Christmas at Dollywood premiered on the Hallmark Channel on Sunday, December 8.
The movie begins with Dolly Parton music. And we are at a…fashion show? Oh good. Another event planner movie. It’s a CHRISTMAS themed fashion show. Danica (Rachel) has an earpiece and is just working away. She talks to her boss, Gail. She is pleased with Rachel’s work on this event. She’s supposed to plan an engagement party for an ambassador. But, apparently the ambassador called the party off. So she tells her to take some time off because she’s going to be running this company some day.
Rachel gets home to see her daughter, Ava, pretending to be asleep. She wanted to wait up for Rachel to get home. Ava asks Rachel to tell her an “Adventures of Ava” story. Well this is a cute idea. She makes up stories to tell her daughter as she goes to bed.
Later, Rachel is getting drinks with her friend and tells her how her boss said she would run the company some day. Her friend is like, I’m actually here to convince you to come home for Christmas. You should come plan the 30th anniversary of Dollywood. Their event planner fell out. In the middle of planning the party? She hasn’t been home for Christmas in a long time. Rachel agrees to meet with the Dollywood people.
At Dollywood, everything looks ready for Christmas. Luke walks through the park with Eric. There are glitches with the Christmas tree lights. Luke is taking over the celebrations at Dollywood. Looks like Luke is up for the General Manager position. Even though he’s worked there forever, he still has to interview and stuff.
Rachel and Ava arrive at her parents’ house. Both the exterior AND interior are decorated obscenely for Christmas. And the dad is putting MORE lights up. Why doesn’t anyone pick their family up from the airport? Lots of family traditions to work through!
The next day, Rachel arrives at Dollywood. She is snapping pics as she goes. By the way, I looked up tickets to Dollywood and it is like, WAY more expensive than I thought. Almost as expensive as Disneyland! While she is snapping pics, Luke approaches her. She says she’s surveying. He jokingly accuses her of being a spy. She tells him that the layout for the anniversary party is ALL WRONG. Is this what happens when a party planner jumps ship right in the middle of things? After she leaves, Luke yells for Eric.
Rachel waits in the lobby. She sees Luke again. At this point, Luke thinks they are up for the same job. Rachel thinks maybe they are too. They talk about how much they love Dolly Parton. He gives her some good advice, which is kind, considering he thinks they are in competition. Luke heads to the interview. And then Rachel gets called to hers.
Luke gives a presentation. No one has ANY questions. And Luke also ends his presentation quite poorly. He says, “So, that’s my presentation!” Come on, guy. He then tells the Chairman that he wants to take over the anniversary party planning. I’m really not sure why. Then, it’s Rachel’s turn to meet the board. Why is the entire board involved in the planning of this anniversary party? What does Hallmark think that company boards and CEOS do? They tell her they’ll be in touch.
When she gets home, her parents are making ornaments with Ava. She is not sure how the interview went because the board was so hard to read. Rachel shares that her husband got to make an ornament the first year she brought him home. This seems like a signal that he died. Then, she gets a phone call letting her know she got called in for a second interview.
Later, Rachel sits outside presumably looking at the field of lawn ornaments her dad set out. Her mom joins her and they chat. She asks if she still enjoys party planning. It sure doesn’t leave much time for Ava though. Her mom suggests that she start writing again. Oh? So PARTY PLANNING IS NOW A NONDESCRIPT CORPORATE JOB KEEPING OUR LEAD FROM PURSUING HER REAL DREAM?!!!! What is happening?
The next morning, Luke is creeping in the lobby and sees Rachel. She teases him about how well she was received by the board. At this point, Rachel knows they are not competing for the same job. Anyway, he board calls them both in and says, hey you guys should both plan the rest of the party. It’s only 6 days away. Again, what? What is there even left to do 6 days out? I know the party planner bailed but wouldn’t it just be executing at this point??
Rachel heads back to the office space. She asks if she can meet Dolly sometime. Her friend is like, probably not. Then Luke arrives. He doesn’t have his own office? He’s kind of miffed that she knew they weren’t competing. She’s like, okay let’s get to work. They head to the VIP tent and she notices that he already took her note about the layout. She is all business about this party. She asks about food. He’s like, yeah that’s all done. Rachel is like, no I have an idea. He’s like, look it’s too late for ALL of this. She’s like, no 6 days is plenty of time in a Hallmark movie. They participate briefly in a game called “the experience olympics” where they both try to out credential each other’s party planning abilities. We all lose.
That night, Luke gets a call from Mark, who is recruiting him to work at his theme park in Georgia. Luke is not interested. He just wants to be promoted.
The next day, Rachel tells Luke they have a tasting tomorrow to totally revamp the food. Luke is like, this is in four days. They apparently had plans to do more planning that night but she asks if he can come over to her house for their meeting instead.
They run into each other at lunch while they’re both complaining to their friends about each other. They say they’ve been working together for 5 days but the party was supposed to be six days from the first day? What? Anyway, it’s awkward.
That night, they are at Rachel’s house for the Christmas “open house”? Why? What is that?They have a hot chocolate table outside. And then Luke comes up with an AMAZING IDEA. What if they had a hot chocolate stand AT THEIR PARTY? OMG. This guy. Then they apologize for their game of credential Olympics. Then Luke shares the horrifying news that he only has ONE WREATH.
The next day, her friend is all casual about Dolly being here and Rachel is like, HELLO. You said you were going to tell me when she was here. The friend is like, oops my bad. Rachel races to catch her in the park with Luke. She is not with Luke so Rachel has to make something up about why she raced over there. Ooof. It’s uncomfortable.
At the tasting, the chef is elated to be doing something different…like Christmas tree shaped towers of fruits and vegetables. Get this guy he’s own Pinterest page! They come up with another TRULY NOVEL idea for the party. It’s just too good to write now. Then, is it the same day? Rachel and Ava are at the park to hang out. Hope she got discounted admission! Luke invites them to go make snowmen…in Tennessee. Rachel says she can’t believe they still do this and that she used to do this with her dad. Is this a thing? Does it actually snow in Tennessee? Then Luke says, so, you like books? Again, what? How about, so, you like reading? And then she shares how she lit 100k on fire by majoring in “literature” in college. If you love reading so much, you should make a job out of it! Don’t waste that reading talent on party planning. But if She REALLY wants to put that reading degree to good use, she should probably be lawyer. You get to read SO MUCH as a lawyer. They end their snowman making adventure with a snowball fight, of course.
Later they chat more about stuff I don’t care about and then she invites him over again.
They are making Yule Logs. Apparently they are the best holiday treat of all time. Isn’t it just a rolled up chocolate cake? Luke’s looks dented. I’m actually surprised that it’s dented. I would think the hard part would be rolling it up without the cake breaking. So I would imagine Luke ending up with sort of a trifle or cake pop scenario. Also, they each made their own. You really need three Yule logs?
Back at work, they decide to do an ugly sweater montage. They are apparently trying to figure out uniforms for the employees. The chairman wanders over. Apparently they are thrilled about moving the shows out to the Main Street in the park. There is going to be ALOT of media.
That night, Rachel is writing notes on a window. Luke is like, oh you’re still here? Her parents took Ava to the movies. She is feeling like they need a BIG FINALE. They don’t have that sorted out? WHAT DAY IS IT. Luke invites her to come with him to look at a DJ. Again, have they not sorted this out already? Rachel is like yay, I love line dancing. Does she? Does anyone?
At the bar, Luke needs to be coaxed into line dancing. Rachel says that line dancing is like riding a bike. Has ANYONE at Hallmark EVER ridden a bike? I do not enjoy the proceeding scene of them line dancing. They end up having a nice moment slow dancing. IT’S ALL HAPPENING. He gives her some career advice. They walk through some sort of holiday lighted market or Dollywood? I don’t now. They both say that this place feels like home. He says that’s why he’s passed on this other job. He walks her home. Her mom is like, Ava waited up for her story. Rachel is like, cool so you didn’t put her to bed or read any of my notes about her evening routine? THANKSSOMUCH.
For some reason, she invites Luke in to sit around the fire while she makes up a story for Ava. It is SO WEIRD. Luke politely eats leftover Yule log cake. But good news, while she’s telling her story, she comes up with an idea for the finale.
Later, Rachel goes through old boxes and finds some of the stories she wrote before. She decides to start writing more, right then and there.
The next day, Rachel sees her friend at Dollywood in a big storage room. Is this where all the Christmas decorations are? No, these are all the books from the Imagination Library at Dollywood. Maybe her book could be in there someday?
Later, Rachel and Luke give a presentation about their idea for the finale. Eric helpfully points out that the tree is being glitchy.
They are decorating the trees in the VIP tent. I do love the trees they’re working on. I love the trees that have the white spray on them. I don’t see any Balsam Hill boxes though? Luke shares a truly mortifying story about meeting Dolly for the first time. Dolly was nice about it. Rachel is dying to meet her. Rachel’s mom and dad are there and share a knowing look after watching her and Luke.
That night, she gets a call from Gail while she’s sitting outside. Gail offered her a partnership and she can dive right in after the New Year! Just what she wanted! Gail!
Later, she’s writing some of her greatest hits of Adventures with Ava. She talks to her mom about Luke and everything. And how Gail offered her a partnership. Her mom is like, why don’t you just come home?
The next day, Luke talks to some people while he strolls along the street. Runs into Mark. He says the party is the talk of the town. Mark is like, stop waiting for that promotion and take my offer to move to Georgia. Luke is like, what do I do?
Back at Dollywood, Luke overhears a woman greeting a man seemingly interviewing for the GM job. Rachel is going over details for the dress rehearsal. And then they hear that DOLLY IS HERE. And she wants to see the tree “now that it’s working.”
They are in the command center and they turn the tree on. And then it flickers and goes out again. Eric doesn’t know what happened. CAN YOU FIGURE IT OUT! DOLLY IS HERE. Oh, just kidding. She had to take a call so she won’t be there. But don’t worry, everything will be perfect and ready for tomorrow. All the other lights seem to be working without any trouble.
Back at home, Rachel’s mom tells her she has more of her junk..excuse me “keepsakes” for her to go through. Then Luke stops by. He wants to take her and Ava to go to “Peppermint Lane.” What time is it?!! All the stores on this street make a peppermint flavored treat and people can sample it. I am disappointed that Ava’s favorite flavor is peppermint. And it wouldn’t be Peppermint Lane without Santa! Ava asks to see him. They chat about how panicked they are about the event tomorrow. They are both SO MUCH MORE RELAXED than when they first met. She shares that she started writing again. They say nice things to each other. Ava comes back and asks about peppermint bark.
The next day, they are talking about all the final details for the party that night. Eric accuses him of having fun the night before. YOU LIKE HER. Luke is like, no we are WORLDS APART okay? Luke quotes Dolly to Eric. And Eric is like, why are you so obsessed with me?
It is getting close to party time and Luke runs into an executive. He sees them welcoming that guy from earlier that interviewed. To be clear, it very much seems like they just hired this guy to be GM.
Rachel is at home getting ready. She pauses to look through her box of junk…I mean, memorabilia. She sees a rejection letter from a publishing company. Why did she save that? Her mom comes in and is like, shouldn’t you have been at the party like HOURS ago? Then her mom is like, you should just stay here. Rachel is not sure.
Back at the park, Eric encourages Luke to talk to Rachel about his feelings. Instead, they have a conversation about settling. It’s fine to settle for a business partnership at an established company in New York and to run a bigger theme park in Atlanta. And they are both going to be JUST FINE. And dandy. It’s a hard candy Christmas.
Then, Rachel finally gets to meet Dolly. It’s great.
It’s time to kick off the event. Out comes Dolly. She introduces the whole event and wears a great sparkly outfit.
Luke is at the command post panicking about the lights. We see clips of lots of the shows. Rachel checks in with Luke. We also see a clip of the parade. It’s time for the tree lighting. It seems like it’s glitching but then it works! And Dolly loves it. Rachel looks around and says, this IS home.
After the show, Rachel catches up with her family. She says she just feels like this is where she’s supposed to be. Ava is like yes please. Her mom is like, you guys can stay as long as you want. I already bought new Frozen bed sheets for both of you. And Rachel is like, how many time do I have to tell you that we don’t need a million new sheet sets. Oh wait, no that is a conversation I had with MY mom.
Rachel goes to find Luke but ends up sitting on the stage. In walks DOLLY. Dolly gives her some very Dolly advice. They have a nice conversation. Dolly tells her that they hired Luke as their GM. That other guy was the ASSISTANT (TO) the General Manager. Dolly calls him and gets a hold of him right away. Doy.
Rachel races off to meet Luke and tell him about the job. Why is SHE the one telling him though? That doesn’t seem like her job. In fact, Dolly shouldn’t have told her before they told Luke. Then they have their nice Hallmark movie and THEY KISS. Dolly creepily looks on.
Flash forward to Christmas a year later. Rachel has a ring on already so we’re good there. Luke finds one more present under the tree…from Dolly. It’s her published book. Why would Dolly do that? Well, her book was chosen by the Imagination Library! Great! They kiss again, right in front of EVERYONE. It’s awkward. But we did it! Let’s check our score.
- Workaholic too busy for Christmas
- Single parent
- Clumsy Meet Cute
- Christmas Festival
- Christmas Tree lighting
- Christmas Baking
- Snowball fight
- Christmas puns
- Someone working in a nondescript corporate (I guess?!!) job instead of pursuing their real dream
Total score: 9/20