Alex: I was starting to wonder if Hallmark was just going to run away with this thing. Our blog was intended to review Christmas movies made for and shown on the Hallmark AND Lifetime networks but so far, it’s been a Hallmark beat down. They’ve shown more movies, more good movies, and have been debuting 2-3 new ones every weekend as opposed to Lifetime’s 1. And the one of them I have tried to review so far was the Country Christmas Story, which we dunked in less than half an hour.
Well I’m happy to report that Lifetime has finally gotten off the mat and is starting to throw some leather, which begins with the 12 Trees of Christmas. And they are mounting this comeback the smart way. Getting back to the basics. Christmas Movie 101. You’ve got a plucky, feisty librarian named Cheri (I had to look that up, I don’t remember it being said in the movie). She likes books, the library, reading, vintage-y clothes, annoying me with her smug sense of self-satisfaction, judging others who value money, female singer-songwriters whose CDs get sold at Starbucks, and her dad, who is dead. At some point, I am going to put together a chart with all these movies and list out which ones have main characters who have lost a parent or loved one and which ones don’t. The results will be staggering. And remember, I don’t even watch the ones that look too depressing. I guess these writers figure that we will bond quicker to someone if have lost somebody. We’ll immediately want to root for them. Or better understand why they are the way they are. You see, Cheri loves the library because her dad took her to the library when she was a little girl and they had a great time. Then he died and that magically cemented her emotions forever. Because if they didn’t do that and I was to learn that the library was going to, say, get demolished, I wouldn’t believe she’d care all that much. I’d be like, “Yeah, so what, you don’t even really like the library. It’s not like you have memories there with a deceased loved one.” But I can’t do that in this case. Well played, 12 Trees of Christmas.
Oops, I just realized that I got a little ahead of myself here. I revealed the big plot point, which is that this library Cheri loves so much is going to get demolished. Why? As if you even needed to ask. Progress, man! Dollars and cents. They are going to blow this beautiful, old building to smithereens and put up some condominiums, the absolute worst, abomination you could ever build. Worse than even banks because the have the audacity to masquerade as homes. Who would want to do such an atrocious thing? Once again, I know you know the answer. It’s a heartless corporation, of course, but the person responsible for selling it to them is Tony (had to look that one too). He is the grandson of the guy who built that library and most of the neighborhood. The grandfather is no longer alive, nor is his mother, and there is no real reason for her to be dead, other than another attempt to make him more sympathetic without doing any actual work.
And what you also know is that Tony and Cheri are going to fall in love. Remember when I told you in the Snow Bride review how fake relationships have a 100% success rate in creating real relationships? Well, so does the dynamic where someone wants to demolish something old that you treasure. You will naturally end up falling in love. Not at first, mind you. At first, you will hate each other but over time, you will start to see things a little differently and not be able to resist this law of the universe. So if you are looking for that special someone and don’t like the lying part of setting up a fake relationship, simply find an old place you really treasure and when it gets torn down or changed, find out who is behind this terrible act and that person is your soul mate.
To prevent this from happening, Cheri comes up with a fundraising idea that I might not be able to explain very well because it didn’t make complete sense to me. She is going to organize an event where a bunch of library patrons donate their time to decorating Christmas trees (REAL ones, mind you, not those pink aluminum ones that we are supposed to feel bad about even though they don’t exist). Then they will invite a bunch of rich people over to come bid on the Christmas trees. Why would anyone do this? I don’t know, I just don’t know but there is an ulterior motive here as well. She thinks if the grandmother, who still holds all the purse strings for the building, comes and sees all this Christmas spirit, she will not allow the library to be sold to the heartless corporation.
During this time, we get better acquainted with the many lovable, quirky side characters and their little subplots. This is actually something somewhat unique to 12 Trees of Christmas and I applaud them for trying. What I do more than applaud them for, like freakout during a Showtime at the Apollo comedy act type of applause, is this moment between two of those side characters. It wins the award I just made up, called “Scene of the Movie”
You sure are talking to her now, buddy, you sure are. There are also evil characters, like Caspar Van Dien, who has somewhat of a cameo, although I am not really sure if you can call it a cameo when referring to an actor of his current stature. I believe he plays the boss of the heartless corporation and since he really has only one scene and really wants you to know just how heartless he is, he growls through the entire thing. Like it’s worse than Batman. Then you’ve got Mel B, who was Scary Spice in the Spice Girls. In case you don’t remember exactly which one was Scary Spice, I will just come right out and say it – she was the black one. Scary plays an interior decorator who doesn’t necessarily seem all that bad but has a crush on Tony. Since he doesn’t reciprocate or really even acknowledge her personally, she gets jealous of Cheri, which is understandable. What I don’t understand as much is why Tony is so cold to her right from the get-go. Or why he’d even ignore her advances, in favor, seemingly, of Cheri. Mel B wins on both the looks and the doesn’t-annoy-the-hell-out-of-me fronts.
But I guess I answered my own question by saying that it is a universal law that Tony and Cheri must fall in love, with him demo-ing her library and all. Did I tell you that was going to happen on Christmas, by the way? Okay, maybe not Christmas day but the day after. And that’s probably only because they already had blowing up the homeless shelter on the schedule for 12/25. Although it seems like Tony might even be starting to come around, the more he hangs out with Cheri. We also learn that he’s not ALL business and he even used to work as – brace yourself, ladies – a CARPENTER! Or at least he can build the furniture, the Holy Grail of skill sets. See though, that’s a thing in these movies. The men who are either all business or all not business always have this other side to them. You find out they actually have a law degree and aren’t just some free spirit town historian. Or the super businessy ones can still build furniture, or paint things, or a the very least, grew up as poor orphans. They can also be persuaded to come around to the woman’s point of view. But the women can never change. Nor are they ever more than they seem. They are the same gal at the end as they are at the beginning.
I certainly have some theories regarding gender roles in our society and how they relate to the Lifetime target demographics but I will save them for another time. For now, I just want to rate this sucker. I liked it. As I mentioned earlier, it went back to Christmas Movie 101 and followed the blueprint to a tee. It gave us the unforgettable moment of that nerd boy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to love him because he can change hard drives really, really fast (I think). It had not one but TWO dead parents. The only thing it didn’t have were likeable main characters in the key romantic role. But that could also be said for so many of these films and in life itself, really. Thus, 12 Trees of Christmas, I give unto you…
Welcome back to the jungle, Lifetime! It’s your move, Hallmark!