God Rest Ye Merry, Gentle Readers

My dearest readers, this is it. Tonight’s the night Christian parents across the world will lie to their offspring about a stranger breaking into their homes to leave merchandise provided by large corporations, and soon Christmas will be over. Which means we’ve also reached the final chapter of our Hallmark journey. And so, without further ado… The Christmas Parade.

AnnaLynne McCord is Hayley, a correspondent on a New York City morning show. Hayley isn’t too into the Christmas spirit, but she is concerned about the upcoming break so that she and her longtime fiancé, high-powered investment dude Jason, can finally squeeze in some time to plan their wedding. Imagine her humiliation, then, when she’s stunned on air by a scoop about the new fling of a rising starlet: AND IT’S JASON. That conveniently inconveniently timed cad!

Fleeing to the country in her Mini Cooper, Hayley gets distracted by multiple calls/texts from Jason and runs her car into a fence. (Women drivers, am I right?) The cranky old man who owns said fence wants to call the police, even though she offers to immediately pay for the damage. Taking her offer of a blank check as a bribe, he reveals that he’s the local judge, and tells her to show up in his chambers tomorrow.

Thank god there’s a hot good Samaritan on hand for this disaster. He calls a tow truck for her, and she tries to check into the nearest hotel and make the best of it. But, being the Christmas season, there’s no room at the inn, and she’s directed to the one vacancy in town at a bed & breakfast. You know they’re not like city folk there, because they have a GRAMOPHONE.

Then comes the second convenient man-related shocker of the day: the good Samaritan runs the B & B! His name is Beck. I don’t know why. Also THERE’S NO WI-FI OR TV! (Hayley actually seems really chill about this, so I don’t even know why we’re establishing this country bumpkin vs. city girl dynamic. But we’ll get back to that.)

Hayley’s producer is pissed at her, and wants her back in the city for their big Christmas special. It’s not so great, then, when the cranky judge sentences her to 25 hours of community service before court closes for the year (in five days!) for using a cell while driving. She protests and maintains her innocence — those were INCOMING texts!!! — but when he threatens a jury trial, she agrees to do the time.

Her service hours can be fulfilled by helping Beck build a parade float with some kids at the local community center. (I guess there are no actual unfortunate people in Connecticut.) Hayley becomes interested in Beck’s story about how the center was started by a philanthropist ten years ago, but is going to be sold by the city council if he and the kids can’t raise $15,000 by the new year for their own down payment. And wouldn’t you know, they can get exactly that much if they win top prize for their parade float. (Fifteen fucking grand?? Shit, let me join that contest! I’ll let someone ride on my damn back for all of December for that much money.)

Thanks to the court clerk’s Twitter account, Hayley’s story ends up on “ZMT” (which is NOT TMZ, Hallmark’s lawyers assure me.) Now knowing where she is, Jason shows up to plead forgiveness. But she kicks him to the curb. Get out of here, city boy! Hayley’s busy discovering Beck’s secret painting studio and how he gave up a scholarship to the Sorbonne to care for this dying father!

Christmas Parade

Hayley, too, has secrets to share, like why she isn’t a fan of Christmas. She recounts a sad childhood memory of being made fun of for a second-hand bike after she’d begged her mom to get her a new one, how crushed her mom was about it, and how guilty she felt for not realizing her family couldn’t really afford gifts that year. That’s why she’s pissed that Christmas is about “making people want things that they can’t afford.” This is your spoiled city girl, movie? You’re not doing it right.

Saintly Hayley also turns down the mayor’s skeezy offer to reduce her service hours if she mentions local businesses in her broadcast, instead turning to Beck’s mother Wendy, who works for the local paper, to do an interview with her so she can take the narrative of her situation into her own hands. Of course what Wendy really wants is to help Hayley rediscover the Christmas spirit! She insists that Christmas is about looooooove. And is there anyone Hayley might find herself loving these days? Maybe someone she’s had a PAINT FIGHT with recently???

Complications with the Parade Float Insta-Cash Plan arise when the mayor tells Beck that someone else made an offer for the property, and Beck should just give up. But the offer comes from Hyperion Enterprises — Jason’s company! So Hayley rushes back to NYC to beg him to stop the sale if he actually loves her. Though he dismisses the situation as “another one of her little human interest stories,” he also says he’ll figure out how to drop the deal.

Beck is ecstatic over the dropped bid, but the merrymaking is short-lived, since the mayor soon calls and says another investment group stepped in. The city is determined to turn the building into commercial space, the kids are sad, etc etc. But Beck makes a big speech about trying to win the parade anyway. Shit, I’m sure y’all can think of something to do with fifteen grand even if the center closes. Keep the money and hold your meetings at someone’s barn!

Community service hours finished and back in the city prepping for the Christmas special she’s hosting, Hayley’s struck with an idea in the middle of a meeting. Include the parade in the special!! Surely then the mayor will see how important this is to the community. She convinces the suits to change the theme to “From Manhattan to Main Street” and get in touch with the little people this year. What a gal.

Meanwhile, following his “good deed,” Jason is still trying to get Hayley back. He wants her to go on a Christmas trip on a Dubai billionaire’s yacht with him (sounds pretty good to me), but then she sees a call on his phone and figures out that the “new company” that stepped in to buy the community center is a subsidiary of Hyperion, and Jason’s been lying all along. HIT THE ROAD AGAIN, JACK. And take your yacht with you! (sob)

When the night of the parade finally arrives, Hayley ends up having to step in and play Mrs. Clause, with Beck as Santa, of course. Aren’t they adorable? Then, as soon as she goes on live TV and talks about the community center, offers for donations start to pour in from all over the country! (I thought this was a local show, but whatever.) They thwart the mayor, who’s been in cahoots with Jason and planning to rig the parade anyway, by setting up a Kickstarter and raising $264,000 in like an hour. I shit you not. I’m not sure if Hallmark’s lawyers checked with Kickstarter about setting up this unrealistic expectation.

Then Hayley and Beck kiss in their Clause outfits. She’s got that spirit back, y’all! Goodnight!

Okay, so here’s the thing about any level of rom-com… even though you know they’re going to get together in the end, the fun part is the conflict on the road there. Sooooooo notice anything missing with The Christmas Parade? Besides a single moment when he has to tell her the B & B has no wi-fi, Hayley and Beck are 100% on the same page the whole time. It’s super tame even for Hallmark, but otherwise, a perfectly serviceable bit of holiday nonsense.

Let me segue and take a brief moment to sum up a separate issue I’ve touched on throughout this series of posts. Usually Hallmark at least makes a small acknowledgement that not everyone in North America is a white Christian. Yes, a few of this year’s main characters have a black pal who perpetually exists next to the phone, someone they can call to commiserate about their romantic life. But last year, the season kicked off with Snow Bride, a film based around half-Taiwanese actress Katrina Law, and the year before included the (quite enjoyable) Joey Lawrence vehicle Hitched for the Holidays, in which his Christian, Italian-American character falls for a Jewish girl, and the cultural differences, while used for comedy, aren’t at all framed as the actual obstacle keeping their romance from blooming. These are very, very minor whiffs toward diversity, yet Hallmark couldn’t even handle that much this year. Disappointing.

Perhaps my critique of Hallmark’s heteronormative whiteness (combined with my scathing critique of A Cookie Cutter Christmas) has burned this bridge forever, but I still hope someday I get to pitch some ideas to them. (Or they can just read the ones I’ve already posted on my Twitter account…) I think these light, cheesy romances can be really good when done right, and I would write one of those scripts with nothing but gratitude and joy.

Final scorecard:

*female lead’s name is a Christmas reference: 4/12 films
*male lead’s name is a Christmas reference: 2/12
*female lead gets fired: 4/12
*male lead has sad childhood Christmas memories: 3/12
*romantic ice skating scene: 3/12
*romantic tree decorating scene: 7/12
*character comes to senses after heart-to-heart talk with father figure: 5/12
*dead parents: 7/12


2 Responses to “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentle Readers”

  1. 2 patty December 24, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    I have never watched a hallmark movie and now I never will because there’s no way it could be as entertaining as your recaps. thanks a lot, Brandi.

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