Hallmark Countdown to Christmas: The Santa Stakeout Recap/Review

So seeing as I’m released from recapping EVERY Hallmark this year, I get to pick the ones that either interest me or you, the people. Here by popular demand is The Santa Stakeout!

Tanya is a police detective who is reluctantly partnered with fellow detective Ryan to solve a recent string of heists taking place during high-profile holiday parties around town. They go undercover as newlyweds Tasha and Rupert, moving into the vacant house next to Mr. Miller, the jovial chair of the community’s Christmas committee…and the prime suspect in the case. As Tanya and Ryan partake in the neighborhood’s holiday happenings to keep up appearances and crack the case, they get swept up in Christmas. Before they know it, their cover story as a couple in love starts to become reality. Starring Tamera Mowry-Housley, Paul Campbell, and Joe Pantoliano.

This one seems extremely promising, so if it’s boring, I’m going to…be angry? There’s not much I can do. But I promise that I can be angry!


The film kicks off with the well-worn tradition of a Christmas robbery. It’s a brief montage moment of some unsavory character taking what appears to be a small painting and then driving away with the ill-gotten good.

I’ve never committed a high-profile robbery. Do you keep your license plate visible?

We’re introduced to our Hallmark Heroine Detective Tanya (you may know her as Tamera Mowry-Housley) who is off to meet her sister. Sis is going to Aspen for Christmas and is leaving poor Tanya alone for the holidays.

The rookie detective assures her sister that she’ll be fine on her own and heads straight to work. She sits next to another copper named Ryan who appears to be smarmy. He comments that he’ll be spending Christmas watching football with da boys and then admits to eating some of Tanya’s advent calendar chocolates.

The face of a man with “boys.”

Tanya and Ryan are called to the captain’s office and are assigned to suss out who’s behind the recent spate of art heists. Dali, Rodin, Degas. Yes, all the works of the artists you learned about in high school are disappearing at an alarming rate.

“No, not Rodan! RODIN!”

The detectives already have their first suspect, Joe Pantoliano! When he’s not betraying Neo, he’s moonlighting as an (alleged) art-stealing Santa with a felonious history named Miller. After spying on him, the detectives meet with the chief at a Christmas market to ask if they can spy full-time on Miller. The captain agrees and makes them partners for the mission.

“I want you two to take out the trash!” This film needs more cop clichés, less rom-com clichés.

The reluctant couple sets up shop in a massive house across the street from their mark. Tanya even brings a small Christmas tree to make it cozy.

While Ryan brings a burger from the famous burger restaurant, Burger.

They start peeking through the slats of the house’s Venetian blinds and making notes about the evil Santa’s comings-and-goings. While taking a picture of Miller’s personal mail, Tanya manages to get locked out of the house and is spotted by a kindly neighbor who is delighted to meet what he assumes are newlyweds. He quickly bullies them into joining the Christmas Committee which just so happens to be led by Miller. They should really abandon the stakeout now that it’s been compromised. Instead, they go tree shopping and decorate their fake house.

Ryan used to be married, he tells us in this scene. My face is much like Tanya’s in that I don’t care at aaaalllll about this guy.

While putting up Christmas lights, Miller approaches the fake husband and wife to invite them to a potluck. So far, he seems like a calm, normal guy who is not comically evil or just plain insufferable as you would expect in a Hallmark.

Even when Joe Pantoliano is nice, he still looks kinda like he’s plotting.

Tanya goes to the rental Santa agency to gather more info about Miller which freaks the owner out. Tanya and Ryan are definitely wrong about him, so I’m getting a bit irked with this pointless endeavor that may jeopardize a man’s livelihood.

That evening, the couple goes to the potluck where Ryan is forced to give a guy a bad back adjustment (his undercover job is “chiropractor”). He wants to get the precinct sued, I think. Anyway, during dinner, Miller gives a small, yet moving speech about his DEAD WIFETM. Joe Pantoliano should not be bringing such gravitas to a movie called The Santa Stakeout.

Miller catches Tanya snooping in his room and is truly weirded out.

Tanya and Ryan carry on attending Christmas Committee meetings where they do some bonding, Miller continues to be really nice to them, and a committee member keeps hitting on Ryan.

Later at the stake-house, the couple has a tinsel fight which is interrupted by a fellow cop who is confused by the many Christmas decorations that are being charged to the precinct. The cop tells Ryan and Tanya that another robbery has taken place. A very bad thing seeing as they’re supposed to be keeping an eye on the possible thief 24/7. They have to pick up the slack or they’re off the case!

Ryan and Tanya repeatedly screw up the undercover part of their job and poor Miller has to act like they’re normal even though he’s clearly befuddled.

After spending so much time with their suspect, Tanya and Ryan start thinking that he might not be a big-time robber. There’s no real evidence for their change of heart. Just bake the police state a few festive pies and you’re good to go.

The captain sends the two detectives to a fancy party where Miller is working as Santa. While dancing and falling in love, Ryan and Tanya lose sight of Miller. The lights go out for 30 seconds which is just enough time for two Van Goghs to disappear. This is sufficient evidence to arrest Miller on his holiday-themed front lawn. They arrive at his house and find one of the paintings in the trunk of his car.

The saddest man in all of Christmas town.

After hauling the pensioner away in front of the whole neighborhood, the captain basically fires Ryan and Tanya from the mission.

At the station, Miller won’t speak to anyone apart from the couple. They ask why he bought locksmith tools, climbing equipment, and glass cutting tools if he wasn’t planning to steal priceless art. Miller explains he purchased these items to help renovate a house for a poor family. He doesn’t explain why a stolen painting was in the trunk of his car, though.

Ryan and Tanya go back to the scene of the crime and, after about 15 minutes of sleuthing, come to the conclusion that the head of the Santa agency is the real thief. They confront her directly with footage of her literally handling a Van Gogh and planting it in Miller’s car.

Detective work.

She is arrested and Miller is set free. But not without having had his reputation completely tarnished and made a spectacle of in front of his friends and neighbors. To make it up to him, the bumbling duo get the police force to finish renovating the house. Miller thanks them but also gives the couple a bit of a cold shoulder seeing as they were responsible for his humiliating arrest.

But Ryan and Tanya are not done. They and the Christmas Committee surprise Miller with bundt cakes and egg nog as thanks for being such a great guy and not an art thief. The nice Santa man forgives them.

“Yeah, whatever, lets wrap this thing up.”

Once they walk away from the committee for no discernible reason, Ryan surprises Tanya by telling her he rented the stakeout house. He invites her to nog an egg or something like that. They kiss. FIN.

These guys suck.


They lied to the whole neighborhood. How could the committee just accept Ryan and Tanya after that? They didn’t even use their real names! And poor Miller. He did nothing wrong except get in the way of two people who really liked jumping to conclusions. Anyway, the film hit all the paint-by-numbers beats and had some enjoyable performances.

Rating: 3 out 5 Hill Street Blueses


  • The music at the start of this film is very cop-ish. It’s got that funky guitar that is important to have in any cop-related media.
  • I would lose my mind if someone ate one of my advent calendar chocolates.
  • What city does this take place that has so many famous pieces of art scattered across museums and galas?
  • The male lead reminds me too much of Jeff Winger (you got a Community notification for this?).
  • Our tax dollars are going to cops decorating trees and playing charades.
  • Ryan admits he doesn’t have boys cuz they’re all married with kids. I sleuthed that one!
  • Is climbing equipment necessary for building a house?
  • I just found out a certain Bruce Campbell has just starred in a Hallmark so I’m going to be recapping that one!

Rodan pic: By Toho Co., Ltd. – Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56935838