In one of the 2018 parade of new Hallmark original holiday movies, titled (erm…) Pride, Prejudice & Mistletoe, Lacey Chabert (former Mean Girl, who still seems to be trying to act her way out of the same paper bag), plays a New York finance hotshot who is about to be sabotaged by her scheming, backstabbing partners – one of whom is a fully-grown-up Mean Girl. This might be a suspenseful plot line except…Lacey’s character (um…) Darcy Fitzwilliam is from a ridiculously wealthy family in Ohio (their house looks like a Midwestern Brideshead), and dad has already offered her a big job at his company – thus completely negating, from the get, any sense of the tension necessary to good storytelling.
Now, we’re not even questioning the cozy appeal of the annual Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas, and even recommend it as a familiar holiday backdrop to your baking, decorating and boozy-eggnoging. But at least toss us a few moments of middling-level nail-biting, please?
This emotional evisceration of the season’s most profitable ritual reached its apotheosis this past week, with the debut of the New Year’s Eve focused holidramedy A Midnight Kiss. First off, well…they’ve already given the ending away in the title – so they’re basically saying, don’t worry, we’re not going to make you work for this one…at all.
But the story? Party Planner Girl (PPG), played by the adorable Adelaide Kane, is forced to collaborate with Annoying Jetsetting Film Producer Guy (AJFPG) played by former Nickelodeon star Carlos PenaVega, to get a big New Year’s Eve bash thrown for a wealthy female tycoon of some sort or other. It’s important to note here that for all the undistinguished actors filling up the IMDB pages these days, PenaVega is exceptional in his ability to convey almost negative substance. Seriously, you can veritably feel a degree of humanity being sucked from our collective existence with every second that he remains on the screen. (For comparison’s sake, he makes the male characters on Big Bang Theory all pretty much seem like James Dean or Jim Morrison.)
Kane, for her part, successfully accomplishes the job of a workaday Hallmark Channel movie heroine.
As per Hallmark holiday movie official doctrine, they cutely rub each other the wrong way for the better part of 110 minutes, while occasionally tipping the audience off with a “we’re gonna hook up at the end” smile directed at one another – all the time insisting to pushy friends, “There’s nothing going on between us!” And pretty much nothing actually even mildly romantic does transpire between them during that time. In fact, there’s a moment in a flower shop that is so mind-numbingly banal, that you’ll surely find yourself thinking, “Please, please God, hurry us on up to the paint drying scene!”
The issue is, that Hallmark Channel at least used to throw us a few edge-of-seat subplots on the way to the inevitable marriage proposal denouement (Uh oh, they’re going to lose the Christmas tree farm to greedy real estate developers!). But here, they literally have just stopped even trying. You want suspense? At one point, it’s discovered that a fireworks permit was not properly secured (Uh oh, Ms. Tycoon is really not going to like this!) – yet moments later, they’re somehow at the mayor’s house. He resists for about 80 seconds, and then jumps on his computer to get the paperwork expedited in a flash. Phew!
In another 007-worthy twist, the lights all go out moments before the party is about to kick off. They head downstairs, flip a switch, and within seconds…they’re back on! And when some of the staff don’t show up for duty, PPG’s family suddenly pops out of the back of a catering truck like epicurean superheroes to save the day (cue 1960s Batman TV theme song).
Tension peaks when PPG nervously spills the beans to her brother that after the big NYE soiree, she’s leaving the family party planning business. There’s about three seconds of silence (cue Beethoven’s 9th), before he responds something to the effect of, “Sure sis, no problem! I was wondering when you were going to tell me – and I support you in everything you want to do!” Awesomeness!
Finally, as the expensive clocks strike midnight, and those fireworks do indeed take to the sky, AJFPG and PPG look completely emptily into each other’s eyes, each tidily declaring some variation of, “I can’t imagine my life without you.” No way!
Should we even care? Probably not. After all, if you want your heart to race in front of the television set, there’s always The Handmaid’s Tale…or CNN. But the Countdown to Christmas has arguably become a cultural phenomenon (it beat literally everything in the ratings this year), and so is ripe for a bit of critical appraisal and evaluation.
But perhaps most importantly, as we head into 2019, we’re compelled to suggest the simple but incisive tagline from The Jim Jefferies Show as a possible resolution objective for the new year: “I think we can all do better.”
And yes, that includes you, Hallmark Channel.
All images courtesy of Hallmark Channel