It’s July and the world is experiencing a particularly brutal heatwave. You know what that means? Christmas sweaters and Balsam Hill Christmas trees! That’s right. Hallmark took their industrial fake snow machine out of storage, flew in their most available actors to Toronto, and handed them a holiday-themed script. It’s Christmas in July and I’m looking at one of the new movies in their summer slate. Today’s film: Campfire Christmas. I chose this one because it’s got the best poster. It’s like a festive Heavyweights featuring thin adults.
Sadly, if I know my Hallmark, there will be no hijinks featuring a lovable cast of kids wearing husky Dockers shorts.
Romance rekindles for Peyton and her closest friends when her parents decide to host a holiday themed reunion before selling their family owned summer camp. Stars Tori Anderson, Corbin Bleu, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman.
So, is Peyton falling in love with someone or is she falling in love with her closest friends? This is unsettlingly ambiguous. Will this be Hallmark’s first orgy-centered film? Let’s find out.
The film begins with a rare look into how Hallmark makes its movies.
It’s 2007 and while all the kids are listening to Crank That (Soulja Boy), a teenage version of our Hallmark Heroine is writing in a journal next to a live tree wrapped in Christmas lights. Her name is Peyton and she’s a counselor at Camp Evergreen. The whole camp is abuzz getting ready for the annual Christmas in JulyTM season (really shoehorning that concept in, eh, Hallmark?).
Beckett, one of Peyton’s friends, is complaining that he lost the lead role in the Christmas play to a fellow camper named Chris. Our high school heroine tells him not to worry because he’s going to be a Broadway star and Chris will just be some guy who peaked in high school. Peyton’s love interest, Thomas, uses the opportunity to tell Peyton that she’s going to be a “prize-winning writer” when she grows up.
Flash forward 15 years to a swank publishing company’s headquarters. Peyton, now in her…early thirties(?) is wearing her most impressive power suit. While the outfit screams “head girlboss,” the would-be writer is actually an assistant. Her boss orders her around and thanks her for working during Christmas in December. Peyton doesn’t mind because her family celebrates Christmas in JulyTM. After work, she heads back to her apartment to hang out with her visiting parents.
They aren’t dropping by just to be with their daughter for Christmas. They’re also here to tell her that they’re retiring and will no longer be running the beloved Camp Evergreen. Mom asks Peyton if she’d be willing to take over. After all, she’s been working at that publishing house for years “without getting any closer to becoming a published writer.” A festive Christmas burn. Before calling it quits, Mom and Dad are going throw one last Christmas in JulyTM bash.
Fast forward six months. The snow has melted, and the A/C is on high. Peyton has set up a get together with two of her closest friends from camp, Janice and Dave.
They discuss the closure of the camp and speculate who will be attending the final Christmas in JulyTM event. The couple also have this very awkward moment about whether or not they’ll have kids.
Peyton says she isn’t sure if she’ll make it and Janice wonders if her hesitancy is due to a potential run-in with Thomas at camp. They got some unknown beef. Dave chimes in to say that Tommo probably won’t be there. And that puts an end to that storyline.
Back at work, Peyton is wearing her red power suit again. (The rest of her salary goes towards paying for that apartment.) Her boss explains that a writer broke both their wrists in a hang gliding accident, so the company needs to find another book. Guess dictation tools are out of the question for this adventurous writer. Having handed over a manuscript earlier, Peyton offers it up as the replacement book. Boss says, “Nope.” Peyton offers to write another more personal book and the boss agrees to maybe try to sorta kinda look at it.
Happy with that commitment, Peyton flies to Camp Evergreen.
A limo arrives at the camp. Inside is Beckett who is a Broadway star. Broadway stars famously drive around in limos. Beckett is angry that Chris, the boy from camp that stole his part in a Christmas pageant 15 years ago, has also come to say goodbye to Camp Evergreen.
The Christmas summer festivities begin. Peyton is enjoying the joyful atmosphere. That is until she sees the dreaded Thomas. He decided to come after all! The gang is totally back together ready to take part in some Christmas montages!
Peyton and Janice arrive at their cabin and find a gift for Peyton on her bunk bed: Peyton’s journals from camp. The two take a trip down memory lane. It’s a short walk.
Deciding that a cabin full of grown adults on bunk beds is not a conducive environment for writing, Peyton heads outside with her laptop to whip up a whole book. She regrets it instantly because Thomas strolls by, talks about gel pens, and offers to get her a hot chocolate. He eventually tries to talk about their mysterious past, but Peyton nips that chat right in the bud. She goes back to writing.
The next day, Peyton’s parents ask Beckett to run the final Christmas pageant. He excitedly accepts but his elation is quickly dampened once he finds out that CHRIS will be his co-manager. This is the worst summer solstice ever!
Peyton and Thomas begin to make decorations in the art studio. They catch up on their lives. Peyton tells Thomas that his profession of art teacher suits him. Thomas tells Peyton that he hopes she never gives up on writing because he really enjoyed the letters she used to write to him. Especially cuz they had hearts above the i’s. Their former romance is confirmed with a teenage flashback showing them sharing a mistletoe kiss.
The Christmas in JulyTM week continues, both in this film and real-life. The gang realizes they wouldn’t have the jobs they now have if it wasn’t for camp. Peyton argues that this isn’t the case for her and that a “trained monkey” could do her job, summarily shitting on every assistant ever.
The wreaths for the upcoming wreath game have been destroyed in the summer rain. Thomas and Peyton offer to make new ones from scratch. While making them, Thomas reveals that he has a fresh new DEAD FATHERTM. On his deathbed, his dad had some regrets which he shared with his son. The film quickly pivots to the couple throwing glitter on each other.
Peyton decides that staying in a musty cabin with the plebs is beneath her and goes to her parents’ modern digs for breakfast.
Mom and Dad wonder how they’re going to handle selling the camp and get rid of all the precious memories. Peyton responds with a brilliant idea of writing a book. How that helps with her parents’ current conundrum is beyond me.
Peyton catches up with the gang (sans Beckett) to tell them that she’s going to write a book about Camp Evergreen’s Christmas in JulyTM. I’m not sure what she’s been writing on that laptop before this scene. Beckett arrives to rope everyone into the Christmas pageant. They agree only if Beckett joins the capture the wreath game. We get a flashback of the game being played in 2007. It’s filler because there wasn’t enough story to meet the running time requirements of this film. The only thing it reveals is that Thomas and Peyton were officially going steady.
Back at theater HQ, Beckett continues to be hostile towards Chris. While arguing about events that occurred in 2004, Chris blurts out that he used to have a crush on Beckett.
As is Hallmark custom, we watch the protagonists play a bizarre made-up game involving Christmas ornaments. Presumably cheaper than paying the guy who invented tag.
Peyton and Thomas go to the library to do some research about the camp and so that Thomas can get some ice cream. Gotta lure the kids into reading books somehow. The duo finds the Big Book of Mundane Newspaper Articles and discovers how the Christmas in JulyTM tradition began. Spoiler alert: Peyton’s grandparents decided it would be fun for the campers. That’s it.
The next day is the day of the big snowball fight. Children and adults lob balls of ice from the fridge at each other in the hot summer sun. This is a glimpse into the future after climate change takes hold.
That night, everyone gathers ‘round the campfire to share their favorite camp memories. We are treated to a pointless flashback featuring gingerbread houses. I guess they needed to get their money’s worth out of the teenage actors because the scene offers nothing to the plot.
Peyton and Thomas hash out their relationship. Apparently, our heroine tried to make it work after they left camp, but 18-year-old Thomas abruptly called off their romance. Peyton became a spinster before she could even legally drink.
Beckett and Chris also hash out a few things. They argue about the direction of their awful play as well as their…relationship? They eventually make nice and almost kiss. Beckett excitedly runs to Peyton to tell her that he’s finally getting a camp romance which, to be honest, is kind of nice. Even if Beckett blows.
Back with Thomas and high on love, Peyton confidently holds a Zoom meeting with her boss to pitch her book idea. The boss loves it but says someone else should write the story about Peyton’s teenage journals and Camp Evergreen. The aspiring writer is devastated. But there’s no time to mope, it’s pageant time!
Beckett and Chris realize that they can’t make things work because they both have demanding careers. That’s one couple that has apparently crashed and burned. Will Peyton and Thomas work out? Unfortunately, Peyton gets caught in a romcom trope and overhears half of a conversation between Thomas and Dave where Thomas states that long-distance relationships don’t work. Peyton rushes off before Thomas finishes by saying he’s going to find an apartment near his lady love. For a man worried that he might rush into things, he’s certainly rushing into things.
Peyton calls her boss who happily informs her that she found a writer to write Peyton’s life story. Our heroine bravely responds with, “I quit” and hangs up the phone. Later, Peyton tells Thomas that she’s not going to be a writer and instead will run a successful camp business. She also turns him down.
Although initially delighted that their daughter wants to take over the camp, Peyton’s parents decide that she should be a writer. They’re also accepting a ludicrous bid for the land the camp is on, so she couldn’t run the camp anyway.
With no job or boyfriend, Peyton is officially a total loser in Hallmark world. She gets a call from a colleague who spills the work tea. Apparently, Peyton’s boss didn’t want her to write the book because she didn’t want to lose her best assistant. The plan backfired. Now that’s girlbossing!
Christmas in JulyTM is almost over which emboldens Beckett. He asks Chris on a date, and they kiss.
Peyton strikes up a conversation with Dave and discovers that Thomas was planning on uprooting his life in Texas to be with her.
Realizing that she made a huge mistake, she races over to Thomas who is standing on a pier, presumably contemplating throwing himself in the water because he’s just about blown up his life in Texas over a woman who rejected him. Peyton says she’s sorry about the misunderstanding. They make up and kiss under some seasonally appropriate fireworks.
There’s a final scene where everyone reunites in Peyton’s regular sized apartment during actual Christmas. Janice and David are pregnant, Beckett and Chris are still together, Peyton wrote a book, and Thomas proposes. She says yes and they kiss. FIN.
This was a normal Hallmark summer Christmas movie. I actually don’t have much to say except that I didn’t like Beckett. Chris deserved better. I’m not certain how Peyton paid rent considering she no longer had a job. I guess that book advance was pretty hefty. Overall, it was fine.
Rating: 3 out of 5 heavyweights
- I went to camp twice and didn’t care for it. The first time some kid called me Pinky. The second time we went after my sister burnt down the kitchen and our parents wanted us out of the house.
- I loved gel pens back in the day. If someone gave me one now, I’d absolutely use it.
- Thomas is Corbin Bleu, one of the kids from High School Musical. I was too old for that crap, so I don’t know much about it. However, I think Corbin should become a Hallmark actor. It fits.
- In this universe, 2007 Thomas may have watched Corbin Bleu play Chad in the first High School Musical which was released in 2006.
- I think Hallmark set a quota in the script for the phrase Christmas in JulyTM.
- Beckett slanders Chris by calling him a “soap actor.” I get that you hated him when you were 15, but the man has a stable career in the arts. Leave him be!
- What song did Maroon 5 release in 2007?
- The camp is being turned into a destination Christmas tree farm. I’m not familiar with this concept.
- Thomas is an artist. He gives Peyton some drawings he made during the last camp hurrah. In it, is this image which is eerily similar to the truck from the Christmas in Evergreen series andohmyGod this place is called Camp Evergreen THERE IS A HALLMARK CINEMATIC UNIVERSE!