“Maybe this is the year you find your Christmas spirit.”
Several years ago, Peyton admitted she had feelings for Ben, who promptly left town. After avoiding each other since then, a chance encounter with a reindeer brings them back together.
That is followed by a hospitalized friend asking Ben to take care of his girl, Lily, so she can experience all the usual family Christmas traditions. But Ben is no Mr. Christmas, so he turns to Peyton for help. Will Peyton and Ben’s romantic feelings finally ignite? It’s the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie, “Holiday Hearts” (2019).
Our Review: Holiday Hearts
A lot of people tend to get down on Hallmark Christmas movies for following a formula. Well, “Holiday Hearts” follows a familiar formula – but all that really matters is whether that formula is done well or is a hot mess.
Thankfully, “Holiday Hearts” was done well and is one of the better Hallmark offerings of 2019. It’s sweet, has a few laughs, and you may even shed a tear or two along the way.
We didn’t like “Christmas Scavenger Hunt“, which told a similar tale – of two former loves forced to “team up” at Christmas. But “Holiday Hearts” did right where “Christmas Scavenger Hunt” failed miserably.
They didn’t harp on the past endlessly. They talk about it and move on.
As for that formula?
- Adorable girl? That would be Lily (Payton Lepinksi). Check.
- Someone stuck for a party theme with only a few days to go? That would be Peyton (Ashley Williams). Check.
- Someone having to choose between love or a job opportunity in a far away place? That would be Ben (Paul Campbell). Check.
- Someone questioning their career path? Again, Peyton. Check.
- Someone admiring something in a store, which is then given to that someone as a gift by the romantic interest later (that red dress!). Check.
- A gorgeous Christmas party? BIG CHECK. (It wasn’t nearly as good as the hockey rink scene in “Holiday for Heroes” but it was way better than some other movies – remember the underwhelming house lighting in “A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas“?)
Yes, it’s all familiar to anyone who has seen pretty much any Hallmark Christmas romance movie over the past 5-10 years.
However, in “Holiday Hearts”, the writing and dialogue was really good. For example, it felt realistic when, early in the film, Peyton hung up Ben’s Christmas card, and then proceeded to put another card over it to hide it.
Also, it was also a pretty unique spin having Ben and Peyton agree to team up to take care of their friend’s child.
In addition, the acting was all solid – Ashley Williams was as bubbly and likeable as ever, while Paul Campbell was good. And we got plenty of Christmas joy and heart.
Let’s break the rest down.
The Nice List
Our Favorite Moments
Oh, there were so many moments to like in this movie. Here are our top five:
- When Peyton accidentally says “I love you” on the phone.
- Peyton mumbling: “Like a girl reindeer who was trying to tell him she has feelings for him.”
- When Peyton asks Lily if it’d be OK if she stuck around for a couple of days and hung out. Lily’s cute response: Yeahhhh!
- When Ben admits he lacks the “Triple H” gene. Ho ho ho!
- Peyton’s little trees, where every light is for a person who loves you.
We liked these two together. It really felt like Peyton and Ben were the ones for each other – like she wouldn’t date anyone else if he went off to Honduras.
It would have been nice if they had worked in an almost kiss (perhaps with the dip, or somewhere else).
Payton Lepinski may be young, but in “Holiday Hearts” she was pretty amazing in her role.
Especially when we think about some of the other child actors we’ve seen in Christmas romance movies recently (look no further than Oliver in “Random Acts of Christmas” – we still have nightmares about that kid!)
So Many Poinsettias!
“Holiday Hearts” definitely felt Christmas-y.
For starters, there were poinsettias everywhere. It was an poinsettia explosion.
Seems like this year Hallmark is taking one type of decoration and going crazy with it (e.g., the stockings in the kitchen in “A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love“).
There were quite a lot of Christmasy activities. Our favorite had to be the handstand snowman – always nice to see something different in a Hallmark movie. It was also cute when their old teacher could tell who made which Christmas cookies.
And, really, how can you go wrong on that Christmas feeling when you’ve got “Jingle Bell Rock” for a montage?
When Lily tells Peyton and Ben that her late mother used to say, “Snowflakes are like kisses from heaven.”
Reindeer on the Loose
Filed under interesting connections:
Ashley Williams was in “Northern Light of Christmas”, where one of her reindeer kept getting out and causing issues at the local airport. Ashley was also in “Snow”, where a magical reindeer was able to get in and out of seemingly enclosed areas.
That Looks Familiar!
So, as we were watching “Holiday Hearts”, we saw a commercial for “Our Christmas Love Song” (debuting the next night on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries), starring Alicia Witt.
And what did we notice? That Alicia Witt is wearing the same white sweater as one white sweater that Ashley Williams wears in this movie. #SweaterBuddies?
The NAUGHTY List
So let’s talk about the ending. This is probably the biggest reason our score isn’t higher.
It felt like Ben should have decided at the party to stay with Peyton. It felt weird that he couldn’t decide that right then and there.
Ben could have easily had that conversation, where his dad says he’s proud of him, whatever he decides, the day of, or before, the party.
Or, maybe Ben could have seen the reindeer outside the window at party (rather than on the way to the airport the next day). Then, Ben and Peyton could have had the same conversation where they bare their hearts to each other at the pretty party with all lights, while both of them were looking all fancy.
Also, it was pretty weird how, after Peyton’s just had her heart broken, that she has to fake being all happy when a lady comes up to her to talk about possibly giving Peyton work. It totally killed the emotional impact of the moment.
Just a Bit of Story Editing?
Not a huge complaint here, but there were a couple of scenes that didn’t serve any real purpose. For example, there was a scene where Peyton and Olivia (Lisa Durupt) talking that could have easily been cut in favor of something more interesting).
Also, the momentum of the movie was stalled a bit by pretty much all the stuff that happened on the day before the big party. Nothing that happened on that day advanced the story.
If You Liked “Holiday Hearts” You Should Watch
- Christmas Getaway
- A Princess for Christmas
- Help for the Holidays
“Holiday Hearts” seemed to lose a little momentum, focus, and emotional impact near the end – and the ending could have been better, though it was by no means terrible. Even though the final few minutes are slightly weaker than what preceded it, “Holiday Hearts” is still easily one of the best Hallmark movies of 2019 and is definitely worth watching.