unique identity, even though almost all of them focus on solving murder mysteries. Having crossword puzzles associated with this story was a creative and unique way to set this series apart from the other stories on the network. Having the puzzles correlate with the mystery worked really well for this movie. I also liked the idea of the Crossword Puzzle Tournament that was featured in the film. With the way this type of competition was portrayed in the movie, it kind of reminded me of spelling bees or chess tournaments. However, the competition itself felt like its own unique event.
- The big city landscape: In most of the mystery series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the primary location of the story is in a small, sometimes fictional, town. In Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For, the story took place in New York City. This was a nice change in scenery which worked well of this particular story. Seeing the different businesses and facilities within this film was very interesting! One of my favorite locations in this movie was the Ping-Pong Hall, where Tess was playing a game of Ping-Pong with a friend. Not only is Ping-Pong rarely seen in Hallmark movies, but I’ve never seen a facility like this in any other Hallmark production. I hope a mystery can place at this Ping-Pong Hall in another Crossword Mysteries film!
What I didn’t like about the film:
- A slow pace: Throughout the film, the overall pace was slower than in most of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ films. This caused the story to feel drawn out. It also made some scenes drag on longer than they might have been intended. The issues relating to the film’s pace definitely took away some of the film’s excitement.
- A lack of suspense: In most mystery films, there is a good amount of suspense that helps the audience stay invested in the story. In Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For, the suspense was not as abundant as in other mystery movies. While there were suspenseful moments within this narrative, the film’s total amount of suspense was not fluid. This aspect did affect my overall enjoyment of the film.
- A confusing story element: While watching this movie, there was one part of the story that really confused me. During this film, Pierre was the lead organizer of the annual Crossword Puzzle Tournament. He was planning on retiring and handing the title over to Tess. However, when the Tournament arrived, it looked like Pierre was competing in the competition. No one in the film seemed to notice that this could have been a conflict of interest. I don’t know if I just missed an important plot point or if the screenwriters forgot to include significant details into their script. But I found this part of the film to be very puzzling (no pun intended), even after I saw the film.
My overall impression:
Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For was just ok. It didn’t impress me, but it didn’t make me feel like I wasted my time. However, I do think this movie has the potential to start a strong and entertaining series. This movie has the pieces to lay out the foundation for a series that can be intriguing and engaging. The cast did a good job with their performances, there were creative elements found within the narrative, and the mystery itself was well written. At Hallmark’s Winter TCA Event last month, it was announced that there would be three more Crossword Mysteries movies, which will premiere in October. It will be interesting to see how this series continues, especially since there’s only so much that can be done with crossword puzzles. When October finally comes around, I do want to see what these films have in store and if this series can stand on its own.
Overall score: 6.3 out of 10
Have you seen Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For? Are you excited for the rest of the Crossword Mysteries films to premiere? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!