Listen to the audio version of this recap here.
You guys we did it. We made it to the end of the second weekend. And the third weekend starts tomorrow. Is the Christmas season flying by for you? As my home remains decorated with pumpkins and fall colors? And yet Christmas is basically next weekend. So, as per usual, we don’t have a moment to waste.
The movie begins in 1990. A blonde little girl (obviously our leading lady, Liz) wears a jacket I swear I had as a small child. Her mother wears a sweater I would wear now. They are on a boat dock and plan to participate in a Christmas parade. A sweet boy named Luke tries to step out of the family picture but they make him join back in. Oh I love that.
Fast forward to present. THIS IS THE MOST DECORATED I’VE EVER SEEN ANY PLACE EVER. Grown up Liz’s assistant asks if she’s changed her plans for Christmas. Grown up Liz explains she’s not going home for Christmas because she and her dad are not close. This poor assistant is dying for the chance to head home but that may not be in the cards.
Meanwhile, Grown up Luke makes bunches and bunches of bouquets and chats with his mom.
Liz continues to walk around the hotel making sure all the decorations are in place. I think she is living there too because her house burned down? She’s waiting on insurance money to start the repairs. Guys we never hear more about what exactly happened to her house that would be so severe to render it uninhabitable. I’m just telling you now to release this.
Back in the hometown, some very helpful “older people” try to set Luke up with their niece while standing in line at the bakery. NO ONE IN THIS TOWN TAKES A MOMENT’S REST WHEN IT COMES TO SINGLE PEOPLE OF A CERTAIN AGE. NO ONE. Later, he plays chess with Locke from Lost. Locke, I mean, Dennis wins. Guys, when I tell you there are YEARS of my life LOST to that show. And I’ll NEVER get them back. And Locke is partially responsible. But today he is Dennis and I must forgive him and move on. Luke’s lunch break is over and he rushes off and asks Dennis to help his mom with something.
Back at the hotel, Liz calls her daughter banana. I am not okay with that. She’s got the cutest little double braid situation that I was never able to pull off. Not on my best day. Hannah, this little braided youth, approves of the hotel decorations. Also, do any parents actually try and promise their kids that the present Christmas will be the BEST ONE EVER? Keep expectations low, I always say.
Back at home, Dennis stops by the Christmas market as promised. As he zones out, fixated on a small child wandering under half-hearted attempt at caution tape, the tree behind said caution tape starts to fall. Dennis races into action and saves this unattended child from getting knocked over by a Christmas tree!
Liz shows her daughter more of the magic of the hotel Christmas decorations. She has a little station set up memorializing the special Christmas boat parade in her hometown. She tells Hannah that her dad sold their boat when her mom died. Then Liz gets a call about her dad. He must have hurt himself in that rescue.
Wow, even the taxi boat has garland on it. Hannah is STOKED to be Liz’s hometown. What does she have against Christmas in a hotel? Maybe they’ll have homemade oatmeal in a crockpot.
Grown up Luke runs into the girls on the dock. Liz tells him he looks “healthy” which takes him off guard. Frankly, such a comment would take me off guard as well. Hannah asks if she also looks healthy. Only a child would WANT such a compliment, honestly. He is there to pick them up. Luke is surprised to hear that Liz hasn’t spoken to her dad about this incident at all. So like, she gets a phone call and just boats right over? No calling her dad? That is odd, isn’t it?
Then, Luke points out that the Christmas parade now offers a cash prize. So people were just doing this out of the goodness of their hearts before? Luke also reveals that her boat actually was not sold. She must go see for herself. It’s in really bad shape. And we are all perplexed why her dad said he sold it.
They show up on Dennis’s doorstep and it’s slightly awkward. I mean obviously because she was not expected. Casual Hallmark plug when Liz inspects the Christmas cards on the mantle.
Liz tells “banana” to explore the house while she chats with her dad. I really hate that she calls her that. Dennis says he’s fine, not injured and that everyone is overreacting. Then Joyce, who is DEFINITELY NOT Luke’s mom shows up. Hannah says she smells like cookies. She is very bubbly and came with cookies. If there is an explanation as to where Joyce came from and how she became Dennis’s “special friend” I missed it. I also made up that special friend business because one can only just assume. Even at the END of the movie we get no closure on this point.
At the floral shop, Luke’s friend (who’s name I NEVER CATCH) continues to try and set him up for the “Winter Ball.” Liz and Hannah stroll past and the boys have a little tween goss sesh. Luke catches up to Liz. YOU GUYS THIS STREET. Like I have NEVER seen a street that looks STRAIGHT OUT OF THE NORTH POLE.
Liz vents a little about how big of a grouch her dad is. Then they see a posting for her dad’s house on a real estate office window. WHAT NOW.
Liz confronts her dad about the house and he says the bank is selling it. But yeah, he just hadn’t gotten around to telling her. Boy, Dennis is in a real STATE isn’t he? It’s almost like he was trapped on a bizarre island for 5-6 years in limbo between life and death.
Later, Hannah colors quietly while Dennis reads. (Is that what it’s like to have a girl child? They just…sit? Quietly? I just need a moment.) The old grouch suggests they take a break and takes her to their formal living room. Dennis tells Hannah about her grandma and his job as a geography teacher. Then he offers to teach her to play chess.
Joyce stops by with a poinsettia. Liz tells her that her dad has until the end of the month to pay what he owes on the house, which spoiler alert, must be around $25,000. And gang? I NEVER hear why he hasn’t been paying. Never. Like he’s what, 2 years from paying that house off if that’s all that’s left? And he stopped paying 6 months ago? Couldn’t we just set the ol boy up on auto pay?
They invite Dennis to the Christmas market that night but he doesn’t want to go. They head over without him. Again you guys, the CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS. Luke wears a lovely Christmas apron. Okay Joyce isn’t Luke’s mom. That makes more sense. Luke takes Liz and Hannah to the smore stand. Liz fills Luke in on the house situation. Then Luke reveals that he he plays chess with Dennis every week.
Liz runs into pregnant Julie and husband. Joyce corrals the lot of them for the tree lighting.
Before the tree lighting, the mayor announces the monetary prize for the parade. She’s like, okay would anyone else like to enter? Anyone in this giant crowd? She then asks the crowd to all close their eyes and bow their heads and to raise their hand if they want to join. “I see that hand.” She says a few times. GUYS IT’S NOT THAT FAR OFF.
Actually she essentially tells them all to just yell it out if you want in. That’s how we do it here. At the very last moment, Liz decides to enter.
Hannah fills Dennis the grouch in when they get home and shows him the wreath they got for him. He’s like cool but I hate wreaths. I love Liz’s red sweater. Hannah heads upstairs and Liz scolds him for “taking Christmas away.” Dennis is like, well you stopped coming for Christmas. And Liz is like, well duh you wouldn’t even decorate. Hello, have you seen this town at Christmas? This is a travesty. And he’s like nobody stopped you from decorating. So they get no where. Then she tells him she signed up for the parade. Dennis says No. He is pretty upset about it.
Luke lives on a houseboat I think? He is awoken to Liz and Hannah cleaning off the old boat parked right next to his. He likes to sleep until 8 AM which is way too late for a man in his what…thirties? forties?
Luke is like, so have you considered how much work it will be to clean this boat up and also the parade is in a week? Then Liz lowers the stakes to basically, zero. She says if they don’t win the parade money, she will just use the insurance money to buy the house back. So again, NOTHING MATTERS at this point.
Liz shows Luke a cartoon drawing of a sailboat, the kind a hipster might tattoo on his arm, and he finds a way to provide legitimate constructive criticism about her design plans. Again, it is essentially a child’s drawing of a sailboat. Despite all the nonsense and the lack of stakes, Luke agrees to help them.
Back at home, Hannah makes a sad little gingerbread house ALONE. Liz makes a small serving of mac and cheese for dinner, seemingly for just herself. Dennis is so offended he decides to make a nice dinner the following day.
The next day, Luke’s pal sneaks up on him and tells him he knows he got a job offer. Guys this never comes up again. Also, his wife Julie knows EVERYTHING. He asks how Liz and Luke drifted apart. Oh, and then there is mention of an ex-husband right in front of the youth selling roasted pecans. Luke’s friend reminds him not to squander opportunities. Then they literally run into the devil of whom they are speaking-Liz. Luke’s friend encourages Luke, his boss, to take the day off to help Liz.
Dennis runs into Joyce at a bakery. He is mad at her for telling Liz about his injury or the house or whatever. She COULD NOT CARE LESS and I love it. She promises to bring a cake by on her way home from work and he invites her to stay. OH, DOES HE? IS SHE HIS SPECIAL FRIEND OR NOT.
On the boat, Luke and Liz reminisce after finding an old photo album. They take a bunch of pictures quickly to finish up a roll of old film. Remember those days? Liz invites him to dinner that night.
When they get home, I see garland on the stairs and the wreath Hannah bought on the door. That old grinch’s ice heart is melting. I have a feeling that granddaughters have special magic for that sort of thing. My own grouchy old grandpa once lovingly declared that my son was like wart…he just grows on you. So, that is the boy version of that sentiment.
At dinner, Dennis tells Hannah how wild Liz and Luke were as children, running around on the docks. And he tells a cute story about sneaking onto someone else’s boat to meet Santa. Oh, casual Hallmark brand wine on the counter. I forget, who made this movie?
They all eat cake while watching TV. Wait, just Hannah eats cake while watching TV. Liz and Luke clean up. Liz asks Luke why he lives on a boat. Luke says he likes living on a boat more than a house. That seems crazy. Do you have electricity? Then Liz apologizes for not being around more after his dad died. Luke admits he got a little weird around Liz after that because of…Kevin, who apparently turned into a deadbeat dad?
The crew does some decorating while Joyce knits. Joyce brings up the “Winter Ball.” Hannah is quite stoked about it. And honestly, the only thing I can think of is Cinderella when I hear such a term, so child Cally is stoked at the idea as well. Hannah asks if Luke will take them and HE SHUTS THAT TINY DOUBLE BRAIDED GIRL DOWN. Way harsh, Luke. Liz pulls out a homemade reindeer ornament from 3rd grade. Pretty sure I have one of those too!
Meanwhile, Dennis looks at pictures on an old projector. Liz and Dennis have a little bit of a heart to heart about her mom dying and grief, generally.
Later, Liz flips through the pictures on the projector herself. Luke stares at her like a creep. But also, if he’s still there, it’s kind of rude that she’s just in the den alone looking at pictures.
The next morning, the girls put in some serious elbow grease on the boat. Liz is wearing her mom’s old sweater. She can’t twist the main sail or whatever? Luke arrives and does one tiny thing and fixes it. She keeps hoisting the main sail only to discover that it’s all ripped and dirty.
Luke and Liz chat about the…decorations? Of the boat? Liz thinks they’re too simple. I don’t actually know what they’re talking about. Then she laughs too hard at his pun. Hallmark LOVES PUNS way too much.
Alright now we have a boat decoration planning and package accepting montage. Joyce stops by with cookies OF COURSE. Bless you, Joyce.
Luke makes a super-secret call wearing a throw blanket around his neck. Liz wonders if he and her dad actually play chess or if they just gossip the whole time. I think it’s both. He asks her about her job and I actually don’t know what she does. She tells him she hasn’t wanted to date since she got divorced. They share a LOOK. Or maybe she is staring at his basic bee blanket scarf. Hannah gets seasick or scurvy from eating too many cookies. Naturally, the cure is hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles. Out the window of the coffee shop, Hannah sees some elves run past. Hannah runs out to catch them. They run all the way to the Christmas Village and find the elves. There is some kind of child participation activity happening. Liz runs into her DAD at the village. Well this is a cute idea. The elves give the kids all a list of items needed at the food pantry. Dennis offers to take Hannah to find all the items on the list.
Later Liz and Luke do more boat decorating. Luke claims he remembers everything about Liz. She quizzes him. He creepily remembers EVERYTHING about her from high school. Is that weird? Or sweet? I barely know any of the answers to these questions about myself in high school. Favorite food in high school? I don’t know, EVERYTHING? I ate EVERYTHING. Then Liz admits she had a crush on him in high school. Some boat thing swings and they have to duck and then have a MOMENT. Luke insists she didn’t have a crush on him in high school. He is about to say he liked her too but her phone rings.
Hannah asks Dennis why they don’t spend Christmas together. And she suggests they all miss her grandma together instead of alone, which is very good advice.
At the boat, Liz tells her dad that her insurance company called and she isn’t going to get the insurance checks in time. So Dennis offers to help finish decorating since they are running out of time. So what do they do? They go get a Christmas tree for the inside of the house.
Luke’s friend wonders if they’re all going to the Ball that night. So are they going OR NOT? Luke is like, so I’ll see you tomorrow. After a moment, Liz runs after him and he seems like he’s changed his tune on the Ball. Luke thinks they should all go. Oh good.
Liz heads back in and it appears to be the middle of the night at this point and Joyce and Hannah are decorating the tree. Dennis suggests that he and Hannah put the angel on top together. So that’s sweet. Perhaps that ice heart has melted completely. They all have a moment looking at the lit tree.
Okay FOR REAL WHAT TIME IS IT. The girls are all ready for the ball. I LOVE Liz’s royal blue dress. Dennis is going too! Oh yay. This is going to be fun for them (and me as I live vicariously through them.)
The Ball is at the Christmas Village. Liz suggests that Luke looks healthy again. They stand around awkwardly for a moment. Luke invites Liz to get a drink. They are using blue Solo cups at this Ball. That’s amusing to me.
Then Luke invites Liz to dance. I can’t deal with the decorations. This is the Christmas Energy we’ve needed. As they dance, Luke tells her why he never went back to the Ball after high school? Because he got all psyched out about telling Liz how he really felt. OMG then they kiss! We haven’t even had the boat parade. RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE TOWN?! OMG.
He says he wished he could have told her sooner how he felt. Then Liz splashes cold water on the whole thing. She reminds him that she has to go back to Seattle in a few days. He’s like well you should just uproot your life because I obviously can’t leave my little houseboat here in town. So then they decide it’s not meant to be. And then she leaves.
Later, it’s snowing and Dennis and co are all sitting around a bonfire having smores or something. Liz tells them she’s going to head home. Dennis realizes something is UP and follows her. She is home staring at the tree. She asks Dennis what he’s going to do if they lose the parade? He asks what she thinks about selling the boat? Liz thinks her mom loved the boat. But obviously she loved the FAMILY ON THE BOAT LIZ.
Luke and his mom have their own heart to heart. Luke tells her that he told Liz how he felt and how they decided that it won’t work. The mom is like GIRL WHAT? You really said you can’t leave this tiny little town and that stinky old houseboat? YOU ARE A MAN IN YOUR FORTIES. MOVE TO SEATTLE.
So, the next morning, Luke finds Dennis setting up the old chess board. He has SOME PLANS. He tells Dennis that he loves Liz. He’s like duh? “I already know that.” As my son would say.
Alright so now it’s time for the boat parade. Wow, I love this parade. Liz’s boat looks amazing. Even the judges think so! On the boat, Dennis hoists the main sale with a surprise for Liz! A digital slide show of their family playing on the main sail! I love that. Is it the same ratty sail? The old Santa judge even wipes a tear from his eye. Then Luke CREEPS OUT FROM INSIDE THE BOAT. Or has he been there the whole time? He makes his big speech. Then she tells him to stop talking and they KISS RIGHT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE AGAIN.
Well, would you believe they won the parade? The next morning, the whole gang opens presents on the boat. Luke says he might be able to build houses in Seattle. Liz is like, well duh? And Liz plans to come back more often. Which gives Luke the opportunity to say, well duh. Then Dennis takes a big family picture with Joyce included.
So that was a fun movie. Quite a handful of unanswered questions, lots of shameless Hallmark company plugs but overall I did enjoy watching this one. It had the requisite Hallmark silliness and some legitimately OVER THE TOP decorations. Honestly, I don’t think we’ve seen outdoor street decorations of that caliber thus far at Hallmark. TELL ME WHERE ELSE. So yeah, it was a fun watch. Let me know what you thought!