It’s film 3 of Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas and I worry for myself. Today’s film is Road to Christmas. Here’s the crash course:
Los Angeles television producer Maggie Baker unwittingly falls for Danny Wise, the son and former producer of his mother’s popular annual Christmas special Julia Wise Lifestyle. When Maggie’s secret plan to reunite Danny and his two brothers with Julia during the live broadcast in Vermont goes awry, Maggie is reminded that above all, it is the love for family and friends that makes the merriest of Christmas. Starring Jessy Schram and Chad Michael Murray.
Meet our heroine, Maggie. She gifts her coworker some nogg at the annual office Christmas party. This coworker is astonished by the gesture and expositions the entire Maggie character to us. Maggie is the head producer of a media company and she has less than a week before the Live Christmas Special airs. Balancing work and homemaking activities makes her some sort of superwoman. Women CAN have it all, ladies! Maggie already knows this information, but it’s always nice to have a reminder.
But she’s not nearly as impressive as the company’s boss Julia Wise. She is a true inspiration and a figure that we should strive to emulate. She’s also the type of boss that says her company is a family. A family where you can fire your cousin if his productivity is low. Maggie, Julia Wise, and two other women talk about work (to be honest, this is sort of refreshing) and how brave it is that Julia Wise is holding her cooking show LIVE on CHRISTMAS in HER OWN HOUSE. Julia Wise casually notes that this was Maggie’s brilliant idea.
Maggie takes a call from her parents. She makes sure to tell them that it’s December 20th. They probably already know this, but we, the audience, need to understand that she has very little time until the Live Christmas Special. Her parents are a bit sad that she’s not going to make it home for the holidays, but they’re proud of her work and they’ll definitely be watching the Julia Wise Live Christmas Special that she’s producing. The TV blares during this phone call that Julia Wise is holding a Live Christmas Special. I hope Maggie doesn’t forget she’s got something important to do on December 24th…
Introducing…Chad Michael Murray! For those of us that grew up in the late 90s/00s, he was quite the WB star. And here he is making an insightful comment to Maggie about some mistletoe that’s hanging in the lobby. It IS asking for an HR complaint, Chad’s character. You’re right about that. Chad’s character heard that the network is doing a Live Christmas Special which isn’t very traditional. Maggie proudly remarks that things are getting a little more adventurous now that she’s around. Maggie quickly leaves the conversation because Julia Wise has beckoned.
Julia Wise has some news for Maggie. Because it’s her first year as Head Producer and this Live Christmas Special is a big deal for the network, she’s brought in some help. Meet Danny Wise, Chad’s character! Danny has some great ideas for making the program more traditional with some pre-recorded segments. There is a clashing of ideals here.
Later, Maggie bumps into Danny at the Christmas party and she belittles his documentary work, calling them “nature films or something.” Oh, because a daytime cooking program is prestigious television. They decide that instead of being petty, they should work together to film Christmas traditions, like pie recipes and 20-year-old ornaments. This gives Maggie an idea: they’ll do a cross country road trip, collecting Christmas stories along the way. Isn’t it December 20th? This all seems pretty intense for a week.
Julia Wise stops the party to make a toast, saying that the company is a family. She’s sorry that some people have to work over Christmas, but it’s ok because the company is a family and it’s almost like spending Christmas with your blood family, right?
But, ho ho ho, Maggie has a scheme up her sleeve. Maggie will use this road trip opportunity to round up all of Julia Wise’s sons so that they can surprise her during the big Live Christmas Special. As she explains her plan to her coworker, she subtly drops that she’s single. Thank God. I was worried we’d never address it. To ensure the idea goes forward, she’s keeping it a secret from Danny. I suspect he’ll cop on once he starts “coincidentally” driving to each of his brothers’ houses. A half-baked scheme, to say the least.
Off they go to their first destination: Colorado’s biggest (but not too big) Christmas tree farm. They brought a celebrity host, but she has to leave thanks to the flu. The TV is crew is now down to Danny and Maggie. Danny is a little worried, but Maggie rolls with it and takes an unwarranted jab at Danny’s “PSA for bears” documentaries. Maggie is pretty arrogant considering she makes popcorn TV for the elderly. At least Danny is trying to do something valuable with his talents.
The old married couple who owns the Christmas tree farm is actually kind of charming. I’d watch something about them. But they’re old and already had their love story, so Hallmark is not interested. In the middle of recording, the Christmas tree farm owners cut a tree, thinking that this TV show crew planned on taking one. They did not, but the owners are sticklers for the rules and use a nearby sign to insinuate that the couple must buy the tree. Maggie decides that they will and proceeds to tie it to the rental car. They couldn’t just pay for it and give it to someone else or dump it somewhere. Nope, they’re going to have a tree attached to their car for the rest of their journey.
They embark to their next destination: Danny’s brother, Derek. He’s adopted which is an interesting touch. I’m onboard with representing different kinds of families. Maggie invites Derek to the Live Christmas Special, but Derek flat out refuses. Looks like there’s some underlying family issues here. Danny explains to Maggie that when Derek and their other brother were teenagers, they wanted to sing on Julia Wise’s show. However, the singing was awful, so Danny said no. The brothers are still sore over this. I think it’s been 10 years. Get over it, Danny’s brothers.
Derek works in a ski lodge that holds an annual snowman contest. Maggie forces them to take part so that the brothers can bond. Despite building a terrible snowman, the plan works. Derek agrees to go. The airport is closed because of a snowstorm, so they rent a car to continue the journey. The boys do their own bit of bamboozling and take a detour to visit Maggie’s family.
We learn that the family is in a cult centred around Julia Wise. Maggie’s mom nonchalantly quotes Julia Wise. Maggie is doing a cross-country road trip to collect her sons for her. Maggie’s sister just about wets herself when Maggie asks if the family would like to be featured in the Julia Wise Live Christmas Special. It’s all very weird.
The trio leaves and flies directly to Newport, Connecticut to seek out the other brother, David. Oh hey, the brothers all have names that start with D. How original, Julia Wise. According to the brothers, David is a tough cookie to crack. David saunters into the scene with a Yorkshire terrier under his arms. He’s first adopted, second oldest in the family. David is also gay. And he’s not some weird stereotype (apart from maybe the tiny dog in his arms and that his partner references David’s theater degree)! It’s done subtly enough. Hallmark is really moving forward here!
David holds an annual puppy party which is just spectacular. I’m looking forward to shots of cute dogs in Christmas gear.
Maggie lets the cat out of the bag and invites David to the Live Christmas Special. David refuses and says that he doesn’t approve of his mother’s way of coping with their father’s death: by working all the time. Maggie tells David a bastardized story about the three wise men, essentially saying that they changed their plans, so he should too. David’s partner saves us from listening to more of Maggie’s stories by arriving with a basket of orphaned kittens. David realizes that he should stay at home to raise these kittens. Julia Wise’s Live Christmas Special is down one boy.
The airport is closed due to the storm that is chasing them so the trio takes a train instead. Unfortunately, it has to make an emergency stop. While waiting, the group talks to two travelers who are stranded in New Hampshire. They only have one ticket to Vermont between them, so they might be separated for Christmas. Derek gives his ticket away. He’s not a good singer, but he’s an alright guy. However, this means that Derek won’t make it to Vermont. The trio is now a duo and Julia Wise’s special is down two boys.
Maggie and Danny make it to their final destination. But it’s snowing so much that they can’t possibly walk! Unless…
We cut back to David. David’s partner suggests that David spend time with his family. Derek walks into the room. I think there’s a-doings a-transpiring.
Back in Vermont, Julia Wise opens a box filled with the deceased father’s favorite ornaments. Danny pulls out a ukulele. When the boys were young, the dad used to sing Christmas songs to them with this ukulele. This appears to be the reason why David and Derek were so sore that they couldn’t sing in the Christmas special. They wanted to honor him. This is actually kind of sad. But, whatever, Julia Wise needs to make another speech.
Late into the night, Maggie and Danny get very cozy on the couch. Julia Wise interrupts a kiss. Julia Wise takes this opportunity to drop a bomb: Danny isn’t going to be involved in future Christmas programs. This was a one-time deal. Maggie is heartbroken. Julia Wise can tell this is a problem and she’ll be damned if this ruins her Live Christmas Special.
Danny chases after Maggie to apologize, but she’s struggling internally. Maggie says she likes being called an independent woman, but she also likes Danny. These two points are apparently in direct conflict with each other. Once a woman settles on a mate, she is forever absorbed into him, losing her personality in the process. I think that’s the subject of one of Danny’s nature documentaries.
The next morning, Maggie meets Julia Wise who is wielding a knife. She beckons her crew/followers to cook a meal together. Danny and Maggie act awkwardly around each other, but they slowly warm up again.
It is the day of the Live Christmas Special. It’s also Christmas Eve, but that’s not as important. Unfortunately, the snowstorm that’s been following the duo causes a power cut, screwing up the show’s computers. With no computers, they have no traditional Christmas segments to cut to. They have to do the ENTIRE show live. Julia Wise freezes. The all-knowing didn’t see this coming. Watching someone cook pies and goose live with nothing to break it up? That sounds like a recipe for a boring disaster. Julia Wise can’t rely on the teleprompter, so she ad-libs some stuff about Dickens.
Maggie remembers something and runs off set. When she goes outside, she sees David and Derek in the sleigh! She runs back into the house to give Danny a USB filled with road trip highlights which they can use during the Live Christmas Special. She then plants a huge one on him which is highly unprofessional.
The show seems to be going well. Danny and Maggie go outside to meet the other two brothers and carry out a surprise. They knock on the door. Julia looks perturbed, but her head producer tells her to open the door. It’s her boys singing a Christmas carol! She hugs them which probably leads to some serious fabric sound on her mic. Julia Wise introduces “her three wise men” to the audience. The TV watching audience claps.
Jesus, it just showed David’s partner alone with a kitten for Christmas. That’s sad. But pay no mind to him. Julia Wise wishes to know how this all came to be. The camera pans to her loyal follower, Maggie. Filming is about to start, so Maggie gives Derek a ukulele, so that he can finally sing on camera. Oh wait, Derek doesn’t sing. Maggie sings. She’s part of the family now. This is her reward from Julia Wise for being a true believer. The crew beings to surround the dinner table and slowly sing in unison. Maggie and Danny kiss over dinner. The ritual is complete. FIN.
This was an alright film. I’m onboard with the progressive elements, but less so about the Julia Wise cult. Chad was charming which was a hell of a step up from Ben the stalker. Next week, we’ll be seeing LeAnn Rimes in It’s Christmas, Eve. I think her name will be Eve.
- A theme I’ve noticed in the films so far: The women are into creative ideas and twists on Christmas. The men are into tradition. The women are broken down to accept tradition. This is messed up.
- Top Tip: Be wary of companies that love talking about how your co-worker Stephanie is almost-sort-of-like your sister.
- “I’ll get some dinner started for the dogs.” This is how David’s partner excuses himself from the conversation. This led to a guffaw from me.
- Cliché line alert: “Christmas is a time for miracles.” Stated by a pregnant woman.
- “So natural. Did you hire them? Are they actors?” Yes, Julia Wise, the old married couple are actors.
- The real question is: did Julia Wise kill her husband so that she could work more? The answer is most assuredly yes.
- I made Simpsons references and didn’t mean to. See if you can find them!