A Merry Christmas Match

It’s finally here! Hallmark Christmas Movie Season. And it wouldn’t be Hallmark Christmas movie season if it didn’t start in October…BEFORE Halloween. Between Hallmark’s two channels, it plans to release 40 movies, which ends up being about 3 movies per weekend. However, opening weekend they released a sensible 2 movies-one on each channel.

photo cred: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries

“ A Merry Christmas Match” is up first. The first movie of the season, premiering on Friday, October 25. Let’s dive in.

One of the first shots we see is a group of people putting up a poster for A CHRISTMAS EVE PAGEANT. We are seconds in and already checking off a crucial item on the Hallmark Movie checklist. They are wasting no time.

A single guy leaves his home-immaculately decorated for Christmas and heads to his busy city office, where the halls are also decked to the max. He has thoughtfully brought his assistant coffee. Or is it a peppermint mocha? We’ll never know. However, we soon learn that he is an adult male named Ryder and that he has been named “LA’s hottest holiday bachelor….in real estate” which is something people are measuring. He declines to participate in a calendar.

Back in the picturesque Hallmark Christmas town of Harmony, we learn the female lead (Cory) has a very successful BFF (Jillian) and a token sassy sidekick. I love them both. She also has a sad hometown friend that Jillian designates her “holiday prince” (note how many times people force holiday lingo in this movie.) I think poor Cole is going to be friend zoned by all three of these ladies.

Outside, Jillian and Cory are stopped by a Jillian fan. He needs a “selfie” for his “story.” He just hopes he can find “Wi-if”. SO MUCH TRENDY JARGON. He is clearly a hip LA guy. And then Jillian gives us our first reminder that the holidays are a special time for all kinds of things.

Back in LA with the hottest holiday bachelor in real estate, a woman named Victoria struts-and I mean struts- right in to his home. It is clear to me that she doesn’t get “it” or “him”. He is not having it. He sends her on her way seconds after she gets there.

We learn that Cory and her mother run a….vintage Christmas decorations store. Shockingly, they are struggling to stay in business. Truly, I thought there was a pretty big market for used Christmas decorations. Anyway, Cory’s mom is like-let’s sell this place. I want to retire and not put every last dime into this horrible business idea. And Cory is like-no we have to keep this place alive even if it kills us. For Dad. And her mom is like, but he’s dead so he doesn’t actually care what we do. Cory helpfully points out that the budget at the Art Center she runs is about to be cut in half so she’ll have plenty of time to sit in the empty second-hand Christmas decorations store waiting for no customers. Is that really what she wants? Her mother asks. Yes it is. And then her mom takes a tree topper without paying and heads for the door.

But what….! Ryder walks in. He seems to take the mother’s breath away but she wastes no time scheming for her daughter. She can help him with anything he needs. They literally bump into each other and he falls into a chair and breaks it. Ryder was on his way to Big Bear but was drawn to this cute store. Look, I’d be stopping too if I saw it. Anyway, Cory is like-oh that big fancy ski resort. Yeah no one comes here now that they can ski expensively instead of buy used Christmas knickknacks. He selects a clock and wants to pay for the chair. She attempts to not let him purchase anything at her retail store that only makes money when people buy things. Finally, she accepts his $400 for a broken clock and chair. He seems to let on that he knows a thing or two about the value of things.

The next day, after an awkward breakfast with Jillian, her boyfriend “Davey”, Ryder (Davey’s bff) and Cory, Ryder is back at the Christmas store. He just loves being there. He invites Cory to go get some apple cider or something but unfortunately everything is closed. Poor Cole just has to stand there and watch. Sigh. Always the bridesmaid I fear. But wait! Cory has hot chocolate, to-go cups and peppermint sticks! I think she’s calling it hot cocoa but I’m going to just keep it moving. She knows an uncomfortable amount of information about reindeer and wants to see one in real life one day. She says they’re the most magical creatures on earth and well, do you want to tell her or should I? Also people eat them.

They have a lovely stroll where she is super judgey about Ryder and his upbringing. However, you could tell minute one from that haircut that this dude played lacrosse in high school so she wasn’t actually wrong. Except his high school side hustle was slinging antiques that his mom was going to just throw in the trash. He doesn’t have time for antiquing these days though. Cory is like-well you should do more antiquing if you really love it. And he’s like well you can’t possibly make time for everything she loves. And she’s like yeah I do! And then lists a ridiculous number of things that has nothing to do with actual interests. But it is clear that she doesn’t actually do anything for herself. She’s always trying to help others. She is very anti rich people and the big city if she hasn’t made that painstakingly clear by now. And when her dad died, basically all her dreams died. And then, Ryder drops the line of the century.

He says “That’s my star!”

Cory-“How do you know?”

Ryder “Because it just crossed yours.”

Um, Ryder, can I marry you right now instead? The movie should be over at this point. She should have just locked him right down but instead she just goes home and leans on her door which is something I don’t think real people actually do after dates.

THe next morning, she is busy at pageant rehearsal wearing a Christmas-y Little House on the Prairie dress. And guess what? 9 year old Cally AND 32 year old Cally are HERE FOR IT. I wanted to judge it but I love it too much. Her little fan club shows up. She is so busy with the Art Center she’s not sure she can get away. There is no money for the Winter Musical. I’m guessing that is because it is scheduled to be two weeks before the Christmas Pageant so people are feeling tapped out. There are also 4 other children’s programs she puts on throughout the year and I’m just wondering if that is too many; reduced budget or otherwise. She get a little huffy again because Ryder grew up wealthy and she didn’t.

Ryder goes back to LA and starts working on that clock and I have to say-that clock is not the only thing he’s going to get working again. I’m sure of it. Jillian and Cory are chatting and Jillian is IMPLORING Cory to get out of town for the weekend. But that darn pageant is just a time suck. They are wearing the most adorable Christmas outfits and I need to know where this wardrobe came from. Cory’s eyebrows are FIRE. Back at home, Cory receives A REINDEER NECKLACE and also a necklace for her mom in the mail, with no return address. RYDER IS GETTING WORK DONE. The reindeer necklace is so cute I can’t even make fun of it. This changes everything of course, and she decides to go to LA. Cory’s mom is trying to dump her dad’s stuff at every turn. What’s he going to use it for now anyway? She wonders.

Jillian has the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen and I love dogs. She is also wearing a ridiculous sweater (the dog; the girls’s sweaters are FANTASTIC IN EVERY SCENE). The girls go to a photo shoot and Cory gets her makeup and hair done for Ryder’s big family Christmas party. But she learns he’s in Temecula with “a buddy”. Which we believe is likely Victoria. That sassy city girl from earlier. I’m devastated. But also, Cory, why didn’t you call or text that you would be there? Honestly.

The girls decide to go to the party anyway and they are again, wearing just the cutest outfits. And that reindeer necklace is working hard as Cory’s new Christmas staple. Which is EXACTLY HOW I WOULD TREAT IT. They arrive at this massive mansion and Cory can’t help but make a comment. Then they see a big sleigh full of envelopes and bags and Davey explains that they raise money for “Charity”. It goes to all kinds of places. And, it was Ryder’s idea back in high school! What? You can be rich AND care about others?!! Cory is realizing this for the first time it seems. Ryder turns out to have a great TV dad. When they meet Cory they say, “Oh, Ryder’s Cory?” And I die. So does Cory. Then, guess what? RYDER DIDN’T GO TO TEMECULA. Cory tells Ryder that the necklace is Comet and all the reindeer are girls and that Comet is the best reindeer. I swear, Comet is the only reindeer I hear about in movies and I’m sick of it. Tell the other reindeers’ stories!!

Cory and Ryder then have a lovely moment where they are looking out at the city and Cory realizes that the big city may not be the steaming pile of trash she always assumed it was. She then shares Mindy’s regards with Ryder-that in exchange for Cory taking the weekend off, Mindy must have Ryder’s hand in marriage. So, Mindy is all of us watching this movie.

The next day, the gang all heads to a costumed Charity event with approximately 5 other people. Ryder is dressed as a reindeer and Cory is dressed as the wait staff from the night before. But he’s Prancer, not Comet or Rudolph! Out there telling the stories that need to be told. Ryder’s mom offers Cory a bunch of jobs at top theater companies in LA after seeing some iPhone footage of her managing a bunch of children at Christmas Pageant rehearsal.

After all that fun, Cory calls her mom and her mom is like-are you insane? Take any of those jobs for heavens sake. And Cory is like, but the Art Center? And the store? And Cory’s mom is like-how many times do I have to tell you I don’t care about that stupid store. Let me retire in the spring and let this place become the bait and tackle shop it deserves to be. Cole creepily stares on, out of focus in the background.

Ryder arrives and it’s finally the moment I’ve been waiting for-two people EXCHANGING PHONE NUMBERS. No more wondering-when did they get each other’s numbers? How did that go down? Now we know. Then Cory gives Ryder an an insanely personal gift-her father’s watch. Me? I would have saved that for a Wedding Day gift so I hope she has something better than that ready to go.

Then, Ryder starts to attempt to explain about Temecula but of course he stutters and stalls long enough for Davey and Jillian to show up. And then Victoria shows up in a literal huff and does the explaining for him. Cory is way too upset over Ryder considering going to Temecula and then not going because he likes her and she flees back to Harmony and doesn’t return his calls for a week.

Cole and Cory have a great outdoor scene that was definitely not ADR’d. Cory goes back to the shop to discover someone has bought so much stuff they’ll be in business for 6 more months. So nobody gets to learn any lessons about business.

But then, Ryder GETS THAT CLOCK WORKING. And gets his act together. Poor Cole has to deliver the clock to Cory while she’s sitting in the front row at THE pageant.

Cory then gets up on stage and gives an impassioned speech about a bunch of stuff that only her and like two other people in the room would understand before she announces that she’s stepping down. She is ROCKING that red lip. Jillian sings a song. Is she a triple threat or what? I thought she was just a TV actress.

Mindy takes over the role of thanking each and every guest leaving and they almost show every single interaction before finally cutting away to the most important part of the movie. Victoria found love. (Thank goodness). Ryder only wants to spend Christmases with Cory going forward. I didn’t think these crazy kids would ever figure it out, but they DID! Just in time for Christmas.

Let’s see how this movie rates against our Checklist:

  1. Small Town person, 6.Clumsy meet-cute, 7. Christmas pageant 14. Christmas puns 16. Small shop in danger of going out of business, 17. Dramatic conflict about something that wouldn’t be a big deal instead of real life. 18. Not following dreams-even though this is almost the inverse of that trope. 19. A sassy and wise best friend.

Total Score: 8/20

With Love and Christmas Cookies,

Cally