Christmas at Graceland is the sixth film in Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas. While many of the films take place in “small towns,” many don’t really take place in the South which is kind of an odd oversight. So if you’re missing your southern accents, American Idol’s Kellie Pickler has it for you. Here’s a brief overview:
Laurel, a Chicago-based business executive, travels to Memphis to close a deal to take-over the city’s oldest family-owned bank. While she’s in town, she bumps into her old flame Clay, a local music promoter with loftier aspirations. Though Laurel tries to stay focused on work, Clay pulls her back to the days when they were a performing duo on the brink of stardom. Laurel finds herself drawn to the City of Blues—and Clay—as she dreams of making music once again. Starring Kellie Pickler and Wes Brown.
The title card is much better than most as they’ve jazzed up the font to make it Graceland tacky. Also, we get to hear a bit of Elvis so this film is off to a promising start. After a few shots of Chicago, we see our protagonist Laurel singing a bit of Elvis while doing some printing. “Juggling presents and presentations. Laurel, you’re amazing. I don’t know how you do it,” says her co-worker who apparently has never multitasked in her life.
Laurel says she’s trying to get everything done so she can keep the promise she made to her daughter, Emma, about building a snowman. Laurel’s boss comes up from behind to ask his star employee if she’s ready for her business trip to Memphis. He’s hoping her southern accent will cement the client deal in Tennessee. And, yes, Kellie Pickler’s accent is heavy duty compared to these generic Midwestern newscaster accents. It’s a wonder they understand anything she says. And as is wont in these films, he’s dangling a promotion over her head if she gets this deal. And unfortunately for Laurel, her boss wants to have an evening meeting. The babysitter is going to get paid overtime.
The next morning, Laurel and her daughter pack up for their trip to Memphis. While trifling through Emma’s bag, Laurel sees a flyer for Christmas pageant try-outs. Emma skipped out because she’s scared of singing in front of people. Guess who’s gonna conquer this fear by the end of the film! Hint: it’s not me.
And with that we’re off to Memphis! They drive through Memphis and roll by Laurel’s childhood home. Emma says earnestly, “Looks like whoever lives there still loves Christmas.” Yeah, ok, Emma. They have a few decorations; let’s not go wild here. The mom and daughter arrive at their destination: Laurel’s friend’s house. Sally squeals when she sees Laurel and looks way more excited about the meeting than Laurel does. I don’t know for certain, but I think Sally has a fake Southern accent.
Laurel is shocked to see some posters on Sally’s wall. Before she became some hot-shot Chicago finance professional, she was a singer in Memphis. Sally made the posters.
Laurel asks about her former music partner and Sally says he’s still somewhere in Memphis. The two try to say something in sync to show us that they have a long history together, but they really botch it.
As nighttime falls, Laurel decides to take Emma to Graceland. Emma thinks elves live there. Laurel tells her that actually it was Elvis, the king of rock ‘n’ roll who resided in the mansion. This means nothing to Emma. The girl also thinks the tourists milling about outside live in the house. She may build a good snowman, but this girl isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Laurel tries to take a picture of her child in front of the tacky Christmas lights, but takes too far of a step back and bumps into her old singing partner, Clay. Clay offers to walk mom and daughter to their guesthouse and uses the time to establish that he is single and so is she. He’s also a promoter and is putting together a show on the Graceland estate.
Before Clay leaves to deal with some promoting emergency, he promises Emma that he’ll get Laurel to sing a song. Not only that, but he’s getting them a private early tour at Elvis’s estate since he heard they hadn’t booked anything. Strange of Laurel to stay at The Guest House at Graceland and not actually book a tour there.
We get some gratuitous shots of the Guest House and meet an over-eager concierge who lies to Emma about elves working at the hotel.
Laurel gets a knock on the door. It’s a man delivering a guitar for Emma. Attached is a card wondering if Laurel will play a song on it. Clay works extremely quickly. Laurel sings “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, and now it’s time for bed” A let down of a number, but Clay got to keep his promise.
Clay calls Laurel the next morning to check up on the guitar he sent. He also says he’s eating breakfast downstairs and freaking out because one of his acts canceled. Because of this issue, he needs to make the morning Graceland tour into an evening Graceland tour.
Laurel has been talking up the billions of meetings she has in Memphis, so we get to see her in business action. The bank company president is putting up the Christmas decorations himself so he’s a real hands-on guy. The president is nervous about being “gobbled up” by a big corporation. How does he allay those concerns? He grills Laurel on her knowledge of Memphis and pretty much buys in. But before he fully commits, the president needs to see how “family” she is at the company Christmas party.
While Laurel is answering pointless questions, Clay is answering a few of his own at a SiriusXM radio interview. In a “cute” scene, Laurel tries to distract Clay with stupid faces.
Clay, Laurel, and Emma take a stroll after Clay’s interview and talk about life, its struggles, and the future. Emma is out of her depth. The group arrives at Graceland to give Emma the time of her life. Here she can learn all about Elvis and his life. (Graceland: bring the kids.)
While Emma wanders the property, the two adults talk about missing the music life and how Clay doesn’t have an act for his upcoming Christmas show. He tries to rope Laurel in. Laurel gives no reply. At bedtime, Emma tries her hand at guilting Laurel too. Will Laurel sing? Yeah, probably, but we’re all here to watch the blossoming romance, not the mystery of whether Laurel will belt out a tune.
The next day, Laurel surprises her daughter with a Christmas tree shopping spree for their hotel. Apparently, the Guest House has pretty lax policies.
Mom and daughter visit a Christmas village with Sally and family. Sally’s accent continues to be muddled. Clay arrives, and Emma conveniently has them pair up so she can buy Laurel’s Christmas gift with the help of Sally’s family.
Clay and Laurel stroll around the festival and talk about Laurel’s unused voice. Clay is totally desperate for a new act. To try to convince her, he breaks into Graceland and trespasses into the areas of the house you’re not supposed to go into.
They drop a nugget of Elvis history and Laurel plays Elvis’s piano. WTF?! Elvis is rolling in his grave. His piano is in a Hallmark movie. Clay asks what happened to stop them from being the music duo they were meant to be. Laurel’s mom died is what happened. She needed a break. We listen to Kellie Pickler sing Silent Night (she doesn’t sing it very silently). This is better than LeAnn Rimes’s film. I’m getting more singing from the stunt casted singer.
At the Guest House the next morning, Clay meets with some high-powered lady from New York. He’s applied for a job at her events company. She’s excited to see his Christmas concert and she’s bringing her execs with her. This is a big deal for Clay.
Laurel arrives at the bank Christmas party. She asks the president if he saw the proposal. He did, but he’s not keen on the term “redundancies.” You see, his bank is a family. Can’t be firing family. The president stops the business talk to get Laurel to play “Pin the Nose on the Reindeer.” She wins and the Christmas party goes wild (seriously, there’s an inordinate amount of applause and cheering for her pinning the nose). The awkward office/family party has everyone exchange gifts. Laurel surprises the bank president and his wife with a picture of the bank in 1945.
Laurel gets a call from her boss and demands she close this deal by the end of the year. He’s irked and wants to get involved through a video conference meeting. This film doesn’t appear to be sponsored by Cisco so we don’t get any product shots.
Back the Guest House, Clay, Laurel, and Emma are…roasting marshmallows?…next to a pool? The Guest House has everything! The over-eager concierge takes Emma away so that Clay and Laurel can be alone to share more personal feelings. He plays a song and Kellie Pickler sings Silent Night again. The roasting marshmallow crowd applauds. That is enough for Laurel to agree to singing at the Christmas concert.
Laurel, Clay, and Emma decorate the tree in their hotel room. Because hotel rooms fit whole trees. The over-eager concierge brings Laurel and the kid three boxes of ornaments because she bought too much like she does every year. Then she summarily runs off. Do people buy boxes of new ornaments every year?!? This woman is mad.
Laurel finds out that Sally is making the posters for the Christmas concert which is a problem because Sally was supposed to look after the Emma. Clay is forced to do it. He thanks Laurel by lobbing a snowball at her back.
Laurel goes to her videoconferencing meeting and botches it in front of her boss. The president doesn’t care because he likes Laurel. (He’s not a fan of the boss though.) She gets chewed out afterwards. While this is happening, Clay struggles to make rice krispies and Sally struggles to make a poster.
Later that night, the makeshift family goes caroling which is fine. Kellie Pickler is not fine at lip synching. Then they go ice skating because apparently the bank president invited them. He wants to talk business there. Business meetings at ice rinks aren’t unusual for Hallmark films. LeAnn Rimes also had a business meeting at one. The bank president basically tries to poach Laurel. Once the meting is over, Clay and Laurel have a skate and almost kiss. Emma cockblocks them.
At the Guest House, Laurel plays some late-night piano which wakes up Emma. Laurel sings Silent Night again. Be careful what you wish for, folks. I wanted the stunt casted singer to sing, but not the same song 14 times.
At Sally’s house, Laurel is berated by her boss for not doing exactly what he wants. Sally continues with her accent. NO ONE ELSE HAS A SOUTHERN ACCENT APART FROM KELLIE PICKLER! YOU CAN DROP IT, SALLY! Laurel leaves the idyllic cookie baking scene to meet with Clay. He’s worried about the concert because there’s a winter storm a-comin’ and he’s got some execs for a job he applied to coming to see it. Clay tries his moves on Laurel again. It’s working.
Things are going ok for Laurel until…her boss calls again. He’s caught wind that she’s going to be performing at a concert. He’s not happy and says she should come back to Chicago tomorrow. Laurel protests saying that she was supposed to stay through Christmas. Boss man says no. Graceland will have to do without the song stylings of Laurel.
Laurel tries a last-ditch effort to rescue the deal and visits the bank president’s home. He says that even a few layoffs are too many so he can’t go forward with the original proposal. That’s cool of him. Laurel understands. She understands so much that she gives the bank president a free assessment and recommendation presentation on cutting costs without cutting people. The bank president is pleasantly shocked.
Laurel breaks the news to Clay. Clay gets incredibly stroppy with her. He might not be the man of everyone’s dreams after all. He appears to even make some veiled threats of taking away their burgeoning relationship. He also says to send his regards to Emma. At least say bye to the kid you bonded with, Clay. Blue Christmas by Elvis plays over flashback scenes of Clay and Laurel. This is overkill.
Mom and daughter check out of the Guest House at Graceland and the over-eager concierge gives Emma a snow globe. Sally and her daughter say goodbye. Emma is bummed out. Laurel looks at her daughter and has an idea.
The night of the Christmas concert has arrived. Clay is approached by the New York lady who creates even more pressure. Laurel surprises Clay in a red dress and she’s ready to sing. Laurel sings Silent Night AGAIN. Her lip synching is awful. It’s honestly a sight to see. Everyone cheers as much as they did when she pinned the nose on the reindeer. Once that song is over, Clay calls out to a gospel choir who was waiting in the wings?! And they sing Joy to the World with Laurel.
With the concert over, the bank president offers her a job. Laurel basically accepts. Clay is also offered a job. He decides not to take it. They kiss. FIN.
Overall, it was a fine film. The characters were nice enough and even though there was some “small-town” chat, it wasn’t overwhelming which is refreshing. Kellie Pickler is really believable when she says “baby” to her kid and other loved ones. Southerners really pull that kind of stuff off. Thinking about it now, Clay was pretty pushy which isn’t great. I guess there just wasn’t enough Elvis for me to fully embrace the film.
Next film on the list? Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa. All the Christmas keywords!
- No Ghost Elvis which was a major disappointment.
- I thought the kid’s name was Anna for a good deal of the film.
- This film can double as a tourism promo video for Graceland.
- “We’re all about family, looking out for each other down here.” Ugh, bank president. Ugh.
- Laurel went on and on about her many meetings at the beginning of the film. She was only meeting with the one bank president and three of her five meetings were unscheduled. One of them was a Christmas party.
- There are very few Elvis songs.
- The amount of times I’ve written “the night of the Christmas concert/festival/event” is causing me pain.
- Laurel says Christmas at Graceland. It is the name of the movie.
- Cliché alert: “It took almost leaving to realize what’s been here all along”
- Find all of the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas film recaps/reviews on this handy page.