“She’s just here to get her certificate.”

Haley Hanson is determined to land a toy company as a new client and get a promotion at her ad agency. But before she can even pitch them, her boss forces her to go to a Christmas camp to get some much-needed inspiration.

It’s time to go to “Christmas Camp,” part of the 2019 Christmas in July event on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

‘Twas “Christmas Camp”

The Holly Peak Inn, the home of Christmas Camp, is located somewhere not far from Boston. Haley arrives and meets our cast of characters:

  • Ben (John James): The owner, who wife, Lydia, died two years ago (so he’s not ready to date yet) – and father of Jeff (Bobby Campo), who arrives later, and really wants his dad to sell the inn and move into a corner condo on the waterfront in the city.
  • Laura: The cook.
  • Ian (Ben Gavin) & Susie (Reece Ennis): A married couple who are trying to combine their holiday family traditions.
  • John (Shadner Ifrene): A newly single dad and father of Blake and Madison.
  • Gail (Geraldine Leer): Who’s son is overseas in the military and is trying to get her mojo back.
  • Max: The dog.

The “week” is somehow made up of eight days, each with their own theme. Those themes are:

  1. Merry
  2. Joy
  3. Giving
  4. Sharing
  5. Holiday spirit
  6. Heart
  7. Inspiration
  8. Hope

The attendees of Christmas Camp are told they will experience plenty of traditional Christmas activities. This includes:

  • Decorating trees they pick out.
  • Throwing snowballs at targets with words on them and talking about that word.
  • Packing pies at a community center.
  • Baking cookies.
  • Naming foods.
  • Talking about what they’re grateful for.

And to get started, everyone is asked to surrender their phones (so they can disconnect and reconnect to Christmas).

The main storyline revolves around the alleged romance developing between Haley (Lily Anne Harrison) and Jeff, but it’s a bumpy ride. It all starts OK with the pair making snow angels together. They also have an OK scene at a wishing well.

But most of their romance is downright lame: Jeff gives Haley her jacket outside, and she uses it for all of two seconds for abruptly saying good night; Haley forgets about their hot cocoa date; and on a trip to the firehouse to collect donations, they end up under mistletoe for an almost kiss, but after some people bust out the door and interrupt them, the first thing she says is, “It’s later than I thought” (this is in the daylight, mind you).

However, Jeff does pay off for Haley on the work front. After seeing an Angel Tree filled with wishes of children, she gets the inspiration she needs – to pitch that toy company on making those wishes come true, surprising everyone with a toy for every wish.

Meanwhile, Ben tells Haley that he’s losing money. She comes up with an idea to franchise Christmas camp – and Ben asks Haley to not tell Jeff about the plans (setting up an obvious conflict later near the end of the movie).

On the last night of camp, everyone is happy until Jeff finds the proposal Haley wrote for Ben. He leaves in a huff back to Boston and Haley and Ben have ☹️ face that night and as she leaves the next morning.

One week later, Haley gets her big promotion and a visit from Ben. They all go to Gail’s party, where Gail is surprised by the return of her son, and Haley is surprised by the return of Jeff. They apologize to each other for all the immaturity, kiss, cue the fake snow, and they return to the party. The end.

Our Review: “Christmas Camp”

Well, for weeks, Hallmark has been hyping up this movie as part of Christmas in July.

We can’t even count how many times we heard Shauna telling Haley she needs to “go to Christmas camp for a holiday attitude adjustment.”

Well, it finally debuted tonight. And as it unwrapped, it felt more like getting a pair of socks than a true gift.

Let’s dive in.

The Nice List

Our Favorite Scene

This movie was short on scenes with any real emotional weight. So it was pretty thin pickings here.

The best moment of the film:

When Jeff check himself out in the mirror, prior to his ill-fated date with Haley. This was pretty funny and one of the few authentic feeling moments.

The scenes with Haley and Gail were also solid.

The Naughty List

Plot, Pacing & Dialogue on Summer Vacation

Very little happens in this movie – definitely nothing to demand a second viewing.

The theme of “disconnecting to reconnect” and slowing down – but the movie felt like it was written with a checklist rather than a story in mind.

The movie felt choppy and slow – for instance, when they went to places like the community center and “firehouse” and stayed for just a couple seconds more just for a change of scenery than for any story-driven purpose.

All the conflict was super contrived – with drama and angst that wasn’t believable and focused just on trying to hit plot points.

Didn’t You Just Say That?

There were a few times where it felt like dialogue was repetitive.

For instance, Jeff talking about the condo, Tom telling his son to focus on giving everyone a great week, and Jeff and Haley talking about work.

The End

It was nice they brought the son home from military at the end. But considering there was zero else to build up to due to the lack of drama.

We knew everything that would happen – and it did. But we didn’t care.

Missed Opportunities

Wouldn’t it have been cool to find out that Haley’s parents were in Lydia’s dance class, or that they met there many years ago?

Also, they could have done much more to make John and Ian and Susie more than just two-dimensional space fillers. Their presence added nothing to the outcome of the movie.

Your Angel Is Ringing

How was it that nobody else, other than Jeff, noticed Haley’s phone was gone for most of the week?

Or that she was constantly Skyping with her coworkers?

Wishing Well

Did Haley get her wish at the wishing well? What was it? Was it same as on her paper (to find a love like her parents)?

And why did Jeff bring Haley there – to the place where his father proposed to his mother?

Isn’t Franchising Bad in the Hallmarkverse?

It’s interesting that in many Hallmark movies, franchising is a bad thing. But in this, weirdly, everyone’s all good with it? Mixed messages, Hallmark!

Visuals & Sound

Overall, it just felt like an overly cheesy take on Christmas. The sprayed snow definitely didn’t help.

They abused the heck out of that chime effect – usually with no reason (nothing magical going on) – and that muzak (“Holly and the Ivy and Old St. Nick) was pretty bad.

About That “Firehouse”

Did you notice the door said General Store?

You’ll Fall Asleep…

Quite possibly!

The WORST List

Chemistry Fail

Haley and Jeff had no chemistry. It all felt very forced rather than the makings of a great love story.

Actually – has Bobby Campo ever had chemistry with anyone in a Christmas movie?

To be fair, all the acting was average. And while every character had their own story, all of them were pretty shallow and underdeveloped.

You’ll Cringe…

When you notice that the Christmas Camp checklists didn’t match.

At the spray snow.

At Ben’s uber tan, especially at the beginning.

At the editing.

Christmas Camp

Below Average

While Haley was sent for her attitude adjustment, the film would have greatly benefited from several script adjustments. Perhaps there’s a Writing Camp worth looking into?

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