Thursday, November 25, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Welcome to Christmas (2018)

A charming performance by Jennifer Finnigan anchors WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS (2018), available on the Hallmark Channel.

WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS is a spin on the tried-and-true Hallmark Christmas theme of an outsider spending time in a small town, falling in love with both the community in general and one person in particular.

In this case the outsider is Madison Lane (Finnigan), whose developer boss (Michael Kopsa) sends her to Christmas, Colorado, to research the possibility of bringing a ski resort to the town.

Immediately upon arrival Madison crashes into a sign at the city limits, leading her to meet Sheriff Gage McBride (Eric Mabius, HOW TO FALL IN LOVE). The widowed sheriff, his aunt (Susan Hogan), and daughters (Lauren McNamara and Payton Lepinski) set about making Madison's stay in Christmas a happy one.

The people of Christmas very much want the ski resort and the tourism it will bring. Madison initially favors a different community, but Christmas wins her over -- to such an extent that she then begins to wonder if the resort and all it entails would change the town she's come to love beyond recognition.

The plot may sound familiar, but as with other genres, what's interesting about Hallmark films is the unique touches a group of filmmakers brings to a particular story.

In this case, Mabius and Finnigan have excellent chemistry; the widowed sheriff initially seems dour but soon reveals he has a way with wisecracks, and Finnigan's Madison dishes them right back.

Finnigan's character struck me as very "real," along with being smart and funny. She's extremely likeable and fun to watch, playing a huge role in making this a strong Hallmark entry. I particularly liked the sensitive ways she connected with Gage's eldest daughter, who continues to struggle with feelings of loss over her mother's death.

The supporting townspeople are slightly cliched, particularly the B&B owner (Sarah Edmondson) who tries to warn Madison away from Gage. Consequently I wouldn't rank this at the very highest Hallmark level, but Finnigan and to a lesser extent Mabius still push my personal ranking for this one up quite high.

The ending left me smiling and somewhat misty-eyed, which is pretty much exactly what I want from a Hallmark Christmas movie. Fans of the genre should definitely enjoy it.

WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS was directed by Gary Harvey and filmed by Pieter Stathis in Vancouver and Revelstoke, British Columbia.

WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS plays in regular rotation on the Hallmark Channel during "Christmas movie season."


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