I had planned to spend this evening seeing GIANT (1956) at the Academy, but a last-minute complication kept me at home.
Instead I enjoyed watching Hallmark's MURDER, SHE BAKED: A CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MYSTERY (2015), starring Alison Sweeney.
MURDER, SHE BAKED initially ran on Hallmark's Movies & Mysteries Channel. In some quarters there are folks who like to put down Hallmark films, which are generally positive and family friendly, as lightweight or sugary. The truth is that, just like any other movies, Hallmark quality is varied, from not so good to solid entertainment to outstanding.
MURDER, SHE BAKED was recommended to me by family members who felt it compared very well with the novel by Joanne Fluke. I found it quite engaging, and I suspect that my fellow classic film fans would enjoy a well-made "cozy" mystery film series such as this one.
In fact, the concept of mystery movies series, which has been revived by Hallmark over the past year, calls to mind favorites series of old such as The Falcon, The Saint, Boston Blackie, or Michael Shayne. Other movie series currently airing on the network include the Garage Sale Mysteries (Lori Loughlin), Aurora Teagarden Mysteries (Candace Cameron Bure), Flower Shop Mysteries (Brooke Shields, with Beau Bridges as her dad), and the Gourmet Detective (Dylan Neal and Brooke Burns).
Hannah gets the shock of her life when her milkman (Ron Cermak), a longtime friend, is murdered behind her shop. Hannah's cafe is naturally a way station for town gossip and bits of news, and she begins to research the case on her own, which doesn't thrill Bill, her policeman brother-in-law (Toby Levins), or Mike (Cameron Mathison), a widowed big city detective sent to help Lake Eden with the case.
Along with working on the mystery, Hannah tentatively begins to develop a friendly relationship with Mike (at left in photo), and she also begins dating Norman (Gabriel Hogan, at right in photo), a kind dentist who's new in town.
Sweeney, who also served as a producer, makes Hannah likeable and real, whether she's talking to her cat or smoothing out a poor introduction to Mike. I particularly enjoyed her bantering relationship with Mike (Mathison), which successfully matches wary edginess with friendly interest.
Sweeney and Mathison are surrounded by a good supporting cast, which also includes Barbara Niven and Lisa Durupt as Hannah's mother and sister.
The movie is also a visual delight, from the scenes around Lake Eden (filmed in British Columbia) to the colors of Hannah's bakery boxes -- and of course, the beautiful cookies on display in her shop.
MURDER, SHE BAKED: A CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MYSTERY was directed by Mark Fluke and filmed by Adam Sliwinski. Minus commercials, the film runs approximately 85 minutes.
DVD on July 5, 2016.
Numerous books have been published in Fluke's series, and to date there are three more TV films in the MURDER, SHE BAKED series, which I'm looking forward to watching: A PLUM PUDDING MYSTERY (2015), A PEACH COBBLER MYSTERY (2016), and A DEADLY RECIPE (2016).