Christmas Scavenger Hunt premiered on November 3, 2019 on the Hallmark Channel. I’ve watched several Hallmark movies where they seem to have struggled coming up with a title. In the recent past, there’s been Ice Sculpture Christmas, Christmas Cookies, A Shoe Addict’s Christmas, and Time for Me to Come Home For Christmas; just to name a few. Christmas Scavenger Hunt belongs in this group.
The movie begins in our lead, Belinda’s office. I am not stoked about this name. We learn that she is a nice boss and is headed home for Christmas. A homeless man approaches her and gives her an assignment. Oh, he must be her boss. She needs to close this condo deal in her hometown before Christmas so she can become a JUNIOR partner. Flattering or insulting? Belinda declines because of the conflict of interest. Oh wait, no she feels uncomfortable about it but doesn’t say anything.
Belinda is out to eat with her boyfriend, Logan. He is so happy that they are just crushing their professional lives. But, he’s too busy to come home with her for Christmas…right away anyway. He will try and hop on a flight if he has time in the next couple days because that definitely isn’t the most expensive way to do things. He gives her a locket for Christmas but didn’t have time to put a picture of them in it so the stock photo is inside.
Belinda is driving to her hometown and is stopped on the road by someone. It turns out to be her old boyfriend, Dustin. She is pretty snippy with him but soon we learn why. Ten years ago, when she was heading off to college, he was supposed to come too but he bailed out and never explained himself. Belinda is still super upset about this.
She gets to her dad’s house and we see that her dad is Tom Arnold, who is a staple in made for TV Christmas movies. He points out that he went crazy decorating just for her. So, I’m glad we have that settled. In the morning we discover the location of the condos. Guess what? IT’S A HISTORICAL LANDMARK. The old Textile Heritage Mill and Museum. Wait, what? I think I’d rather have condos. Also, does Hallmark know that people in small towns don’t really live in condos? We keep hearing about the ”Scavenger Hunt.” There are signs up all over town. Is Belinda going to participate? The plan this year is to use the proceeds from the Scavenger Hunt to help pay for renovations on the Museum. Again, I ask, really?
I feel it is important to disclose that no actual scavenger hunt takes place in this movie. Instead, groups of two, selected at “random” by Tom Arnold, are sent out to perform basic Christmas activities like purchase a tree and build a snowman. Once they’ve completed a task, they are given a clue about what to do next. The entire town believes they are participating in a scavenger hunt. They are not. They find nothing. Ever. I also don’t think they make any money. You don’t have to pay to participate. I don’t think, anyway.
Belinda meets up with… the town realtor? I’m not sure. But, they talk about the deal and how behind the museum is on payments. It would take a Christmas Miracle to get them caught up in time. Hmmm.
She heads to town hall. You know, where all the exciting things happen in town. They are all getting ready for the kickoff of the Christmas Scavenger Hunt. Belinda sees her best friend and meets her fiancé. He seems nice. Faith, the bff reveals that Belinda has liked Dustin since she was at least ten years old. Well that is quite a history. Alright, Tom begins to explain the rules. It is here where I first realize that this may not a scavenger hunt. This is like…the Amazing Race, right? I’ve never seen that show. Anyway, Tom, well actually his name is Carl-Carl starts drawing names out of a hat. Not everyone who signs up gets to participate either I think. That seems silly. Again, if they charged people to play, that might make the whole Christmas Amazing Race more profitable. For Charity.
Alright so Carl, who is definitely not biased at all, LIES about which name he draws out of the hat and Dustin and Belinda get paired up. Faith was not taking any chances and just put her and her fiancé on the same piece of paper. No one cares. They each get a text that announces what their first clue is. I wonder, what technology does this town have where you get a text, send a picture, and then an automated response comes back? At first I thought Carl was doing all the texting but first-he does not seem capable. Second, he seems to be doing his own thing during the day. Okay, we don’t have time to figure this out.
The first clue is a cutesy rhyme that ultimately leads to them going to get a Christmas tree. At first, I think it must be a specific tree that has the next clue. No. It can be ANY tree. They literally just have to go buy a Christmas tree. Dustin says, well I guess we’re going to the forest. Guess what? They don’t go to the forest. They go to a small tree “farm” where you cut down your own tree for $90. I’m just speaking from my own experience here. So they’ve picked out a tree. Now what are they supposed to do with it? What does the town want with the trees? They either don’t explain or I missed it. Or both. Regardless, Belinda has a great idea for the tree. She refuses to tell Dustin and instead just takes his keys.
They arrive at a big fancy house. A rich elderly man lives here and is kind of a recluse. Belinda and her mom used to visit him. However, when he opens the door, I am a little surprised. He’s not actually that old. Here I thought Hollywood only discriminated against older women. (Edgy!). No, this man would have been in the prime of his life when Belinda and her mom visited in the past. He is probably in his late sixties now. So they come in with the tree and he brings out a small tray with five ornaments. He wants to hear what’s going on in town.
They talk about the “scavenger hunt” and decorate his tree for him. Then they take a selfie. The photo that pops up on the screen does not actually resemble the picture they take.
They head off to Town Hall to get instructions for their next task. Again, they do not have to find anything. They need to build a snowman. Look, I’ve built a snowman or two in my day and it is backbreaking work. And rarely do you have the right consistency and quantity to make it work. Especially in July, when they filmed this movie. So anyway, they figure it out and even have some cute items with which to decorate their snow person. I don’t presume to know whether they made a man or woman.
After they take their picture, both Dustin and Bel (I’m going to call her Bel now because that’s what Dustin calls her and Belinda takes too long to type) have something important to discuss. Belinda knows her thing is going to be more important, but this is a Hallmark movie so she lets Dustin go first. Instead of hopping in the truck and having this conversation on the way, Dustin feels it is important that they walk to a bridge which is somehow decorated for Christmas and have this discussion. What he shares is earth shattering. Well, it’s earth shattering to Bel. It doesn’t really change my life one way or another. Sorry to get all your hopes up. He shares that the reason he didn’t follow Bel to college is that his dad lost his job and he needed to stay home and help provide for the family. He didn’t tell her because he thought she might stay too and he wanted her to go to college. This is a very noble thing to do and Bel is shook. Her mind flashes to that anchor around her neck, Logan, and she realizes she’s wasted the last ten years of her life. I could tell all of that just by the look on her face. I do find it hard to believe that she never figured this out or that no one else knew and didn’t tell her. But here we are. So after that bomb, Dustin says, wait isn’t there something you wanted to tell me? And Bel feels that it would be inappropriate to share that in an ironic twist of fate, he’s about to be the one out of a job.
They head to the next task, which is to get a picture with Santa. They run into a little boy who tells them that he asked Santa to bring his deployed mother home for Christmas. So that is a little bit of a gut punch. They also run into Faith and Jason. I genuinely wish they were in more scenes because they are precious angels from heaven. Bel shares this earth shattering news with Faith and Faith sends Jason to refill her hot chocolate. He says, but this one is full. And Faith pats him on the head and tells him to just figure it out so she can dish with Bel. Faith, Bel and Dustin remember SO MUCH from high school. I liked high school and I still remember almost nothing.
They get their next clue, which is to do a random act of kindness for someone. Dustin announces that he is buying hot chocolate for everyone. Bel says that doesn’t really count because that is technically generosity not kindness. They go back to the wealthy gentleman’s home. I’m not sure if they’re just visiting him again or if this is going to count for their random act of kindness.
It is here where Bel finally tells Dustin that the mill/museum is about to be sold to one of her clients. He actually responds very reasonably and doesn’t take his bad feelings out on her. There’s too much time left in the movie for that to happen right now anyway. Their next task is to make a gingerbread house. Come on, Deerfield. We DO NOT have time to make a gingerbread house. They seem genuinely excited to make the house. Please refer to my review of “Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses” for my stance on making gingerbread houses. I don’t have time or the emotional strength left to go into it here.
They get back to Bel’s house and she says she needs to change. She keeps her boots on while she walks into her room and presumably changes her clothes though I don’t remember what she was wearing before and she comes back down wearing what I think is the exact same outfit. Anyway, I don’t begrudge her keeping her boots on because I have the same ones and they are a BEAR to take on and off. While in her room, she looks at a truly random collection of old photos including a very well photoshopped prom picture, complete with early 00s bleach blonde hair and updo. (Been there, done that). When she comes back down, she is wearing a red sweater. Again, I really don’t think she changed her clothes and it’s not like she put on a T-shirt or something she didn’t mind getting dirty. Anyway, the whole point of that was for Dustin to get an opportunity to say that she looks really good in red, just like at prom. Alright, I don’t even remember MY OWN prom dress colors so I don’t really buy this, guy.
Okay! A Christmas activity montage! They get to building their gingerbread house. It takes approximately 3 days to complete. Bel can’t stop eating the disgusting candy that comes with gingerbread kits, which suggests she may be a serial killer. Ultimately, in the chaos and turmoil of two people trying to build a gingerbread house, Dustin is killed.
After working for three days straight, Bel says she could use some lunch…or dinner. I have no idea what time it is. She needs some-and I apologize for this-Christmas strength. I know. Anyway, they go to their favorite diner. It apparently looks way different and has a new owner. And, wait. Why is her DAD’s chili on the menu? Carl arrives with Jenny, the diner owner and immediately Bel can tell something is UP. Carl is killing it across the board. Anyway, Carl says he needs to get lunch to all the volunteers. But I hoped they all packed a lunch because there is DEFINITELY not enough food for everyone in the bag Carl is carrying. There may not even be enough for Carl in that bag. Bel and Dustin both order the chili, which I feel is unwise for them to do, given they will be spending the rest of the day together; including lots of time in confined spaces like Dustin’s truck. Bel gets a text and Dustin assumes it’s the next clue. It is just Logan telling Bel he got a flight out!
Faith and Jason show up and point out that Dustin and Bel are sitting at “their” table like old times. Bel didn’t even notice. Faith keeps making comments about them as a couple which I feel places too much pressure on them under any circumstance. Faith sends poor Jason to order something with “Christmas Pepper” in it. I am not sure such a pepper exists, but I am willing to be proven wrong. They all sit together for approximately 2 seconds before they are informed of their next clue.
For their next clue, they have to find a very specific snowglobe. Now THIS is a scavenger hunt. They head to the antique store where they find a few globes, but none are quite right. They also see several lockets on display. Bel says her mom had one that her dad gave her on their one year anniversary. So she loves them. Did Logan know this? I feel this is not a very common item. I always wanted a locket when I was a kid because they seemed all the rage back then but I don’t see them out and about these days. Again I must ask, are they back? The antique store employee sends them to “Mrs. Murphy” who was their old music teacher.
Mrs. Murphy has an impressive collection of snow globes. She tries to get Bel and Dustin to call her Margaret but they appropriately refuse. There is almost no scenario in my life where I would call a former teacher by their first name. She says she hasn’t seen them since she chaperoned the prom. What did she do for the last month of school after prom? Do people not realize that Prom is like in April or early May usually? It’s not on the last day of school. Anyway, she has a perfect snow globe for the competition and then gives Bel one to keep that has that LOVE sign thing from Philadelphia. You look like you could use this one more than me, girlfriend, Mrs. Murphy says.
Their next task is to buy toys to donate to the Toy Drive. They return to Town Hall with two grocery bags full of toys. Bel says she feels like Santa. Dustin pats her on the head. Dustin says he prefers the stocking stuffers over regular gifts. Now it’s Bel’s turn to pat Dustin on the head. He says the best things come in small packages; but I feel it is important to note that A PELOTON will NOT fit in a small package. Just for anyone who is reading this and wondering about my interests. Carl wanders over and Bel asks him about Jenny. Bel is very mature and cool about her dad having a new lady friend. Carl is just DADDING it up 24/7.
We get the next clue and Dustin says he is working on a Christmas surprise for someone special that probably lines up with the clue. He takes Be to show her what it is. And here is where we suspend reality COMPLETELY.
They go back to Santa’s village, which by the way, from the outside, looks like someone’s house. Anyway, that poor kid, Dax from earlier, is still there. I am not sure why. Dustin says he has a surprise for him. Dax shares that there is a girl on the playground that chases him. Bel says, oh that means she likes you. Dustin is like yeah I chased Bel and then she became my girlfriend. And Dax is like, wait she’s your girlfriend? And then Dustin and Bel try to explain a very complicated relationship to a strange child. They say, you’ll understand when you’re older. And I think, no Dax, you won’t.
We can see in the blurry background that his mom is there. I have to admit that I teared up. Even Lord Voldemort tears up at soldier homecoming videos, okay?! But THIS is truly the most ridiculous scenario Hallmark has ever cooked up. I don’t have time to break this down for you, but it is so important that I must. This movie would have us believe that just a few hours earlier, Dustin first learns of Dax’s mom being deployed overseas. In the span of a few hours, Dustin has not only orchestrated an early homecoming, but has gotten her all the way home. Is Dustin Santa Claus? Physics aside, Dustin, because they have a “military wing” of the museum, knew someone at the Army Corp. of Engineers with whom he could call in this favor. No. But we ALL know that’s not how any of this works. So anyway, through LITERAL MAGIC, this mother returns home the very day her son asked Santa about it. And knowing ALL of this, I still teared up. So that’s where we are. This counts towards completion of that task so they get their next clue. They get to bake Christmas Cookies!
They head to Bel’s house and guess who’s there? Logan. He’s been there for an hour and had to figure out how to get from the airport to Bel’s house all on his own. Bel has apparently not checked her phone all day even though that is literally how they get clues. Also, wouldn’t Chicago be driving distance from Deerfield? Anyway, Logan! So glad you made it. Why don’t you come on in and help us with the cookies? In the kitchen, poor Logan is still in his suit and Bel and Dustin are bustling around the kitchen. Dustin seems to know where everything is. Logan is just in the way. They both feel a little bad, and frankly so do I. So, they invite him to help. I think he is supposed to come off as like, annoyed or uninterested but it is all very sad that he doesn’t know what to do. Anyway, they help him measure the sugar and butter and then go about mixing them together by hand. I just can’t imagine there is no hand or stand mixer in that big beautiful kitchen. But here they are, mixing butter and sugar together by hand with a spatula. Logan, why don’t you try, you poor sad sack! Logan did remember to take his suit jacket off, but he forgot to take off his silk tie which was hand woven in Italy. As a result of his enthusiastic hand mixing, he gets butter on his tie. He is understandably bummed out by this and goes to try and clean it. But we all know it’s definitely ruined. The next day, they finish the cookies. Actually, time is meaningless in this movie so they wrap up the dough chilling, baking and frosting in short order.
They are about to head back to Town Hall for the final activity-Christmas Karaoke-when Logan gets an important business call. By now it must be what, 10 pm? I am just going to keep moving. So anyway, Logan can’t get off this phone call but Bel wants him to come to Town Hall for the last thing so she kind of whisper shouts at him to meet them at Town Hall.
At Town Hall, the karaoke is getting set up. I again have no idea if it’s 7pm, 10 pm, or midnight. But people are there and ready for sone Christmas themed karaoke. Bless Faith and Jason’s sweet, precious angel hearts. They sing earnestly and terribly. Next up, Dustin and Bel singing the 12 Days of Christmas. I nearly cried from embarrassment on their behalf. It was so uncomfortable. Thank goodness they only did 5 days.
Faith and Jason win and Dustin and Bel get second. I have a couple questions. How do you win? Is it based solely on the karaoke performance? And what do you win? We never find out. They also announce that they’ve raised $15k for renovations for the Museum, which is enough to renovate one bathroom.
Dustin and Bel talk about how that probably isn’t enough money to do anything. He is appreciative of Bel helping anyway. But she basically just didn’t do work that day so how is she helping or hurting? Logan pops over and kind of speaks to her like a coach in the final minutes of a close game. He’s like, get your head in the game. This promotion is so important. I didn’t care for it in this context.
The wealthy “elderly” man then gets up and says he’s going to donate enough money to keep the mill open for years to come. But, why doesn’t he just buy it? Also, perhaps a power of attorney should be designated for him because this is a very unwise use of his money. Anyway, this is great news for everyone I guess.
Bel can’t sleep that night so she gets up and starts snacking. Carl hears her or is also up and they have a lovely chat on the couch.
The next morning, Bel and Logan mutually decide to end things. Logan’s got big plans and Bel is in the way. I am not sure what Bel’s next move is. She sort of commands Logan to have a good Christmas and to see his sister. Logan has not really had an opportunity to learn any lessons so I doubt that happens. She next tracks down Dustin to tell him how she feels. They kiss. They’ve always loved each other.
The next scene is Christmas Dinner at Carl’s. Jenny, Dustin and the “elderly” man are all in attendance. Carl asks the elderly man to carve the turkey. But, right as he is about to do that, Bel sees a card at her place setting. It has a really cutesy, mildly cringe inducing “clue” that leads her the Christmas Tree. And guess what, there’s a LOCKET on the tree with a picture of the two of them waiting for her. They sort of make out in front of the whole family and we all feel uncomfortable. So, can we just start eating or should we wait? We never find out what they decide. Also, are they going to stay together? Is she going back to Chicago? This is all left unresolved. So, that’s a Christmas Scavenger Hunt!
Lets see how this movie rates on our checklist.
1. Small town person
8. Christmas Contest
11. Christmas Baking
14. Christmas puns
15. Tearing down a historic landmark to build condos (first time checking this one off!!)
19. Faith is not wise, but she is a little sassy.
20. Christmas montage
Total score: 7/20