Here's a checklist of all the Hallmark original romance movies from 2011 along with my comments on those I've seen.
Special movies of note are marked Favorite, Good, Okay, and BAD.
✓ Perfectly Prudence (Jane Seymour and Joe Lando • January 8, 2011)
This is the sequel to Dear Prudence also starring Jane Seymour(!). Unfortunately it's also a weird departure from what made the first movie work. No mystery this time. Instead they tried to force a Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman reunion with Joe Lando, and I don't quite understand what the point was. The new network wants her to change her show... she doesn't want to change her show... she schemes to get back her show. Ridiculous hijinks ensue. If there's a reason to watch this, it's Jane Seymour being her amazing self in a story that tries its best to try your patience.
✓ BAD Backyard Wedding (Alicia Witt • January 22, 2011)
Far, far from the lighthearted romance fare that Hallmark would eventually make famous, this is a boring slog of a film that has few, if any, redeeming qualities. I get that this was supposed to be a drama, but it's bad drama. In addition to Alicia Witt you get Ryan Bittle (Hallmark Casper Van Dien) and Teddy Sears (Hallmark Viggo Mortensen)... plus Frances Fisher, who was completely wasted in this.
✓ Favorite The Lost Valentine (Betty White and Jennifer Love Hewitt • January 30, 2011)
As a massive fan of Betty White since I first saw her on reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and various game shows, I saw this movie before I started watching Hallmark films... based solely on the fact that she was in it. To say that her performance is beautiful and heartbreaking is an epic understatement. How she never received any recognition for the role is just all kinds of baffling. I own the film and watch it every year around Valentine's Day, and it's just as haunting now as it was the first time I saw it. Young newlyweds are pulled apart when the husband reports for duty during World War II. For 66 years she's showed up at the train station every year on Valentine's Day to wait for him to come home, as they promised each other. The story of her annual trek reaches a reporter who starts interviewing her about her life... and tracks down what really happened to her husband. Every bit deserving of a Hallmark Hall of Fame treatment.
A Valentine's Date (Your Love Never Fails) (Elisa Donovan and Brad Rowe • February 4, 2011)
Not seen yet.
✓ Favorite Smooch (Kellie Martin and Simon Kassianides • February 5, 2011)
A prince bristling at the idea of going through with an arranged marriage with a truly awful woman ends up with amnesia and wandering around San Francisco. Meanwhile a young girl whose head is stuck in the world of fairytales can't bear to dissect a frog in school. She goes to set it free and is lead to believe that the frog has turned into an amnesia-inflicted prince. WHAT ARE THE ODDS? Not wanting to leave her new "prince," she takes him home and works to convince her widowed mom that he's the latest in an assortment of nannies. Of course the prince falls for the mom, but will true love ensue? The cast salvages what could have been a charming but lifeless movie... and even secondary roles like the girl and the prince's butler are brilliantly cast... of course Kellie Martin is always good in these things. Fantasy movies are not my cup of tea, but this one tried so hard to be something more, and succeeded.
Accidentally in Love (Jennie Garth and Ethan Erickson • February 12, 2011)
Not seen yet.
✓ Time after Time (Kaj-Erik Eriksen and Christine Chatelain • March 19, 2011)
Journalist guy leaves his fiancé to make it in the big city but never manages to make it despite hopping from paper to paper. He writes a story which his editor insists on publishing even though he hasn't had time to confirm the facts and, when it results in tragedy, he returns home. There he drops by the local newspaper he used to work for and is immediately offered a job. He runs into John-Boy Walton who weirdly knows intimate details of his life but won't explain how he knows them. Instead John-Boy encourages him to look up his old girlfriend. Eventually we find out that John-Boy Walton is Journalist guy FROM 25 YEARS IN THE FUTURE!!! Due to some kind of accident, he's come back in time and decides to keep himself from making the mistake of running away again like he did. I actually welcome the sci-fi element to this story... but couldn't they have found two actors that look more alike? Future guy is much taller, has entirely different features, and is completely different in every way... and you can't explain that away when they have the same fingerprints and birthmark. And then there's his return to the future where he can't remember the life he's lived... how is that even possible? Who he was is not who he ended up now, so shouldn't he have disappeared or something? And been replaced with a future-self who lived that life? Not a terrible movie by any means, but one that could have been much better.
✓ Good The Shunning (Danielle Panabaker and Sherry Stringfield • April 16, 2011)
This is either a really bad or a really good movie and I can't quite decide. A young woman living in an Amish community has never really fit in, but goes through the motions to please her father, mother, and future husband. Then one day she finds out that she's adopted when her birth-mother starts looking for her. Feeling betrayed by everybody for lying to her, she decides to figure out who she is... and gets shunned for her trouble. Eventually the truth wins out and choices have to be made. The acting and story is actually really quite good throughout. But there's something which feels off about it that kinda had me questioning how I feel about it. Perhaps it's an underlaying current of disrespect and exploitation of the Amish perhaps? I dunno. Even so, I'm glad I saw it... even in the "imagine your own ending" non-ending was kinda lame.
✓ Three Weeks, Three Kids (Anna Chlumsky and Warren Christie • May 7, 2011)
I was intrigued when Anna Chlumsky's name popped up for this one. I didn't recall seeing her in anything since My Girl. Anyway... when her older sister needs an emergency babysitter for three weeks while they're in Europe, Anna Chlumsky volunteers to fill in until her parents can come take over. Thinking it's going to be a piece of cake, she is (of course) blindsided to find out that watching three kids is not as easy as she thought it was going to be. In time she discovers that with challenges comes rewards... and potential romance with a next door neighbor. This is a total fill-in-the-blanks film with no challenges and no surprises until the end (Anna Chlumsky's mom is a maniacal genius!). A mildly entertaining diversion and nothing more.
The Edge of the Garden (Rob Estes and Sarah Manninen • May 14, 2011)
Not seen yet.
Rock the House (Jack Coleman • June 18, 2011)
Not seen yet.
Keeping Up with the Randalls (Roma Downey, Kayla Ewell and Marion Ross • July 9, 2011)
Not seen yet.
✓ Honeymoon for One (Nicollette Sheridan and Greg Wise • August 13, 2011)
When a woman finds out her fiancé is cheating on her right before the wedding, her friends convince her to go on her honeymoon trip to Ireland by herself. While there she meets a guy and his young daughter and falls in love with them. Meanwhile, her ex-fiancé is in a bind because the whole point of getting married was to get Nicollette Sheridan's property that he needs for a business dealing. Or something like that. I dunno. I kept getting distracted by my cats who were far more interesting than what was happening on my television.
William & Catherine: A Royal Romance (Jane Alexander, Victor Garber and Jean Smart • ugust 27, 2011)
Not seen yet.
Love Begins (Wes Brown and Julie Mond • September 17, 2011)
Not seen yet.
Love's Everlasting Courage (Wes Brown and Julie Mond • October 1, 2011)
Not seen yet.
Oliver's Ghost (Rhea Perlman and Martin Mull • October 22, 2011)
Not seen yet.
✓ Love's Christmas Journey (Natalie Hall and Greg Vaughn • November 5, 2011)
Yet another in the Love Comes Softly series of movies, this time a young widow trying to overcome her grief at losing her husband and daughter heads to her brother's home for a new start. Old West drama and Christmas festivities ensue as her brother disappears, leaving her to care for his children. Fortunately she is falling for the local deputy who just might be able to help make them have a Merry Christmas after all. I am not a fan of this series, finding the heartfelt sentimentality to be overly-manipulative and artificial, but I'm not the intended audience here so I guess that's to be expected. The worst part though? This is a two parter, and it took me forever to find the second part! Sadly, it wasn't really worth the effort, as it was just a wasted journey towards an entirely predictable conclusion you knew was coming the entire time. Had I known it was 4 hours of television time, I wouldn't have bothered.
✓ Okay Mistletoe Over Manhattan (Tricia Helfer and Greg Bryk • November 6, 2011)
I am usually not invested in the fantasy Christmas movies with Santa and elves and all that... but... Tricia Helfer. A couple with two kids is getting a divorce. At the same time, Santa Claus feels that the world has lost its Christmas spirit and he wants to retire. In order to help Santa, Mrs. Claus heads to New York City to find Christmas Spirit to help her husband. There she gets injected into the lives of the divorcing couple... a cop and a businesswoman of some kind... who somehow afford a house that must cost a million dollars. For not being my kind of movie, this one was pretty good. Mostly because they didn't make Mrs. Claus an idiot and got an amazing actor to play her. Usually they would have her be baffled by technology and in a tizzy over the "modern world." But this time she's smart, savvy, sweet, and knows what a microwave is. The story gains points for being smart... loses points for being slapsticky with Sparky the Elf... but is actually fairly watchable.
✓ Lucky Christmas (Elizabeth Berkley and Jason Gray-Stanford • November 12, 2011)
Casting Randy Disher (from Psych) was great. BUT I CANNOT WATCH ELIZABETH BERKLEY IN ANYTHING WITHOUT THINKING OF SHOWGIRLS AND IT DESTROYED THIS MOVIE FOR ME! Struggling single mom is so stupid that she puts her lottery tickets in the glovebox of her car. Car gets stolen by two guys. She announces on television that her ticket was stolen. One of the guys tries and returns it... but they both end up winning in LOVE! Had they just gotten somebody else as the female lead this might have been a sweet movie. But, alas...
✓ BAD Cancel Christmas (Judd Nelson and Justin Landry • November 13, 2011)
Offensively stupid. Who knew that Santa reports to a Board of Directors who have the ability to cancel Christmas because kids are too greedy now-a-days? Who knew that Judd Nelson would choose to play Santa with some kind of speech impediment that grates on your nerves so badly you just want it all to end. Who knew that one movie could be this bad.
A Christmas Wedding Tail (Jennie Garth, Brad Rowe and Tom Arnold • November 19, 2011)
Not seen yet.
⊗ NO The Case for Christmas (Dean Cain and Rachel Blanchard • November 19, 2011)
Usually I don't give a crap about somebody's politics. I am easily able to separate an actor from their work, and do so all the time. Democrat? Republican? I'm neither, so I honestly don't care. But there's no way I'm supporting the career of somebody who is in bed with the toxic waste assholes at the Family Research Council like Dean Cain. Guess I'll have to be happy with watching all the Hallmark movies except the handful he appears in.
A Christmas Wish (Kristy Swanson, Edward Herrmann and Tess Harper • November 20, 2011)
Not seen yet.
✓ Debbie Macomber's Trading Christmas (Faith Ford and Tom Cavanagh • November 26, 2011)
I sincerely hope that Debbie Macomber's books are good and it's just the Hallmark adaptations that are not-so-good, because I cringe whenever I see her name on anything. While not as kill-me-now-horrific as 2014's Debbie Macomber's Mr. Miracle, this one is still not a favorite. Corky Sherwood, a widowed school teacher, lives in South Woodbourne, Washington. Reverse-Flash, a Christmas-hating English professor, lives in Boston, Massachusetts. When SHE wants to go to Boston to be near her daughter for the holidays... and HE wants to get away to write a book. They go on a house-trading internet site and swap homes for the holidays. But, oh noes, Corky Sherwood's daughter is in Phoenix with her boyfriend, so now she's stuck in Boston for a week without her daughter. Meanwhile, Corky Sherwood's friend is flying to meet her at her house... which means her friend shows up while Reverse-Flash is there. Meanwhile, Corky Sherwood accidentally sets off the alarm at Reverse-Flash's house, so the police calls his brother, who then shows up. Which means Reverse-Flash + Corky Sherwood's friend... and Corky Sherwood + Reverse-Flash's brother... PLUS the daughter and her boyfriend... are all competing for story time. And that's just the first half-hour in. The rest of the movie is a slog to wade through as the characters get together, and I think I may have gone into a coma a couple times before it was over. Yes, there were some good moments, and Reverse-Flash turned in a good performance, but the rest of this disjointed mess was a snooze. P.S. THAT'S NOT SEATTLE-TACOMA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT!
✓ Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith (Hallmark Hall of Fame • Laurence Fishburne and Bradley Whitford • November 27, 2011) — This was a bit confusing at first, because Hank Azaria played Mitch in Tuesdays with Morrie, but here he's played by Bradley Whitford whom apparently had time to kill after Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was foolishly canceled. Anyway... real-life sport's writer and author Mitch Albom is asked by his rabbi to give his eulogy when he dies. Having let his Judaism fall by the wayside, Bradley Whitford doesn't feel as though he's the right person for the job, but he keeps in touch with the rabbi over the years to learn his story so he'll have something to say. Meanwhile, we've also got the story of Laurence Fishburne playing a dutiful Presbyterian pastor whose life had a tough beginning... starting when his mom shot his father, then turning to crime to support his family. But eventually he follows up on a promise he made to his mother behind bars that he would keep going to church and become a minister. Ultimately these two men of faith inspire Mitch to find a faith of his own and believe in the power of change. It's a pretty good movie with production values you'd expect from a Hallmark Hall of Fame film. The performances were exceptional and the message a good one.
✓ Good A Holiday Engagement (Bonnie Somerville and Jordan Bridges • November 27, 2011)
This one skates around being hysterically bad with the general concept and offensive predictability of it all, but is surprisingly entertaining just the same. Maybe it's the performances? Jordan Bridges deftly handles a thankless and absurd role with a charm and sympathetic take that totally works. Even if the story shouldn't. Girl is heading home for the holidays to introduce her fiancé to the family. Unfortunately she gets dumped and is horrified at the thought of her demanding mother (Shelley Long!) being disappointed in her. So she cooks up a scheme to find a fake fiancé to take home in exchange for tickets to Mexico she won on the radio. Out of work actor steps up to fill the bill. YOU DON'T THINK THEY FALL IN LOVE FOR REAL, DO YOU?!? There are many idiotic things to overlook as things progress, but they never bothered me to the point I wanted to stop acting.
✓ BAD A Princess for Christmas (Katie McGrath and Sam Heughan • December 3, 2011)
Hallmark is never going to be compared to high art, but this is utter crap. Two bratty kids with dead parents in the care of their aunt find out that their grandfather is James Bond (Roger Moore version), and he's a Duke of Lichtenstein (or something like that). So off they go to visit him before he dies. Of course the aunt falls in love with a prince... yada yada yada. What makes this so gut-wrenchingly awful is the slapsticky crap that permeates the film. It's just so embarrassingly bad. On top of that, the acting is awful to extreme degrees, and the kids are a non-stop parade of annoyance. Avoid at all costs.
✓ Annie Claus Is Coming to Town (Maria Thayer and Sam Page • December 10, 2011)
Yet another "I'm new to earth and I don't know how to use a toilet or how a spoon works!" movie... but instead of an angel it's Santa Claus's daughter, Annie Claus. I guess there's a certain amount of charm to all this (mostly thanks to Sam Page), but I'd rather watch Elf for the hundredth time than sit through this sappy Christmas tale. Anyway... Annie finally gets to leave the North Pole so she can see if she can find true love, then she has to decide whether to go back to "the family business up North" or convince her boyfriend to move to Santa's workshop when he retires so one of them (both of them?) can take over the job. Alas there's an evil elf trying to get ahead by sabotaging romance so he can take over Santa's job... but I think we all know how that turns out. =yawn= Nothing new here... move along.
✓ BAD The Christmas Pageant (Melissa Gilbert • December 11, 2011)
Oh how hilarious! Melissa Gilbert doesn't know how to work a hand mixer and stuff goes flying everywhere! LOL! ROTFL! LMFAO! Lord, what a worthless movie. If you're going to build your idiotic Hallmark flick around idiotic slapsticky crap, don't be surprised when everybody ends up looking like an idiot. — When Melissa Gilbert, a raging Broadway theater director gets fired from yet another job, her only choice is to take a gig directing a gag-inducing community Christmas pageant with an annoying cast of characters. But when her big break comes along, will she abandon the town to fulfill her dreams? No! Because everybody makes her feel like she's terrible for wanting a career over their silly mess of a play.
✓ Christmas Comes Home to Canaan (Billy Ray Cyrus and Gina Holden • December 17, 2011)
This completely unnecessary sequel to Christmas in Canaan sees Billy Ray Cyrus taking Bobber to Caleeforniuah to see about getting his spinal cord repaired so he can walk again ("Now he's got more screws in 'em than a John Deer tractor!"). This second time around we're jettisoning the race commentary for a love story where Billy Ray falls in love with Bobber's physical therapy doctor. It's the typical "I can't do it! I'll never walk again!" approach to a physical therapy movie, but with a Christmas bonus thrown in. I didn't exactly hate it, I just didn't understand why they felt the need to tack something so inconsequential to the relatively good original film. But if they hadn't made this, we wouldn't have been treated to Billy Ray delivering such classic lines as "Well dangflabbit, son, maybe I am just a hick!" Not required watching by any stretch of the imagination, but high entertainment value if you can't get enough Billy Ray Cyrus. And let's face it, can anybody? And for anybody who is gutted at the idea of Billy Ray not getting to play white savior for a second time... no worries. They manage to squeeze that in as well.
✓ Christmas Magic (Lindy Booth and Paul McGillion • December 18, 2011)
An event planner with no love fro Christmas buys herself a new car... then proceeds to get distracted by her phone, crash the car, then die. Waking up in the middle of Central Park with her spirit guide, she finds out that she has one final "angel duty" task before she can get into heaven. Feeling full of regret and completely unfulfilled over her wasted life, Lindy Booth pulls herself together so she can complete her mission to help a single dad and his daughter. BUT. THERE'S. A. TWIST! A couple of them, actually. Which doesn't make this a great movie... or even a good one... but it does make me not regret having watched it.
A Crush on You (Brigid Brannagh and Sean Patrick Flannery • June 11, 2011)
Not seen yet.
✓ The Cabin (Lea Thompson and Steven Brand • July 30, 2011)
Oh noes! Two sets of parents and their kids end up booked in the same cabin in Scotland! And they hate each other before they even got to the cabin! Which is weird because the father and kids made a point of speeding past the mother and kids but arrives after they do? Weird! Even more weird? All the other cabins are full! And every other resort is booked full! What to do? What to do? OH I KNOW! LET'S PUT THE TWO FAMILIES WHO HATE EACH OTHER TOGETHER IN THE SAME CABIN AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS! Because of course they do. There is one small cabin available, but it has plumbing problems. WILL THE PLUMBING GETS FIXED BEFORE THE MOM AND THE DAD FALL IN LOVE?!? Probably not.
✓ Good Finding a Family (Kim Delaney and Jared Abrahamson • October 15, 2011)
Young kid's life completely changes when his mother (and only parent) is in a car accident. She survives, but has a serious head injury which causes her to become mentally unbalanced. Because the mother is unwilling to take medication to regulate her mood swings (they interfere with her thought processes) the kid ends up in and out of foster care. Eventually he lands at a school that has the academics he needs to pursue his dream of attending Harvard. Unfortunately his unstable family life causes him to be pulled from the only stable home he has... his school... before he can graduate. Desperate to find a foster home in the school district, he sets out to find a family. This was a tough movie to watch, especially since the performances were all solid and made you feel just how hopeless the kid's life seems as obstacle after obstacle is thrown in his path. Even worse... it's based on a true story, which is what makes it such a good one.
✓ Okay Scents and Sensibility (Ashley Williams and Nick Zano • May 13, 2011)
A loose modernized adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. When their daddy is caught in the middle of a bunch of financial scandals then hauled off to prison, the posh Dashwood sisters are left with no money and have to get (ugh!) jobs to survive. Unfortunately, the scandal attributed to their family makes jobs hard to come by. Fortunately one of the sisters makes scented lotions which really take off at a local spa and promises to turn their fortunes around. But it's their lucky turns in love which is where their real fortunes can be found. Overall this is just one of a zillion Jane Austen remakes which doesn't do much to distinguish itself in any way. There are charming moments and performances that make it a nice enough watch, but I sure wish they could have found a script with more sparks and excitement. This relies on the ZOMG! COPY MACHINES ARE SO HARD TO MAKE WORK! trope that was killed and buried after 9 to 5 abused it.
✓ Christmas Lodge (Erin Karpluk and Michael Shanks • October 11, 2011)
This movie is presented by Thomas Kinkade and I was like "The crappy 'Painter of Light' guy who got sued because gallery owners couldn't sell his awful 'art' after he flooded the market... and was accused of molesting women before dying of drug & alcohol poisoning despite calling himself a devout Christian?" And, yep, that's the guy. Interesting aside here... Thomas Kinkade died in 2012, but his studio continues to pump out new works under his name. But about the movie... This is a religious-infused flick about a woman who finds a whiny little girl whining in a ravine while hiking in the forest. She hauls the whiny girl home only to find that she live at Christmas Lodge... a now-decrepit building she spent family Christmases at when she was young. After getting dumped by her boyfriend, she decides to help Michael Shanks restore the lodge to its former Thomas-Kinkade-inspired glory. Fortunately she's an architectural historian and her brothers run a construction company (=insert eyeroll=). This is a poor movie not because they are intent on shoe-horning The Lord's name everywhere they can... but because it's just so cheesy and boring. WILL GRANDPA LIVE LONG ENOUGH TO MAKE IT TO CHRISTMAS LODGE FOR ONE LAST CHRISTMAS? Honestly, you won't even care. Assuming The Lord gives you enough strength to even make it to the end. But... spoiler alert... not only does Grandpa bounce back from his stroke... HE PLAYS THE FIDDLE TO BOOT!
✓ Favorite 12 Dates of Christmas (Amy Smart and Mark-Paul Gosselaar • December 11, 2011)
It's so rare to come across a movie you never knew existed, but then are thrilled to discover... ten years later! (I'm watching in 2021). This movie is a take on Groundhog Day... make no mistake... but it is a well done, highly condensed take that's far sweeter and more charming that it has a right to be. A woman passes out at a department store after being spritzed with perfume and is mortified to discover that she is reliving Christmas Eve (and a blind date) over and over forever (or 12 times, like the song). Just like Bill Murray, she discovers something new about the people around her... and herself... with each new do-over. It's really well done, and a little clever too. Totally worth watching.