So, it’s been several years now that we’ve indulged in Hallmark Christmas movies to bring on the holiday spirit.
But they are getting a bit predictable and just plain boring, no?
Here are a few picks that will liven up your holiday viewing without giving you that sickly sweet feeling in your stomach or general numbness in your brain.
Fair fare warning: None of these movies are PG-13 and they are not appropriate for young viewers due to mature subject matter.
“A Christmas Wish”
Amazon Prime (via IMDb), 2011
This is not a picture-perfect Christmas story, which is what makes it so good.
Yes, there’s snow and some decorations, but this is a tale of the struggles a single mom faces when her husband leaves her just before the holidays with nothing but a beat-up car and their small kids.
Mom and the kids make mistakes and hurt each other in the process of creating a new life, but their instincts to not just survive but thrive are what will inspire you.
Kristy Swanson, aka Buffy the Vampire Slayer, plays the mom who finds work as a waitress in an excruciatingly small town. Edward Hermann of Gilmore Girls plays the crusty diner regular.
“The Spirit of Christmas”
Amazon Prime, 2015
The movie’s plot is a step up from the typical Christmas fare. I’m sure that is how it garnered such good reviews, and it deserves them.
A real estate agent’s attempts to sell a haunted estate are thwarted by a ghost who can’t seem to find his way out of this world. Not only is it rare to have a real estate agent as a protagonist, but to find a helpful one is a real surprise.
The story’s resolution is unique and satisfying. And that’s what sets the movie apart.
Plus, the setting is lovely and wintry. It was filmed on location in Massachusetts at two historic estates, the Proctor Mansion Inn and the Harding Allen Estate.
My Dad’s Christmas Date
Netflix and Amazon Prime, 2020
I thought this was a comedy based on its casual title, but it isn’t. The story centers on a father and his teenage daughter and the pain they both suffer as they navigate life without a wife/mom.
Olivia Mai Barret delivers a spot-on performance as the smarty-pants daughter from hell, giving her dad a run for his money. Underneath she’s grieving for her mom but won’t let her dad see that. To protect him or to punish him, I wonder? I don’t think she is really sure about the whys.
Dad is played by Jeremy Piven and he is excellent. One review by a British critic panned the movie for making the “Yank” the hero, but I believe that criticism is 1) not true and 2) even if it were, invalid. Dad is no more the hero than his British-born-and-raised daughter. I’m gonna wager that this critic didn’t give the story his full attention.
This movie actually made me cry and that doesn’t happen often. But, it isn’t a sad movie, it’s a movie about the gift of enduring love. And what is better for Christmas than that?
A Castle for Christmas
Brooke Shields produced and stars in this Christmas movie. It’s a pleasant story and nothing out of the ordinary. But if you love looking at gorgeous snow-covered countrysides and Scottish manor houses decorated for the holiday, you are in for a treat!
Warning: if you are Scottish, the word from across the pond is that the Scottish accents are laughable.
Our heiress is sent from Manhattan to a small but beautiful town and is stuck in a snowstorm. Her mission is to deliver a Christmas letter and prove to her dad that she can survive on a meager budget.
As in many of these Christmas rom coms, our protagonist faces a choice between her betrothed and the new guy on the scene. Who will prove to be the perfect match?
The resolution is obvious, but you’ll enjoy the little snags that befall our heiress along the way. And you’ll go gaga over the scenic town of Snow Falls.
Admittedly, it took me a while to get the reference here. I immediately thought “Harry Potter,” but the truth is that our main character Maynard Grieger is as saintly as ol’ George Bailey, living in a town that can’t appreciate him.
This is a fun movie and not anything complicated or deep. The setting is reminiscent of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” – colorful and quirky. The plot is quirky, too: Bigfoot brings national focus to a small town, only to expose the fickleness of its citizenry.
It’s a crazy story but certainly delivers as far as relief from the Hallmark Christmas genre. Enjoy it for just that reason.
She’s out to prove two things: that she can find a guy online and that Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
He’s trying to be something that he’s not, to prove to her and to himself that he’s worth what he is.
Though the ending is predictable, the acting is great, as is the supporting cast.
Critics are justified in pointing out that fake dating profiles are contemptible and dangerous. But I’d argue that they are also real, making this a teachable moment, right?
The movie is not appropriate viewing for very young children due to language and sexual references.
“Call Me Mrs. Miracle,” starring Doris Roberts
DVD Now available for $5 on Amazon Prime, also streaming on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
We caught this movie on the Hallmark Channel last year, and it was one of our favorites.
It’s a reprise of the character Mrs. Miracle in the original film of the same name. I never saw the original movie and it certainly isn’t necessary to enjoy the second.
Doris Roberts is perfect as Mrs. Miracle. Jewel Staite is especially likable as Holly Wilson, the not-so-perfect aunt trying to care for her motherless nephew while her brother serves overseas during the holidays.
The plotline isn’t complicated, but the acting and script are good. Best of all, the humor is actually funny, which is something not easily found in your typical holiday movie.