Alex: Now we’re talking! Now we’re cooking with gas! After the debacle that was an Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, we sought redemption with yet another T-Day Hallmark Channel flick, Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade and we were not disappointed! And by that I mean, we were totally disappointed. But in a wonderful, wonderful way.
The girl pictured above is Emily. She’s got spunk, that one. Quirky, plucky, full of piss and vinegar and obnoxious little vintage clothes, you will just love her from the minute she wakes up in the morning at the beginning of the movie. And by that I mean, totally hate her in a wonderful, wonderful way. She’s all about being into cool, old timey things and thus, has to loathe everything modern and normal with a self-righteous, self-satisfied indignation. We’ve all known (and wanted to kill) this girl. She lives in Chicago and this is told to us through pictures of the city in the opening credits and them playing that song, “Chicago” except instead of the Frank Sinatra version, it’s some guy singing in a public bathroom. I really mean that too. They just recorded a guy in a fairly cavernous men’s room. So our girl, Emily, seems to work for the Thanksgiving Day Parade Committee. It’s in a big office downtown and I have no idea what they do the rest of the year, just as I have no idea what everybody else in that office actually does for the parade because as far as I can tell, Emily does everything. And it’s a good thing too because she LOVES the damn thing. The parade is her life. It represents all that is good and pure about her city. About life itself. Of course like in any good Hallmark Christmas movie, this all stems from her childhood, when her dad used to take her to the parade and she saw Santa Claus and somehow it had a more profound effect on her than it did on anyone else.
Emily does already have a boyfriend but remember what I said in my Thanksgiving House review? You start one of these movies with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you aren’t going to end it with them. In this case, the boyfriend in question is a weird, nerdy guy who studies whales. They have been together for 5 years and much of their relationship seems to have taken place over Skype, as he spends a lot of time out on a boat studying those whales. He even wrote a book about them, which Emily has yet to finish. And he’s also not a total dick either, at least not in most scenes. They treat his character somewhat inconsistently but I think the gist is he’s an okay guy, just kind of clueless and boring and doesn’t really understand just how adorable and lovably quirky our Emily is. They have been dating for 5 years and she assumes he is going to pop the question just before Thanksgiving. It’s all coming up roses for Emily!
Uh oh, that is until Henry enters our picture. He is an uptight, seemingly wealthy, non-football playing Marc Sanchez type brought in by the city to, get this, figure out a way to make the annual Thanksgiving Parade profitable! How dare they! And this is what this guy does too. He just goes from city to city, devising plans to make things profitable, and crushing the dreams of anyone who believes in anything. So as you may guess, he and Emily do not hit it off right away. What?!?
Emily decides she is going to show this heartless, family-less, rich (though those last two things are never confirmed, Emily just assumes) bastard just what makes Chicago and her parade so special and maybe then, he will understand how absurd it is to want to make a profit or help cities get out of debt or businesses succeed or stimulate economies or any of these stuffy, boring pursuits. Once again, you will be shocked to know that this doesn’t go well. At first. They bicker incessantly like all lovers do because, just like all lovers, they are total opposite personality types BUT are also the same in some ways. Which ultimately means they will end up together. As a total aside, I should mention that at one point when Emily is telling Henry about the parade, she mentions “helium balloons” 3 times in the span of 30 seconds. Not just balloons but “helium balloons.” Like, she says “helium” each time. Much like autumn, when was the last time you specifically said “helium balloon?” I don’t understand this and for some reason, am fascinated by it.
But what about Emily’s whale of a boyfriend? Well, he gets back from his expedition and tells her he’s got a very important question to ask her. It’s got to be THE question, right? That’s what Emily thinks but of course, wah wah, it isn’t. He just wants her to go on his next boat expedition with him. And to make matters worse, she’s afraid to even get on a boat. Oh, the quirks! Anyway, of course she’s totally pissed off and dumps him on the spot because she wants to get married. Sure, it’s too bad he doesn’t want to marry this girl after 5 years but the (now ex) boyfriend still doesn’t seem like a totally bad guy. He even tells her he loves her. And she kind of sucks.
So after the non-proposal and subsequent blow up, she storms out of the restaurant and guess who just happens to be parked outside in his limo? Motley Crue? No, they are not in this film. Too bad really, as this could have been a good vehicle for them. But actually, it’s Henry. Emily gets into the limo and the two go off to deal with their burgeoning feelings for each other. This takes the form of drinking champagne and going to a karaoke bar and treating the audience to one of the worst moments in Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas cinematic history – the seemingly drunk Emily singing Heart of Glass. It’s really more than singing too. She kind of acts out the whole thing, drops in little ad libs here and there, and most importantly, does the robot several times during her performance. Then she vomits in the karaoke bar. And whenever you vomit publicly like that, the next step is go up to the roof of that same building you just vomited and either continue vomiting or just collect yourself. You definitely don’t want to go to a bathroom or home. The roof is your spot. And so many public buildings have easy roof access too. So they’re up on the roof and talking and Emily is embarrassed about throwing up even though what she did to Heart of Glass was much, much worse and what would you know, they get locked up on this roof. So they have to spend the night together up there. We were told previously that being November in Chicago, it was pretty cold outside but they manage okay. In fact, Henry even gives Emily his jacket as a blanket, which is the ultimate sign of love, I am told.
Their relationship progresses to the point where they are about to declare their true feelings for each other but the movie finds ways to funnily frustrate us by stopping that from happening. She misunderstands something and her ex boyfriend re-enters the picture and finally delivers a somewhat heartfelt proposal, though kind of awkward that he chooses her place of work to deliver it, in front of everybody. And I feel the need to tell you once again that despite all these co-workers, it is not clear what any of them do or even could do for the parade, as Emily seems to run the entire show. Yet she has a boss and a bunch other people in business attire who do not have speaking roles. Unfortunately, Henry witnesses this proposal and that means it is time for him to flee the movie. Or so we think.
Then the parade happens and Emily is making sure everything goes according to plan. That boss I mentioned tells her that Henry did deliver his report before he left. Apparently, he suggests that doing things like charging admission to go to the parade and taxing local businesses who benefit from all that foot traffic would be the fiscally responsible thing to do but he doesn’t recommend they actually do them. He wouldn’t change a thing. And apparently, the Mayor is thrilled by this news. Why? They brought Henry in because they were losing money and presumably paid him money to figure out a way to bring them out of debt. Now he has recommended no course of action and also presumably, collected his fee. So Chicago’s now out even more money for this damn thing. But the news does kind of melt Emily a little bit, realizing that maybe Henry finally gets it. She also learns something else about him. He’s not a rich kid, like she had previously assumed, but was in fact and orphan. That tears it. Now that she knows he was an orphan and has no living parents, she officially wants to be with him now and dump her boyfriend, who is now her fiancé.
So she does, even though this guy has told her he loved her and delivered that heartfelt proposal. To try to save their own character’s face, the movie has her throw a quick pop quiz at him, asking what he loves about her. When he can’t think of anything good, we are supposed to give her our blessing to dump him. He also kind of acts like a jerk, which seems out of character but I guess they’re trying to hedge their bets here.
But what about Henry? He fled the movie, didn’t he? Not so fast, my friend! It turns out that Henry stuck around and is none other than ol’ St. Nick himself in the parade. Emily notices this, climbs up on his float, he pulls down his beard, and they make out. That is not okay. There are kids in the audience who think he’s really Santa. Then he goes and blows the illusion by pulling down his beard and making out with some mousey chick? I find that irresponsible.
Irresponsible yet irresistible. Helium balloons, the worst karaoke scene ever, employees that don’t do anything – these are exactly the kind of things I always look for in a Thanksgiving or even Christmas movie. I really enjoyed watching/hating Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade and for anyone who thought You’ve Got Mail was a little too good for them, you will like it too. I give it: