Welcome to film seven of Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas 2018: Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa. I think this is part of a series about the quaint Vermont town of Evergreen. I only know this because when researching Hallmark movies, I kept coming across a film that didn’t have the “Letter to Santa” bit. Here’s your brief overview.
When Lisa (Wagner) takes a last-minute Christmas trip to her hometown of Evergreen, she finds that the historic general store has been closed. Using her skills as a professional retail designer, Lisa decides to keep local tradition alive and help the good people of Evergreen bring the store back to life. As Lisa charms a local contractor named Kevin (Deklin) into working with her, the pair find themselves facing one surprise after another as they restore the store to its former glory. When the staff at the Kringle Kitchen temporarily accept the store’s beloved ‘Mailbox to Santa’ for safekeeping, the townspeople find and rally around a mysterious 25-year-old letter that never made it to the North Pole. As old traditions are made new again, Lisa finds herself falling for Kevin, the traditions, and the town of Evergreen. Starring Jill Wagner, Mark Deklin, Holly Robinson-Peete and Barbara Niven.
The film kicks off with an unseen narrator flipping through an illustrated book. This is unusual for a Hallmark film and I’m not being sarcastic. In fact, I’m not getting much of the typical Hallmark vibe from this. It has much more whimsy and feels more like a children’s Christmas movie.
We zoom into the book and see a couple decorating trees in a shop. They’re partners in the decorating biz. They’re also young and full of beans. I suspect they have had several cups of coffee. The shop owner arrives and is delighted with their work. She hired them to make the place look spectacular and, in her mind, they’ve done just that.
The male business partner, Oliver, is excited that they’re doing so well. Soon they will have their own shop. Female business partner, Lisa, is a bit troubled by this. She loves the travel that interior designing brings (?) and isn’t sure she’s ready to settle down just yet. Here’s an amazing note: I think they’re platonic friends. A male and female who are FRIENDS?! Is this a Hallmark first?! Anyway, Lisa made a New Year resolution to go back home and she still hasn’t done it. Oliver says she needs to do it now. Thankfully, her birthtown of Evergreen is just so darn Christmassy, that now is the perfect time to go.
While driving to Evergreen, she comes across what looks like a real-life toy truck broken down in the middle of the road. After some sexy banter with the sexy truck owner, Lisa helps him get the truck’s engine back in working order.
When Lisa arrives at Evergreen, she flashes back to the time she wrote her Christmas wish at the beloved candy store. The shop owner is a lovely old woman who helps her mail the letter to Santa. In the present, the candy shop is closed and the shop owner is dead. A cheery welcome to Evergreen. The woman who informs Lisa of this is the owner of a local restaurant, the Kringle Kitchen. As they chat in front of the restaurant, the truck guy drives up to drop off stuff for the woman. He and Lisa flirt again. Lisa heads off to check-in at her guesthouse. After she does so, truck guy appears again to deliver a tree to the guesthouse. Kevin is his name and he’s giving Stalker Ben a run for his money.
Lisa returns to the woman’s restaurant for dinner. The woman, Carol, took it upon herself to have Lisa sit with some randos just so she wouldn’t be alone. An imposition to be sure. One of the randos is Holly Robinson Peete. You may remember her from the 90s television sitcom, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. She’s definitely done other stuff, but this is the thing that comes to mind. The other rando starts complaining that he’s having trouble selling the general store. If he can’t find a buyer by the end of the year, Evergreen may end up with… A CHAIN STORE! I think people would appreciate a Dollar General, but this guy is totally against it. Lisa suggests staging the shop to attract buyers. The guy is intrigued.
Our experienced interior decorator takes a look inside the empty general store alone with the Weird Guy. Prime opportunity for some serial killing. But he holds back his urges and gets Lisa on the job. He directs her to the best contractor in town (wait for it): Kevin! Lisa chases after Kevin to rope him into the decorating business, but Kevin doesn’t think they have enough time to make the place look good. Lisa doesn’t let up and Kevin capitulates.
Before officially getting started, the couple makes a quick stop to get a hot beverage. When it comes to Christmas, people are militant in Hallmark films. Kevin tries to order a black coffee and gets stared down until he orders a suitably festive drink (coffee with whipped cream and caramel).
The new buddies start decorating and the town busybodies (Carol and Holly Robinson Peete) are way into their blossoming love story. Lisa comes into the Kringle Kitchen for a break. She sits with Holly Robinson Peete and a few other people and proceeds to talk about a mysterious key she found in the local hardware store. She then foists the duty of trying the key on EVERY SINGLE LOCK IN THE TOWN to an eager kid. Once that task has been suitably shirked, she asks Carol to keep a festive-looking box for her. When Carol grabs the box, a huge envelope marked “Santa” falls out. Inside is a 25 year old letter to Santa from someone that wanted Christmas like it used to be. And that person was Kevin. We discover that Kevin’s mom died when he was little, and she was responsible for decorating the town. Can’t we have one movie where someone isn’t dead?!
Lisa and Kevin stop by the guesthouse where Holly Robinson Peete and a few others are decorating cookies. Lisa collects some extra ornaments for the staging and stays to help with the cookie baking. We get a Christmas baking montage.
Back at the general store, Kevin spots a potential water leak and completely freaks out at Lisa. Honestly, Kevin looks like he has a control issue. It’s a unnerving. Weird Guy thankfully interrupts the one-sided argument to say how nicely the place is shaping up. But he brings bad news: the potential buyer can only see the place tomorrow. Kevin freaks out once more. Lisa believes in her ability as an interior decorator and tells Weird Guy that they can make it happen. The air is now somewhat tense between our couple.
The duo heads out to a Christmas tree farm as a tree is a key piece to the staging. The farm is run by Kevin’s dad, a pleasant gentleman. They find the right tree and start hitching it up to Kevin’s truck. Dad knows that Kevin is wound up and tries to defuse his son before he blows up about the bald spot on the Christmas tree. Lisa silently absorbs everything.
While decorating the tree, Lisa and Kevin bond over leading nomadic lives. They accidentally touch hands.
Meanwhile, the kid that is stuck trying to find the lock to the key is walking around town with his sister –.and I’m dead serious here – trying every lock on every door in town. This is the definition of insanity.
Weird Guy brings the buyer over to the general store while the kid, his sister, Lisa, and Kevin are putzing around inside. The group leaves to give the buyer space. They watch from across the street, questioning the buyer’s every move. Carol’s husband mentions the letter to Santa for some reason and Lisa nervously hands it over to Kevin, saying she meant to give it to him before. She’s probably worried about being skinned.
Weird Guy comes in to deliver more bad news: the buyer ain’t buying. She liked the place, but it just wasn’t right. Kevin excuses himself, reeling from the bombshell letter.
Lisa calls her business partner (remember him?) for a friendly, non-tense chat. Oliver picks up on the fact that Lisa has a crush on Kevin. Lisa initially rejects his claim, but then comes clean. Oliver tells her to ask Kevin to a not work-related outing. He then says something that gives Lisa an idea that will save the general store.
Lisa bursts into the Kringle Kitchen to tell everyone that one of her clients is looking for a new shop. If they can convince her to come to Evergreen for the Christmas festival (first I’ve heard of it), then she will surely buy. Lisa then runs off in the middle of saying something to make a wish on a snow globe.
She goes back to her friends and has yet another epiphany. She’s had about three of them in the span of two minutes. The impact is lost on us. She says they should use Kevin’s letter to Santa as inspiration and decorate the town like his mother used to do. Later, after finding out about Lisa’s plan, Kevin tells her he wants to help make it happen.
Aw, hell. A random old man appears and well…
We have not seen him the entire film and he already asks our protagonists a bunch of questions as if he’s been a part of their capers. They could have introduced him in other scenes to make it less out of the blue. He gives the key kid advice about finding the lock. Just tell him, Santa! Put him out of his misery.
Lisa asks Kevin to dinner and she gets rejected. Oliver is gonna get an earful for his bad advice. Speaking of him, he’s arrived in Evergreen to surprise Lisa. He calls her his “bestie.” Lisa has another epiphany and drags Oliver away to a little church.
The rest of the cast is in the local choir, including Kevin. She tells them her idea of filling the store with local artisan crafts and they’re onboard. Kevin acts weird again and takes off. This is probably because he met Oliver and got the wrong idea.
At the guesthouse, Lisa tells Oliver that she loves Evergreen and Kevin. They laugh and enjoy each other’s company because they’re old friends. Kevin watches them through a window. GOD, KEVIN, THEY’RE BUSINESS PARTNERS! THEY CAN TALK!
Lisa sees Kevin again and he’s being weirder than usual which is saying a lot. Oliver is friendly to Kevin and Kevin is cold. Lisa sends her business partner off alone to the skating pond so she can have one-on-one time with Kevin. Oliver seems like a positive good lad. And he can f***g skate! He apparently won a bronze medal in some unnamed competition. Jesus, Lisa. What are you doing?
Kevin and Lisa talk about the traveling life of a contractor/interior designer while watching Oliver skate. Lisa loudly declares that she and Oliver often complain about being single. The music swells as Kevin realizes that the business partners are just that: business partners. The camera cuts to Oliver helping a child skate. I’m not sure what Hallmark is trying to do here. Anyway, Kevin is delighted and the couple ice skates together.
We get a montage of activities over the next few days of prepping the general store, Lisa and Kevin falling further in love, and everyone laughing at nothing. The montage song uses the word “snow” instead of “no” and I hate it.
Kevin reveals to Lisa that he might stay in Evergreen. They almost kiss.
It’s December 24th and the annual Christmas festival is in full swing. Kevin meets a woman that appears to be a character from the previous film. From what I gather, the red truck Kevin drives is hers and it also led to some romantic entanglements in the first Christmas in Evergreen. This lady encourages Kevin to give Lisa a shot even if she’s a big traveling interior designer.
Lisa and Kevin meet at the general store to put the finishing touches on the indoor tree. They talk around the concept of staying in Evergreen for each other. There’s a lot of stuttering and nervous laughing. They almost kiss again. Someone interrupts and leaves. They almost kiss again. The secondary love story featuring Holly Robinson Peete interrupts and stays.
Oliver and Lisa’s client (and potential buyer) arrives. She’s beyond impressed by their beautiful work. But she’s not buying anything. She only came to the town offer the business partners a job. Oliver and Lisa are over the moon. They can have a store in Boston now! Kevin overhears the happy exchange and is clearly not happy.
Kevin makes his decision to leave Evergreen. Oh, fate, you fickle monster! Meanwhile, Oliver and Lisa tell Weird Guy that because they have this new job, they have the capital to buy the general store! Oliver will run a store in Boston and Lisa will run one in Evergreen.
Lisa visits the general store and tells Holly Robinson Peete and the woman from the previous film that she’s buying the place. Everyone is chuffed. She’s not just there to share the good news though. Lisa needs to drop off Kevin’s letter. The lady from the previous film grabs the letter and reveals that it’s not Kevin’s…it’s his dad’s. That’s sad.
Lisa rushes to Papa Kevin’s Christmas tree farm and finds Kevin packing up. She gives him a bit of hell for leaving in the dark. Kevin says he was planning on leaving a note. Jesus, this guy… Kevin talks about his dad’s letter to Santa and reveals that he decided to help make the town beautiful again for…Lisa? Not his dad? His dad interrupts and thanks his son for making Christmas like it used to be.
By the way, the kid finds out what the key goes to. It operates the town’s church bells that stopped working a long time ago. The bells start ringing and everyone cheers.
Kevin and Lisa arrive at the center of town to see the bells. Lisa says she’s staying in Evergreen. Kevin is happy for once. They kiss. Santa watches. FIN.
The town of Evergreen is very storybook and quaint. They had some lovely shots of the place. However, when it comes to the characters, Kevin was really off-putting. He made too many rash, angry decisions and we’re supposed to be enchanted. I understand people can just be friends, but Oliver should have been the romantic lead. There were quite a few storylines crammed in this and the Santa appearance halfway through the film was unnecessary. But as long as we get to the kiss at the end, no one cares.
Next up: A Shoe Addict’s Christmas featuring Hallmark staple Candace Cameron Bure and Jean Smart. I have been looking forward to this one so much.
- “No matter where you go, Christmas will always find you,” says the candy store owner to the little girl. This could be a line from a horror film.
- “It looks like a letter to Santa.” So far three of the films have name dropped the title of the film.
- The key kid was a terrible actor.
- Kevin has a really nice smile. That’s the one nice thing I have to say about him.
- Lisa makes faces that are frighteningly reminiscent of a woman who regularly has to absorb the outburst of people.
- Where is the money coming from to redo the general store?
- I love Oliver. He seems like a friend that actually cares about his friend.
- Find the rest of the recap/reviews here.