My reviews are late, but if you’re watching this in the future, this means nothing to you. So, this is one of the films that I’ve been looking forward to due to the dumb title. My hopes are slightly up, but I think I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to hope.
Single mom Maggie is facing Christmas alone until Lucas crashes into her life and becomes an unexpected houseguest. Together they overcome Christmas while finding comfort in their growing bond. Stars Ashley Williams and Niall Matter.
The film begins with a bunch of snowy trees and possibly the worst looking title card I’ve seen in a long while.
We arrive at a quaint school with a little boy giving a speech about his absent military father. After his oration, Hallmark Heroine Maggie buoyantly dismisses the class.
She pulls the little boy aside to tell him that she’ll be volunteering at the winter camp for military kids, so he’ll have to put up with her there, too. Maggie’s daughter, Ellen, interrupts to drag her mom from school.
As mom and daughter walk home, they discuss Christmas plans. Ellen will be spending it with her dad this year, leaving Maggie all alone. They walk past a man wearing a Christmas sweater and make fun of it which is pretty rude. Especially considering that he is wearing a Christmas sweater during the only time of year where it is socially acceptable to wear a Christmas sweater. It’s not a bad one, either.
The man’s actual transgression is that he isn’t minding his kid who is playing on some playground equipment. The kid falls and everyone rushes to his side. The man continues his trend of bad babysitting by asking Maggie and Ellen to keep this all a secret.
We cut to a military base that is filled with a legion of Christmas trees. Maggie and Ellen arrive to help prepare for the annual Christmas party. Maggie offers to pick up another Christmas tree to add to the bunch and races off to grab one. As she carts the tiny tree away from the lot, a jogger runs right into it and is knocked semi-unconscious to the floor.
Maggie has a meltdown and calls for an ambulance. Get ready for a surprise $5000 bill, dude. As she tends to the injured man, she recognizes him as the Christmas Sweater Man.
At the hospital, we learn that he is doing well and only needed emergency surgery on his wrist. How hard was he running??? Maggie sticks around so that she can profusely apologize to the half-asleep man. A couple arrives with the kid who fell earlier. Turns out the jogger/Christmas Sweater Man isn’t the kid’s dad; he’s his uncle. The couple reveals that Christmas Sweater Man aka Lucas was only in town for a few days and is meant to go skiing in Aspen tomorrow. Womp womp.
Maggie dips from the hospital to decorate her home with her friend. They believe Maggie won’t get sued by the guy because his family was very nice. Firstly, why would she get sued? Secondly, a nice family means nothing. Have you met nice people? They’re actually terrible. Thirdly, Maggie’s friend uses the opportunity to tell her to stop being single.
Our bumbling heroine returns to the hospital to give the cognizant Lucas some “I’m sorry you ran into a tree” flowers. (Hallmark: We have something for everything.) While Lucas tells Maggie that he still plans to go to Aspen, a nurse waltzes in to put the kibosh on that vacation. The surgeon needs to do a follow-up.
After a chat, Maggie offers her guesthouse to Lucas as he’s trapped in town and can’t stay at his brother’s place for some contrived reason. Maggie was originally going to transform the extra space into an art studio, but you gotta adapt for plot purposes.
Luke is feeling lukewarm towards his new accommodation and landlord. He’d rather be skiing. Maggie and Ellen even make him enchiladas, but the guy just isn’t receptive. Later, he knocks on Maggie’s door for some help with the Wi-Fi and is bamboozled into decorating a tree. The teacher convinces the guy to do some volunteering with her as a way to take his mind off Aspen.
The next morning, Ellen is taken by her stepdad, Maggie does some very light moping, and Lucas heads to breakfast with his friend. Lucas divulges that no longer has passion for architecting which is why he’s gone on sabbatical from his big New York job. He realizes that “success” means even more hours in an already overwhelming schedule and that is no way to live. Whoa. This dude gets it.
Lucas joins Maggie at the military winter camp to volunteer and melt his grinchy heart.
He uses his architectural skills to help build gingerbread houses for the kids. Sensing his talent, the children rope him into building a life-size gingerbread house (made of wood).
That night, Maggie and Lucas bond over re-decorating the tree. Maggie wants to go to Paris to paint and Lucas shares why he used to like architecture.
Upon realizing that it sucks for kids to have their parents deployed overseas during Christmas, Maggie and Lucas come up with an idea to surprise the kids. The military moms and dads will make gingerbread houses of their respective stations.
Lucas gets a call from his firm who asks him to run a big project. The firm featured in this film is reasonable for once and doesn’t ask Luke to get the project done before Christmas. It all kicks off in the New Year. In spite of their reasonable request, the architect is torn.
That evening, Lucas and Maggie head to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party hosted by his family. A friend who couldn’t make it Zooms into the festivities. This gives Maggie an idea: have the military parents video chat into the party! Hope the base has better Wi-Fi than the guesthouse.
Things are going swimmingly for the couple despite Lucas’s impending departure.
It’s the night of the big Christmas party and the children are delighted with the life-size wooden gingerbread house. Maggie gets a surprise visit from Ellen which brightens her mood. It is then absolutely dampened when she overhears Lucas telling his friend that he’s booked a flight back to New York. What she doesn’t hear is that he quit his job and is packing up things to move to whatever town this film takes place. They keep flashing it on the screen when it shows the military base, but I forgot.
Lucas tries to cozy up to Maggie, but she goes frigid. It’s a bit awkward as they present their surprise to the kids. A screen lights up and is filled with video messages from the deployed moms and dads.
I feel a bit bad for Lucas. He’s got total whiplash from Maggie who had been hugging and kissing on him just moments before.
The next morning, he knocks on the door to say goodbye and give a few gifts to Maggie and Ellen. The daughter watches the sexually charged farewell.
After he leaves, Maggie opens her gift. It’s the infamous Christmas sweater and tickets to Paris. Lucas must be rolling in it. Our lovestruck teacher calls him but can only reach his voicemail.
After receiving his literary gift, he turns the car around and races back to Maggie. (He never hears her voicemail, by the way.) He professes his love to architecture and Maggie. They kiss. FIN.
The actress is very bubbly and charming. She can edge towards almost menacing at times, but it works for these films. I’d love to see her play a mad woman in a horror film. Anyway, both characters had no glaring flaws which made for a gentle watching experience. The third act problem was somewhat discordant considering how smoothly literally everything else went, but it was resolved in five minutes of run time.
For a ridiculous title, it was a very not ridiculous film which was a bit disappointing for my tastes. However, seeing as the characters weren’t particularly grating, it’s a sort of win.
Rating: 3 out of 5 military dads
- Maggie’s daughter must be Canadian. The pronunciation of “out” was off the charts.
- Maggie says the name of the film which is always a great thing.
- The reason Lucas asks for help with the Wi-Fi was that he was streaming “this truly terrible movie” and needed to know how it ended. I have a few guesses.
- Lucas’s friend is also an architect but doesn’t practice because he didn’t have the talent. According to him: “Those who can’t do, teach.” That’s a slam on teachers.
- Architects in Hallmark films ALWAYS build gingerbread houses.
- The only DEAD PERSONTM referenced in this film is Frank Lloyd Wright.
- Maggie lives in a mansion with a piano and owns a guesthouse that’s the size of a normal house.
- You know, it never really explains why Maggie volunteers at a military base. Kind of a weird extracurricular choice.