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Hallmark Countdown to Christmas: Christmas at Dollywood Recap/Review

I’ve decided to skip over A Christmas Love Story for now to bring you Christmas at Dollywood. I need some joy in my life and Dolly is sure to bring it. Unfortunately, with Dolly comes some boring people who need to fall in love for some reason.


When an NYC event planner returns to Tennessee to plan the Christmas celebration at Dollywood, she’s paired with the head of operations who thinks he can handle the party just fine on his own.

Isn’t this the plot to Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays Part 2 Episode 5?


Danica McKellar, one of Hallmark’s main ladies, plays Rachel, a successful New York event planner. She’s in the midst of coordinating some rinky dink fashion show. After the smashing event, Rachel’s boss tells her that the next event has been canceled, so she can just enjoy Christmas like a normal person.

Disappointed but hopeful that she’ll soon be taking over the business, Rachel heads home. She finds her daughter pretend-sleeping in bed. She faked it so she could see her mother when she got back home.

“Mommy, your high-powered events job is tearing us apart!”

They share a tender moment where they imagine some sort of candy cane land.

The next evening, Rachel meets with her friend. The friend has big news: the event planner for Dollywood dropped out, so Rachel can fill in. She’s practically a shoo-in, but first she’ll need to meet with the board. If all goes well, Rachel will get to work over Christmas in her hometown. The dream.

I can’t believe this is an actual place. My 4th grade teacher sent me a postcard from there in like 1995.

At Dollywood, our Hallmark Hunk Luke is talking to his co-worker about making the 30th anniversary of Dollywood a success. Luke is in operations, but he’s gunning for the newly opened general manager role. He’s been working there since 1996, so it’s about time.

Meanwhile, Rachel arrives at home. A place that competes with Dollywood when it comes to light displays.

Rachel arrives at the weird theme park the next morning. Luke spies the hot new lady and strikes up a conversation with her. Unfortunately for him, he discovers Rachel is there to interview for the anniversary event planning job. something he thought he could just do himself.

Both applicants present and are given roughly the same reaction from the board. They’ll find out who got the job tomorrow.

Rachel returns to the nightmare house.

At home, the lady planner shares the details of her day with the family and mentions someone named Daddy. We can assume he’s dead. Mom tells Rachel to stop with this crazy event planning job and settle down with a regular 9-to-5 for the sake of her daughter. Mom suggests she can start writing again! Oh good. Rachel was an amateur writer.

The following morning, Luke and Rachel return to the Dollywood board office. Apparently, they were both called back in for a second interview. The board invites them both into the room and informs them that they will be party planning together.

Luke’s face is that of a person who has just found out his fee has been cut in half.

They argue. Those are the next scenes.

Luke complains to his buddy about the fancy New York city lady. With or without Rachel, he’s gonna climb Dolly’s corporate ladder. A niche ambition to be sure.

Note: we’re 30 minutes into the film and no sign of Dolly. We’re close to a one-man riot in my house.

Each party continues to whine to their friends about the other person. I would too if I only had FIVE days to pull together a 30th anniversary event at a park dedicated to worldwide superstar. The board is made up of a bunch of yahoos.

The couple continues to argue.

“Look, we have to keep this up until the film calls for us to come together and eventually fall in love.”

If it wasn’t for Rachel’s kid, they would argue for the whole film. The kid makes it hard for Luke to make snarky comments at Rachel, so they start warm up to one another. We learn that Luke comes from what sounds like a working-class family. That is genuinely an amazing revelation.

Nothing says “we gonna get it on” like an ugly sweater montage followed by a LINE DANCING SCENE.

Meanwhile, I am slowly losing my mind with the lack of Dolly. I have to settle with some of her songs playing in the background.

Rachel tells her daughter a weird bedtime story and has an epiphany for the end of Dollywood’s big bash. She also takes a moment or two to straight up write a kid’s book. Rachel is today’s modern woman: event planner, writer, mother.

Both Luke and Rachel have job developments. Luke is continually offered a job in Georgia that he always turns down because he loves Dollywood. Rachel is offered a partnership role at the events company. But what of their love lives?

Rachel’s mom and her fabulous hair think that Rachel should leave New York and move back to Tennessee, so that Rachel can quit a job that she’s good at and start writing baby books??

To take their mind off the stresses of planning an event, Luke takes Rachel and her kid to Peppermint Lane, a family friendly peppermint location. While the girl takes a picture with Santa, the event planning couple share how life has changed since they met one another.

It’s the day of the event. A few things have sort of flipped. Rachel finds out that her children’s book manuscript was rejected from one place. She decides that she should just go back to New York because of this. Luke tells her that he thinks he didn’t get the general manager job, so he’s gonna go to Georgia to run an amusement park.

The whole scene is a weird change.

HOWEVER, one hour and ten minutes in we FINALLY get to see Dolly!

Enjoy this for all it’s worth, people. They could only afford four minutes real time of Dolly.

The event goes swimmingly. Riding on the high of a great event, Rachel asks her child if she’d like to stay in Tennessee. The girl says yes, so that solves that issue. Now to tell Luke her real feelings.

She tries to track him down only to discover that he ran off with the guy that keeps offering him that Georgia job. Dejected, Rachel sits down to contemplate her crummy luck.

Thankfully, Dolly appears from behind a Christmas tree to offer advice in what can only be described as a country disco alien jumpsuit.

Dolly tells Rachel that Luke got the general manager job and even coordinates a place for her to meet with him. Dolly is truly magic.

Rachel tells Luke that he’s a general manager now and should stay in Tennessee forever with her and her kid. Luke is pretty chuffed with this outcome. They kiss. Dolly watches. FIN.

Actually, not FIN. There’s a “one year later” scene where Rachel’s book is published.


Er, I zoned out during this film. Danica does a fine job of being a party planner. Luke is kind of bitter and a little off-putting, but eventually chills out. Dolly is Dolly and I should’ve watched 9-to-5.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Jolenes.


  • Again, I always think about the electricity bills when it comes to these awful light displays in Hallmark homes. Clearly, everyone makes six figures in these things. Even the tour guide characters.
  • The film repeatedly teases that “DOLLY IS HERE!” only to not have Dolly show up and anger me further.
  • Dolly narrates the lovers’ kiss by saying, “Now that’s what I call a happy ending!”


A Christmas Love Story. Boring. I’ve said this before. I don’t expect much, but that’s probably still too much.