I have to confess that I am really, really, really, just a smidge, maybe, over the Christmas movies on Hallmark. So much so that I have deleted a few off my DVR, with the idea that maybe I’ll get that Hallmark app on Prime and be able to watch a Christmas movie in May or June. But before we get there, it’s January 5 and I’m watching Christmas in Grand Valley, saved from deletion because it’s one with our girl Danica McKellar, and co-starring Kevin’s dad from The Wonder Years. It also has that guy who has been in several movies, including a few with her, Brennan Elliott. I’m not a fan of his, but let’s see how this one goes.
We open at a very overly decorated cityscape (city unknown) and then Danica is walking down the street when her phone rings – she reaches into her severely empty purse to pull out just her phone. It’s her Dad! He owns a diner! She’s an artist on the way to meet with her agent about getting her own art show! Can we have any more exclamation points! They convey the excitement on Danica’s face, and we find out from Sassy person who works with dad that her name is Kelly. The next thing we know, is that Kelly didn’t get her own show, and apparently we’re in Chicago. Kelly now has painter’s block, second guessing herself about what to paint and how to paint and all that crap. Older Son has just whispered that she’s not Bob Ross, and if that’s not a curse and a commendation all at once, I don’t know what is.
She needs to get inspired, so she heads home to Grand Valley for Christmas and goes right to her dad’s diner! Sassy Person has got a flirt on with perennial 2nd banana blonde actor who has been in several of these movies and who always loses the girl to someone else. He’s Kelly’s cousin, Mikey, and he just got promoted to be Manager of the Lodge, but the Lodge apparently is under performing and he might then lose his job and there is so much plot in these 2 seconds I feel like my head is going to explode. Mike begs Kelly to help at the Christmas Kids Lodge thing, because of course there’s a Christmas Kids Lodge thing. There’s a VIP guy coming to judge the Lodge and its profits and they have to impress the socks off him.
We go to VIP meeting of hotel guys, and Brennan Elliott is there in a purple tie with ties of his own to the Lodge in Grand Valley – he’s got sentimental feelings about that Lodge, and before we can know his name, he’s being sent to Grand Valley with his kids for a working vacation. He’s got kids? And Kelly’s going to do something with kids? SYNERGY. That’s what we call it, folks.
No, not this kind of Synergy.
So hero’s got kids, but his sister takes care of them, so it seems that his wife is dead. Kids are happy to go on Christmas vacation. Then we head right back to Wyoming, and why Kelly is having an art existential crisis about her art, and her cousin Mikey has the dumbest moustache. It’s like dust just landed on his upper lip. Please, please, please, shave that off before the end of the movie.
Brennan Elliot’s name is Neal, and he’s arrived at the Lodge. His kids are named Max and Emma and they get their own cabin with a roaring fireplace. Kids are suitably happy, and Max is obsessed with horses and that’s his character trait right there, except he looks like Ralphie from A Christmas Story.
Next scene, Neal and kids meet Kelly on the street, and there are a gazillion trees lining the shops, and they are all decorated with ornaments and I do not believe that is a thing anywhere in Wyoming because of all snow that happens to fall. All those ornaments would be destroyed. This was clearly thought up by some screenwriter who lives in California. Anyway, each tree is decorated by a person in the town, to showcase their family traditions. And another tradition? Christmas Tree Lighting! We get a convenient Christmas Countdown – it’s 9 days to Christmas, and we also get to hear that on Christmas Eve, everyone comes down to the big tree and puts MORE ornaments on the tree in the square.
Next day, it’s the first day of Kids Christmas Camp (Shouldn’t it be Kids Kristmas Kamp?) at the Lodge – and the day is chock full of things to get the kids out of the parents’ hair. I dream of such a place sometimes, especially on Saturday mornings, when kids like to fight over video games and who makes the tea. Yes, that’s something we fight over at this house. Emma’s character trait is that she wants to be an artist, and Kelly has a bonding moment, and then she has a major about face against Neal when she finds out that he’s there to judge the financial stability of the Lodge. No one does wounded righteousness better than Danica McKellar. Neal is kind of annoyed that Kelly is so righteous about the Lodge, but that doesn’t stop him from subtly trying to get his flirt on despite being rusty because his wife died.
Neal and Mike have to talk about the Lodge, and Neal does it by taking over Mike’s office and sitting behind Mike’s desk. That is such a dick move, but he does offer some help – they need to do more Excel in order to see if the Lodge is worth saving. It’s all about the math. Then we cut to to the Kids making snowmen that are so obviously fake that I think they’re on a green screen.
Dang, Wyoming is gorgeous. And Kelly is inspired by these magic perfect snowmen, and then Neal shows up and they have more flirt on in the snow and it’s weird. Neal’s kids are getting way too attached to Kelly way too soon, and they are just begging for The Sad Times. But Kelly is all inspired by the Kids Camp and how kids make art fun. And Mike arrives to say hi, and maybe it’s not a bad mustache, it’s just 5 o’clock shadow just on his upper lip.
Sassy Person at the Diner has money troubles – she bought a new car but can’t afford it, so Kelly says come work with her at the Camp…but if a hotel is having money troubles, can they really afford to hire another person? But Kelly asks Sassy Person about Mike – and Sassy Person says he’s never asked her out, and Kelly says maybe she should ask him out and it’s like their roles are reversed and Kelly is the Sassy Friend just for a moment. But we also get the thought that Kelly doesn’t think her life in Chicago is worth it anymore. Another movie where life in the big city is the worst thing in the world, and the only life worth living is a small town life in a town far, far, far away from any kind of city. As someone who has worked in a city, and who lives in the suburbs just 40 minutes from a major city, shut the F up, Hallmark. There is nothing wrong with suburb or urban life, despite the fact that we don’t have Christmas Festivals every season.
Neal and the kids show up at Frank’s diner, and even though Max just ate, he’s still hungry, and he’s now just like Younger Son. Frank offers to make them pancakes, and afterwards, Kelly is so fired up by the fact that Neal can’t see the magic of the Lodge because he’s so focused on math. She doesn’t realize that he is not the one who owns the company who owns the Lodge, he’s just the one who has to do the math.
Kelly and Neal and family are walking back to to the Lodge and they run smack dab into a Christmas Festival with carolers. We get exposition about how they both live in Chicago but had to come to Wyoming to meet. Kelly went to the Illinois Fine Art College (which I googled, and is not a thing) and he’s worked at the Resort Company who owns the Lodge forever. Neal also finds out that Mike is her cousin, so he knows that there’s no one in the road ahead of him. But she also gets stuck on the fact that his job has to do with math, and she’s got a thing written into this movie where she walks 3 feet away, then turns back and gives him a set-down. She’s not very understanding about the fact that Neal is just doing his job, which he needs to do to take care of his kids, as his wife is dead, and someone has to bring home the dental. I guess artists have to worry about finer things? She’s bugging the crap out of me.
Sassy Person and Mike meet up at the Lodge to stare longingly at each other. Props that Sassy Person and Mike are a potential couple.
Kids have bought a tree for their cabin, and have invited Kelly to come over and help decorate it – which means that they just shelled out a bunch of money for ornaments and decorations and stockings and everything. They even bought Kelly a stocking. Then Kelly overhears Neal on the phone with his boss, and storms off in a huff of righteousness because Bossman wants to know if the Lodge is ok or not to sell to developers who will make a shopping center or a bunch of condos out of it. Anyone with a working set of eyeballs can see that by Neal’s exhausted sigh and face rubbing that he doesn’t like this idea, but Kelly can’t get passed the idea that he’s the big bad wolf coming to blow the Lodge down.
I think Sassy Person’s name is Lucy? She offers to babysit Neal’s kids so he can burn the candle at both ends, and he finally tells Kelly that he’s trying to keep the Lodge open, and I guess now she can stop acting like he’s got the Plague. Sassy Person calls it that they like each other and I think I’ve been calling him Neal but that his real name is Leo. Just googled and yes, his name is Leo. Oh well. I’ve been pausing this movie every 3 minutes to referee video game and fart fights between Older and Younger Son so no wonder I didn’t hear correctly. Younger Son is currently eating Oreos very loudly, as well, and the volume remote is all the way on the other side of the couch.
Leo and Kelly have a moment while she is sadly painting the Lodge – Christmas wouldn’t be the same in Grand Valley without it, you guys. But Leo tells Kelly he’s on her side to save the Lodge and they stare at each other for a second to long.
Now we go ice skating! Props to anyone who can balance on a blade on frozen water is amazing. Max falls, and Leo goes immediately into over-protective father mode, which makes me think that mom died from hitting her head, but no, that’s just my mental problems coming out.
Leo and Kelly walk down the street and have a very important conversation about how they like each other without coming out and saying they like each other. He loves her painting, and her painting styles keep adapting to whoever in the prop department is doing them.
Leo confesses that he doesn’t really like his job, because it’s all about math and not about customer service. He wants his job to be more personal.
Max and Emma are going to move their perfectly decorated cabin tree to outside Frank’s Diner. And Leo and Kelly are there to flirt subtly while Frank looks on and smiles. Then we get a nice Wonder Years Flashback while dad and Kelly discuss the state of Kelly’s heart.
Leo and Kelly are back at Leo’s cabin – he asks her out when they get back to Chicago, and she would love that, but she thinks she’s going to move back to Grand Valley, and she wants to be an art teacher. Leo is very understanding about that, even though that means he gets no booty call in the Windy City. They are going to make the most of the time they have left, before Leo has to go back to real work.
Kelly tells her dad that she’s moving home, and my goodness, can all dads look like Dan Lauria in these movies? He’s fabulous.
There’s a store in Grand Valley that is just Christmas decorations, and we get Leo’s heretofore undocumented talent of playing the accordion. Brennan Elliot plays the accordion, and I feel like that was written into the script in order to showcase it. Leo then asks Sassy Lucy to watch his kids again in order to take Kelly out to dinner. Sassy Lucy takes the kids to go see White Christmas and Mike gets to come along and Sassy Lucy and Mike are on their way to coupledom.
At their date, the restaurant is decorated in white Christmas trees and ew. Kelly has great hair – she points out that she spent half an hour on it, so they are more than friends. Kelly is wondering if it’s a good idea to be all lovey dovey when they’re going to say goodbye after Christmas, but he’s all like let’s seize the moment. And after a walk down the street we get a pre-ending kiss and there’s not even mistletoe involved!
Sassy Lucy and Mike get to be a couple but it’s off screen, so we’re not distracted by Kelly and Leo.
Leo and Mike and Frank have coffee at the Diner and Leo is so happy to have boy time over coffee, and Leo tells Frank he likes Kelly and Frank is ok with that. Then he goes to see Kelly, and in order to save the Lodge, he’s going to take her paintings and put them on the Lodge’s website and his company’s website as well, so in a way, she gets her own art show. But it doesn’t help the cause for the Lodge and the corporate bottom line because Bossman don’t care, even if it does attract Kelly’s agent and gets her excited.
Santa Wagon Ride in town! Kid who likes horses is amazed, and the kids are entranced by everything and they want to come back next year, and that means that Leo feels really guilty about his boss being such a craphead. They walk down the street like a family, and the whole town stares after them in silent admiration.
Sad Times for Leo because he’s got to leave and Kelly is going to stay home. Mike points out that Leo can always get a new job, and it’s like Leo has never, ever, ever thought about that thought yet. He immediately calls his boss with a proposition. But we don’t hear what the proposition is, because Kelly just got a call from her agent that she gets her own show at a Chicago gallery. But Kelly has to be in Chicago to do it.
Leo just bought the Lodge! Kelly can’t tell him that she has good news too, because that means she’s moving back to Chicago. WHY????? This is soooooooo dumb. You can visit Chicago and then LEAVE it, you know. What about her art teacher dream? Leo is understanding because it’s not like they’re really dating, but Oh my GAWD I am so annoyed right now. Sad Time for everyone, including me.
Sassy Lucy has to point out that Kelly’s thinking is whack, and Frank is like, yup. Sassy Lucy and Mike have a little moment where they also agree that Kelly is acting dumb. Because secondary characters don’t have anything else to say unless it’s about the main characters.
Kelly is now so upset about everything – she’s going to miss everything, and she loves Leo’s kids, and is trying to psych herself up to go back to Chicago. She needs someone to tell her what to do, instead of finding out by herself and FINALLY she gets there in a speech that I just said 2 paragraphs ago. MY GOODNESS WHEN WILL THIS MOVIE END?
She immediately has to go tell Leo that she’s staying home, her truth is that she needs to stay home. Her heart is right in Grand Valley and with Leo and yay kissing by the fireplace.
Mike and Sassy Lucy get half a minute of resolution and a little peck on the lips outside on the street as they walk to trim the town tree. The kids are remarkably ok with moving to Wyoming, and something tells me that they haven’t figured out that they’re going to leave all their city friends and their schools and everything. But whatever, happy families in Grand Valley and we’re DONE.
Oh this made me so annoyed. While the acting was all fine, and Dan Lauria is a national dad treasure, I could have gotten the last 120 minutes of my life back doing ANYTHING else but watching this movie. Anyway, I got it done, just so you don’t have to.