The Mistletoe Secret

The Mistletoe Secret aired on the Hallmark Channel on November 10. I was looking forward to watching this movie because I read the book last year. No, watching Hallmark Movies is not enough for me during the Christmas season. I also read and listen to Christmas books. Well guess what? This movie took some SERIOUS LIBERTIES with the book.

In fact, it seems like the only thing that stayed the same were the location and the main two characters’ names. I think maybe the business names were the same also. Anyway, that was disappointing. But I’m not sure I need a movie version of the actual book because there’s some Christmas-y stalker vibes in that story.

The movie begins at the Mistletoe Diner. Aria, the sassy southern belle that owns the diner…in Midway, Utah…is about to start a “Christmas Council” meeting. She is a no nonsense control freak. Can’t let anyone help her with anything. Business in Midway has been slow lately because the big fancy ski resort is keeping people away. I don’t understand. Anyway, Aria has the solution to their problems. She plays a clip from a travel show. The host, Sterling Masters chooses the best place to spend the holidays each year. He has three finalists. One of them is Tokyo and another one is Midway, Utah. And those towns are usually put in similar categories a lot. They won’t know which one is selected until the first article is posted on his website.

Over at Sterling’s HQ we meet Sterling and Alex. Alex is his ghostwriter. They’ve been best friends for ten years. Sterling is the face and poor brunette, bearded Alex is the ugly step sister. Oh wait. The step sister is the bad guy. So Alex is Cinderella. But he’s like Rachel Leigh Cook in She’s All That. Just get that girl some contacts and she’s good looking! Except their differing degrees of attractiveness is not really a plot point of this movie. Just an observation because it seems like they don’t ever want Alex to see the light of day or a camera. Why does Alex have to be a ghost writer? Why can’t Sterling just be the host and Alex be the credited writer? I feel like that is a common thing, right? Can’t they be Elton and Bernie? Anyway, Alex is going to Utah because it is more convenient for Sterling. Have fun girl!

Aria is singing and decorating part of the diner. She’s decorating it for a silent auction I think? People can bid on ornaments and the money will go to the rec center. I am always so underwhelmed by the places they decide will get fundraising money. Maybe they are tired of always saying “homeless shelter”. Or maybe they don’t want us to think there are any homeless people in these towns? Anyway, Aria doesn’t want anyone to help her. Not even her poor old dad who’s come just in time for her to be basically all done.

Alex is in his rental car just grumbling about how there’s no place to stop and eat anywhere. Oh good. He sees a place that looks open. The Mistletoe Diner. He walks in and Aria is still singing I think. He is so glad she’s open and he helps her put back an ornament that dropped. He’s starving and she finally agrees to serve him some pie. He loses his mind over the pie and ends up taking the entire thing home. They chat about his life in the big city and he makes up a backstory for himself. Because NO ONE CAN KNOW WHO HE IS. Travel blogging is SERIOUS BUSINESS. It would be ruinous if someone discovered Sterling was just the pretty face on camera and didn’t do his own research and stuff.

The next morning, Aria is over at the Sugarplum Lodge helping the owner decorate. Alex is totally creeping at a table around the corner. But in fairness, they are kind of talking in the common area. They’re talking about whether Sterling is there and about rude, grouchy Alex. And then they start talking about a “Mistletoe Man”. That sounds weird. She sees Alex lounging with a beautiful spread of breakfast items and Aria accuses Alex of being jealous of Sterling. And she’s probably a little right. Boy, she is obsessed with this travel blogger.

Back at the diner and they’re having what Hallmark would like you to believe is “banter”. Guys, I don’t want to make specific criticisms about people doing their best, but Kelly Pickler is not good in this movie. She is not a good actress. This movie might have been okay if they had cast someone else. I mean I think they’ve got the cutest Hallmark guy in this one! But she is terrible and all of her scenes are painful to watch. But I feel fine saying this because she made more doing one month of work for this movie than I will probably make in 5 years at my job.

So they’re “bantering”. Then poor haggard Santa (Mack) shows up. He has some serious ailments in this movie and no one seems to care about him. He and Alex kind of bond at the table and Mack tells him about the Christmas tree lighting that night. Alex learns he is Aria’s dad. Now seems as good a time as any to ask why ONLY ARIA HAS A SOUTHERN ACCENT. Mack tells Alex about the Midway Christmas Passport program. He can get stamps by participating in Christmas activities. The whole town is hoping this travel blogger will save their dying town.

Alright it’s the Christmas Tree Lighting. This woman, who’s name I didn’t bother to write down, starts giving a dramatic speech about the tree or Christmas or Midway or something. But then a big gust of wind picks up and takes away all her notecards. And she has no idea what to say. Aria steps up and gives the rest of the speech? Or does she speak from her heart? I’m not sure. We’re supposed to be impressed but she doesn’t actually do a good job giving the speech so I’m not. I think they ADR’d all of Aria’s scenes and this one is painfully obvious.

The tree is not one of Hallmark’s best. It is tall and skinny. Why are so many of the trees tall and skinny? There are more s’more stations set up. Hallmark is truly shaking my closely held beliefs in Christmas traditions. Am I to believe that S’mores and snickerdoodles are now Christmas things? I just need some time to process all of this. Aria sits down next to Alex and we learn that he had to look up a video on how to roast a marshmallow. I weep quietly for their childhoods. And then he tells Aria you have to put the marshmallow by the “ambers”… And I think he means “embers” but no one bothered to correct him or try that scene again. Anyway, they’re still doing it wrong. Even if they don’t want to eat them the correct way-which is totally charred- they’re still not cooking them long enough. And then they do the most INSANE thing of all. They don’t even make a s’more. They just eat the marshmallow off the stick. WHAT IS GOING ON IN THIS TOWN?

Aria asks about the “mystery novel” Alex is working on. He makes up a plot that includes a Christmas tree. Then they go get hot chocolate. Thank goodness they’re calling it hot chocolate. If they get mugs instead of to-go cups I am going to throw this tablet across the room. Okay good. Regular cups.

Poor, decrepit Mack hobbles over to them. They talk about getting a tree the next day but he is too old and feeble to do it. Reminder, this is the dad from Step by Step so he’s not that old. But maybe Alex wants to help? She asks him to pick her up and 10 and he seems taken aback. I can’t tell if he thinks that’s too early or too late. Personally, I think it’s too late. But my kids are up at 7 AM no matter what day it is or what time they went to bed the night before.

Aria and her dad talk about Alex. He is such a curmudgeon. And WORST of all his qualities is that he doesn’t like the host of the travel blog show she is obsessed with.

They are at the tree farm. Aren’t they in Utah? Go get you a $10 Forest Service permit, y’all! Don’t over pay for Christmas trees if you don’t have to. So here they are instead. Paying $90 to cut down a Christmas tree farm tree. Alex doesn’t know what to do so Aria presumably helps him. But they don’t show that. After picking out the tree, they get more hot chocolate. And then they stand in line for the carriage ride and decide they should take a selfie. But then they ask someone else to take the picture. In case I forget to mention this, later Aria sends this picture to Alex and THEY’RE NOT EVEN LOOKING AT THE CAMERA. Then they wander around a Christmas market and Alex gets his passport stamped. They look at some pretty great ugly Christmas sweaters. I really want that cat one. Alex is pretty great here. Aria tells him they have a Christmas sweater decorating party at the diner and that is the only way he can get his ugly sweater stamp. How many residents of that town have time to make an ugly sweater instead of just buying one?

Alex talks to Sterling again. He needs to get his article up! The town needs to know we’ve selected them!

So they’re at the party. This actually seems like a fun idea and we haven’t seen this type of activity in a Hallmark movie yet. Aria is wearing a great green turtleneck. They’re again having a “conversation” and “bantering”. Aria is just over the moon because the article is out and Midway was selected. She keeps looking around to see if Sterling is there. After they’re done with their sweaters, he asks her to decorate the tree in the diner. She mentions something about a mistletoe man again. And well, what in the world is that about? I vaguely remember something about that in the book. I think it was edelweiss in the book. And that is kind of Christmas-y right? Anyway, edelweiss actually makes more sense which is probably why it’s written that way in the book.

So they decorate the tree and then they win the contest. Mack shows up from God knows where and is like, oh I missed the party? Is anyone going to check on this man or ask what’s going on with him? He again complains about his back and I do think we need to pause the movie and make sure he’s okay. Aria invites Alex to the Christmas market on Saturday. There is also a dance after. Maybe he wants to go? Oh it’s too early for this.

The whole town is just raving about all that Sterling has done for their community. Apparently the world waits with bated breath to see where Sterling says they should spend the holidays. Then they just load up in the car and go there. What if he had picked Tokyo? But the blog even works on Sterling! He’s so stoked about Midway after reading Alex’s posts that he decides to go there. And he’s going to do a book signing there. This is the first Alex has heard about a book. So they just slapped a book together, got it printed and now are going to do a signing in Midway? Yep, that’s how books work.

Sterling is HERE! He waltzes in to the diner and is shaking hands and taking pics. Alex is wearing a fantastic blue sweater and I’m wondering if it comes in women’s. Also, WHERE ARE THESE FROM? I went shopping last weekend and I didn’t see any of these colors. But I’m guessing they are not buying them at the Outlet mall. Also, this is the first time I realize that Sterling is a robot. Like a lifelike robot. Kind of like when Tim Allen plays a Santa Robot in the Santa Clause 2.

Aria sees Sterling and literally (and figuratively) drools all over him like my dog when he sees us eating popcorn. He asks her to be his VIP guest at the Christmas market.

Later, Alex talks to Sterling about wanting to write his own stuff and use his own name. I just want to point out again that I don’t understand how they got here. Why can’t they have always had the dynamic where Sterling is on camera and Alex is behind the scenes but credited? Is it because of his brown hair? Is it because he’s short? Is it because he wears floor length sweaters? But Sterling is not interested in any of that. Sterling is putting in his best effort on Aria but he doesn’t really need to work that hard. She gives him a pie. He accepts but reminds her he’s a robot so he can’t eat pie. Aria’s friend cannot keep cool and literally throws herself at Sterling to get a selfie. As they walk away, Alex catches up to Aria. Aria is like, isn’t it so great that Sterling is going to read your books? You’ve got a mentor! And I think Alex’s hair literally catches on fire from the rage boiling up inside him. And yet he’s still interested in her. So he asks if she’ll be at the dance that night.

So this is a really fancy dance. Everyone is wearing really fancy clothes. I have a hard time believing that a small town would do this every year. But here we are. Aria is wearing a great dress. Alex immediately asks her to dance and I appreciate him being forthright. Sterling the robot shows up though and swoops in and needs to talk to the “Christmas Council”. But not without their president, Aria! While he’s meeting with them, he is getting a little tripped up since he didn’t write any of the articles. He forgets that he has already been to the tree lot.

Back at the hotel, Alex and Sterling are having a conversation in the lobby. They are both slouched in their chairs and not looking at each other. Sterling is chattering away about Aria and Alex is not paying attention or something? Anyway, Sterling says he decided to stay because they comped him the presidential suite there. So they’ve got a presidential suite at this tiny boutique hotel. He says he really likes Aria. And then he promises to help Alex with his publisher. And I feel like Alex should already be part of those meetings. Sterling doesn’t seem to know anything about his own blog posts. So how was he having all these meetings about compiling all those posts into a book? How did Alex not know anything about this? And do we think the same contact for blog compilation books is managing the mystery novel accounts?

The next morning, Aria is wearing THE CUTEST SWEATER I’VE SEEN this season. I MUST have it. But I have no idea where she got it. Also, I’m not buying it if it’s more than $30.

They are at Mrs. Claus’s Christmas Tea. How are they getting anyone to go to this? Aria tells Alex what her favorite tea is. She loves cinnamon. Sterling shows up and Alex, Aria and Sterling are going to sit together. Aria runs off to do something real quick. So, Sterling orders for her. He gets her peppermint tea. Can you get coffee instead though? Anyway, peppermint is the WRONG thing to get Aria. Alex subtly swaps her because he ordered the kind she likes.

Sterling messes up again when he mentions Alex’s pointsettia allergy. How would he know that? Aria asks. Sterling then tells a boring and pretentious story about tea ceremonies in Japan.

Next up, an ACTUAL Christmas Scavenger Hunt. The town has to pair up and find the pieces of a snowman around town. Sterling grabs Aria and Alex goes with the woman who was playing Mrs. Claus and bombed at the tree lighting. I think Aria and Sterling won but I wasn’t paying attention.

Afterwards, Alex and Aria catch up. She says she has a hard time doing things for fun. She always did all the work on group projects and never wants for help. Is this supposed to be charming?

Back at the diner, Alex is working on the latest article. Sterling seems appreciative of Alex’s work, but he’s a robot so he can’t show many emotions. He snaps a picture in the diner to contribute to the article. He’s helping!! Then he leaves.

Mack shows up. Now he’s trying out a southern accent too. Just give it up, man. Anyway, we finally get to the bottom of the Mistletoe Man thing. Basically two guys are vying for the affection of a princess. One is an arrogant prince and the other is a knight. The knight goes through the hassle of finding mistletoe and brings it to her. And the princess is like, cool but how can you capitalize this skill and provide for our family? And the knight is like, I was hoping you would do that part.

So this is where it would have made sense to not change edelweiss to mistletoe. Edelweiss grows on rocky cliffs and there is German folklore about men getting it for women to prove their love. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on other trees and shrubs. So, I mean, it’s just not as impressive that a guy is able to procure that for his best gal. But here we are at the Mistletoe Diner and Mack is tasked with connecting some dots.

Alright so here we are at the…silent auction? Everyone can bid on ornaments. Where did these ornaments come from? Why should people pay top dollar for them? Don’t know. Or I missed it. Anyway, Aria is wearing a great dress. She gets a 10/10 for outfits in this movie.

Mack is HUSTLING for Alex with what little remaining strength he has. He tells him to bid on the MISTLETOE ornament. Alex bids $500 even though the present highest bid is like $60. Sterling notices this and swoops in and bids $1000. Basically just to be a show off. He then tells a story about Germany.

The next morning, Aria wears another excellent sweater. She talks to her dad. She says Sterling is “the Mistletoe Man”. This plot point is so ridiculous and unnecessary. She can just say she prefers him, right? What type of grown woman is structuring her romantic life around this folklore story? So anyway, her dad can’t talk any sense into her and she’s off to get ready to go out to eat with Sterling.

At dinner and Sterling has preprogrammed some great lines into his core processor. Aria is the star at the top of the Christmas tree. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever received a Christmas themed compliment from my husband in the nearly 11 years we’ve been together. I’m going to mention this to him.

Sterling just can’t keep his story straight. He mentions he was going to leave until he met her. And he doesn’t have a Christmas passport!!! And then he says my favorite line of his. Aria asks how he knew about the Mistletoe Man because the most recent article talks about that “famous” folklore. And Sterling says, “Mistletoe Man? I thought it was pie!” It should only be a pie. But not literally mistletoe pie because I’m pretty sure mistletoe is poisonous.

He then fesses up. He feels no guilt or remorse because he is a robot. He also says Alex agreed to help him get to know Aria in exchange for getting him a meeting with the publisher. I do not remember this at all and Sterling doesn’t seem to even need Alex’s help because Aria has been drooling all over him every time he’s around. But meeting her changed everything for him. Doesn’t that count for something? No. She has to go find Alex. She doesn’t offer to pay for her half of the dinner.

She finds Alex and is really upset with him too. Is she more upset about the deception or the fact that he’s an adult man wearing loungewear in a common area of a hotel? He doesn’t deny this agreement but we NEVER see them act on this alleged agreement so this is weird. So she storms out.

The next morning, the robot has had a software update and recognizes that he messed things up for Alex. He wants Alex to start posting on the website under his own name…Basically taking my suggestion from earlier, I think? And since Aria won’t return his calls, Sterling suggests he write a personal post on the website about his feelings for Aria. They have a nice hug and Alex says, Merry Christmas, you giant! He is very tall. Or is Alex short? Don’t know. Don’t care.

Alex goes to the diner to make one last ditch effort to win Aria over. He sits while she stands and oh boy, that is one of the worst scenes in the movie. Have I mentioned that Kelly is terrible in this movie? I really hate to say that but it’s true. This scene was genuinely painful to watch. But she is wearing a great sparkly sweater. Alex leaves a gift for her on the counter and heads out.

A little later, Aria sees the gift and sits down with her dad and he shows her the article/love letter to her. She opens the gift and it’s the mistletoe ornament. So he gave her the ornament that Sterling paid for? She says she ruined things with him and wants to fix it. She comes up with a plan.

Back at the hotel, Alex is packing up to leave on Christmas Eve night. No point in staying, right? He got almost all of his stamps on his sad little passport. When he goes to check out, Mrs. Claus sneakily takes his car keys off the counter. How is he going to return his rental car? Oh, the hotel will do that. We’ll give you a ride to the airport! He gets in the car and Craig, who I’ve not mentioned here but has had some scenes with Alex, is the driver. And he is not being creepy at all. He tells Alex he can’t leave until he’s checked off Chestnut Canyon off his passport. Just real quick. Aria is there waiting for him and they have a brutal conversation and kiss. Yay. And then a shooting star flashes across the sky.

At Christmas dinner, Mack asks Alex who won-the knight or the prince? And well, first of all, are we sure Alex is the knight? And second, obviously he won because he’s there. And Aria asks what they’re talking about and Alex says, none of your business. It’s between us Mistletoe men. And then I threw my tablet across the room in disgust. So that’s the Mistletoe Secret. It should come as no surprise to you that I did not like this movie. It is so far the worst one. If you can’t keep up with the pace of four movies/weekend, give yourself a break and skip this one. Let’s see how this movie rates on our checklist:

  • Small town person
  • I am going to consider Alex stranded in this small town
  • Christmas Gala (the fancy dance)
  • Christmas Tree Lighting
  • Christmas puns

Total score: 5/20

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