the mistletoe secret header

Hallmark Countdown to Christmas: The Mistletoe Secret Recap/Review

It’s time for The Mistletoe Secret. Let’s just do away with the formalities and dive right on in.

Synopsis:

When a famous travel guru and his ghostwriter show up to do a feature on her beloved hometown, Aria finds her heart torn between the charismatic but pompous Sterling Masters and Alex Bartlett, the real talent behind ‘Masters of Travel.’

RECAP

This film takes place in Midway, Utah which is a fairly different location for Hallmark. Buttes and whatnot. After the usual establishing shots, we arrive at The Mistletoe Diner, a restaurant that I assume is open all year round despite the incredibly seasonal name.

Kellie Pickler and her deep Southern accent run the joint. She’s in the middle of setting things up for a special gathering when her father Patrick Duffy walks in. Duffy tries to match her Southern sound by occasionally referring to Pickler’s mother as “mama.” That’s the extent of his attempt.

“Accents come at an extra charge. I already threw in this moustache for free.”

Kellie’s guests pile in and bemoan the fact that tourism is at an all time low. Kellie announces that she has a plan to solve their woes. She turns on the TV to the Masters of Travel show.

The Masters of Travel program is about a guy who talks in front of a bunch of Windows screen wallpapers.

At the end of the program, the host with the definitely-has-to-be-fake name Sterling Masters announces that Midway is in the running to be a featured destination on his website. Usually tourism departments have something to do with this sort of stunt, but it appears Mr. Masters just throws a dart at a map. There’s nothing about this place that’s interesting.

At Masters Travel HQ, Sterling has a discussion with his curmudgeon-y friend Alex. Alex enters the scene by saying, “You know I hate small towns; they’re all the same.” Same, Alex, Same.

Sterling tries to convince Alex to commence to writing about this town because, after all, he IS his ghost writer. Alex reluctantly agrees after Sterling basically tells him that he’ll be fired if he doesn’t go. Oh and he must also hide his identity as a ghost writer or, yeah, he’ll be fired.

Is that poster meant to be one of his “magazines”?? This all HAS to be scam.

Alex grumpily drives through Midway. He’s arrived at night and all the restaurants have shut at 9pm. Could this be a reason why the town is struggling? He sees the lights on at the Mistletoe Diner and pulls in.

Unfortunately, the diner isn’t open either. Kellie decided to do some late night decorating in case Sterling swings by. Alex pleads for some food and is given pie. He praises the wondrous pie.

Unfortunately for me, this film does not go down a Twin Peaks path.

The next morning, Kellie arrives at the Sugar Plum Lodge to help her friend. The nearby ski lodges took the Sugar Plum Lodge’s employees away. They chat about the Mistletoe Man, Kellie’s imaginary knight in shining armor whom she has fantasized about since childhood. A creepy name for a creepy concept.

Alex just so happens to be staying at the lodge and sarcastically snorts when he overhears Kellie gush over Sterling. Kellie approaches the grump and tells him that it was the adventurer’s writing that captivated her, not his dashing good looks. Kellie’s friend shoos her away before the sexual tension gets too high.

Speaking of sexual tension, why does Hallmark have the absolute worst taste in hats??

Alex spends his afternoon at the Mistletoe Diner and lies about his writing. He runs into Patrick Duffy who is hiding from this film by disguising himself as Santa. Santa Duffy tells Alex that his DEAD WIFE™ created the town’s Christmas Council because she was bored. He also talks about Sterling and how his blog might save the town.

Later that night, Alex joins the Christmas lighting ceremony. When the announcer gets stage fright, Kellie steps in and gets that tree all sparkly. Alex and Kellie stroll through the town and do some bonding. Patrick Duffy crashes their walk and plays match maker. He has one conversation with the guy and already calls him a “Mistletoe Man.”

Maybe the Mistletoe Man is like Candyman or something. Alex’s hat certainly leads me to believe he’s a serial killer.

Kellie and Alex spend more time together for no real reason. Kellie isn’t even into him. They even go on a carriage ride. The town has a weird tradition where they give people town passports that get stamped every time they do a Christmas related event.

The only good thing about this film is this cat sweater and I bet you Hallmark isn’t even selling it.

Later that evening, Alex is back at the Mistletoe Diner to make an ugly Christmas sweater with Kellie. When finished, they decorate a tree. A once tasteful tree is turned into an eye sore with loads of decorations.

Because only sociopaths would decorate with Balsam Hill™.

Alex retires to the Sugar Plum Lodge to find a full lobby and dining room. It turns out that the blog he published JUST THAT MORNING has led to a huge influx of visitors. Because that’s how tourism works.

Unfortunately for Alex, Sterling is so happy that a blog has been published, he books the next flight to Midway. Sterling decides he’s going to start hitting on Kellie. He extends his stay because he felt a “connection.” Mind you, he’s only been here for an afternoon.

This guy definitely bangs all his groupies.

I honestly don’t understand how this whole ghostwriter-travel guy setup works. To the rest of the world, Sterling wrote an intimate article about Midway before arriving. Alex is under the impression that Sterling will only stay for a day or two, but Alex (who actually does the writing) is going to stay in town and keep churning out articles?

Anyway, Sterling keeps trying to hook up with Kellie while Alex sulks. Patrick Duffy drops in to explain what the hell a Mistletoe Man is. Apparently, his DEAD WIFE™ made up a story about a woman who couldn’t choose between a knight and a prince and the only way she could is if one of them collected a magic mistletoe for her.

I think you just made this up right now for plot purposes.

Patrick Duffy tries to warn Kellie about the dubious Sterling, but she ignores her father’s stilted pleas because she’s so taken by the latest article which features the Mistletoe Man who lives on Drury Lane.

Kellie goes to dinner and realizes Sterling is a sham because HE DOESN’T KNOW ABOUT THE MISTLETOE MAN! It was Alex all along! She stiffs him with the bill after he tells her that he would give Alex a publisher meeting ONLY IF Alex could hook him up with Kellie.

At the Sugar Plum Lodge, Alex mopes on the lobby couch. Kellie storms in to tell him that he sucks.

“She ruined a perfectly good mope!”

Sterling and Alex catch up over breakfast. Sterling seems pretty chill about life and says he’s heading home for Christmas. He informs Alex that he can write the last article under his own name. Alex thanks his stupid friend. Are we supposed to kind of like Sterling? He just blackmails his “friend” at every turn – saying that he HAD to go to Midway, legally couldn’t write anything under his name, then dangling the publisher meeting over his head so he could hook up with Kellie. This is like watching an abusive relationship in action.

Alex meets Kellie at the diner to bare his soul. Apparently, a week in Midway has changed him. The speech doesn’t work because Kellie straight up walks away.

Patrick Duffy drops by again to show her Alex’s article: Finding Love Midway Between Home and Christmas. It’s an entire article about Kellie. Based his previous blogs’ performance, Kellie is going to get a bunch of tourists asking for a ride.

This is a cheap ass website.

Alex attempts to leave the town, but the Christmas Council has other ideas. They steal his keys, stuff him into a car driven by one of the members, and drive him away from the airport.

They drop him off to see Kellie. They make up and make out.

They kiss, but none of this really answers Kellie’s previous reservations that he’ll probably go home sometime after Christmas to his job.

REVIEW

Kellie Pickler is built for these things. She’s sugary sweet and has that accent that makes her very “aw shucks.” Anything beyond that might be a stretch for her though.

Alex was an alright character, but there was too much bitter moping to make him fully likeable.

Sterling was a true nightmare. He should’ve been given the Big City Boyfriend treatment, but I guess since the actor is in multiple Hallmark films, they couldn’t do that to him. His character was there to move the plot along and add some weird tension. I hate the man.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Mistletoe Men

STRAY THOUGHTS

  • Why choose Utah for someone with such a heavy accent?? It’s not like the location makes that much of a difference. Kellie explains it away in a throwaway line that doesn’t satisfy.
  • It was between Tokyo, Austin, and Midway for the small-town feature. Very weird options.
  • Kellie doesn’t do any significant singing in this. Interesting choice.
  • The Sterling actor has been in multiple Hallmark films as the hunk. Funny that they made him a secondary character.
  • I miss diners. I miss Denny’s.
  • Why didn’t they call the movie The Mistletoe Man?
  • They see a cheap CGI shooting star at the end.