Making Spirits Bright
Well we are just chugging along aren’t we? Did I mention that I didn’t really get to watch a single one of these over the weekend. But can I say that it’s just too many movies on a weekend you are supposed to spend with your family? I mean, I tried to get my Hallmark loving family to watch just one and no one was interested. But we did so many fun things that I wasn’t really complaining. That’s just how it is. This year, I have really been feeling the strain of just watching all these movies. I love them, but sometimes it really feels like a chore to watch them all and like, not miss out on the actual season. So since this is all just a made up hobby of mine, I get to decide what I want to do with it. And today, I watched this movie while I caught up from being on vacation! So it will be little shorter because we’re just going from my memory. Let’s get after it.
Grace and her best friend own a home staging company. It seems like Grace’s partner is a bit of a large personality and just steamrolls over all of Grace’s decorating choices. It also seems like this actress either doesn’t talk loud enough or clear enough because like 90% of her dialogue is ADR. Anyway, after they finish setting up this particular house, Grace heads home for Christmas.
She is waylaid however, by a truck stuck in the snow. They make a few references to town names that suggest they are in Virginia. A place where the entire state shuts down when the temperature drops below 20 degrees. It really does not snow. But this is a Hallmark movie so we have to just go with it. Anyway, Grace stops and realizes the man is an old friend of hers, Tony. She gets him out of the snowbank with some Girl Scout survival skills and they are both on their way.
They both are heading to see their dad. Tony is helping his dad decorate a house for Christmas and laments to his sister that business is down again this year. Meanwhile, Grace overhears that her dad’s store may be closing. Grace’s parents talk about competing in the town’s annual exterior lighting competition. I actually forget now what it’s called. It might be “Bright Lights?” Is that right? Anyway, they are reviewing pictures of their past work to submit as their application for this year’s contest.
Tony wants his dad to enter the contest too but he had a bad experience several years back and hasn’t participated since. But Tony really thinks it would be good for them or their family or whatever.
That night, they all run into each other in town. We learn a little more about the family conflict. The two dads ran a Christmas lighting business years ago and had a MAJOR falling out and now don’t speak at all. There’s also a hilarious little exchange where Tony’s nephew pretends to be his son to embarrass him in front of Grace.
I think this is also the time where they all submit their applications for the lighting competition. One of their competitors, Wade, is TRULY one of the wackiest Hallmark characters we’ve seen to date. He uses a lot of “fancy technology” on his houses so they look…ultra-modern or something?
Anyway, they all find out shortly thereafter that they will all get to compete. How many exterior lighting companies can one town support? The winner gets the contract for the city’s municipal buildings the following year plus a $50,000 cash prize. Can the city really choose their contractor this way? Absolutely not. But I guess if they’ve already decided they’re going to spend $25,000 no matter what, it probably doesn’t matter. OF COURSE IT DOESN’T MATTER.
Anyway, there are very strict time-based rules for the competition, like they can only work from 9 AM to 6PM and can only test their lights once it gets dark. They also call the houses they’re decorating “Deck Houses” which I don’t understand. Also, how does one get to be the house that is decorated totally for free? Or do the houses pay to participate? That’s a good idea.
Anyway, Tony and Grace keep running into each other and chatting and catching up on the past. They are both dissatisfied with their work and lives thus far. Tony has his MBA but hasn’t been able to find a job. They talk about him going to a “big school in Arlington” and again, if we’re talking about Virginia I don’t know WHAT they mean. To my knowledge, there is no “big college” there. And then they specifically mention Boston University so what are we doing here?
The viewer can also come to realize that the crux of the dads’ disagreement is very similar to that of Chris and Joe in “Christmas CEO.” Tony’s dad wants to make beautiful lighting displays regardless of whether they are cost effective and even if it means they have to turn down other jobs. Grace’s dad wants to run a profitable business that can support both of their families. So, they really could make a great team if they could just you know, combine their super powers.
Grace learns from her mom that her dad’s business is failing. He got over ambitious and expanded his store and it is not profitable. He is operating his business at a loss at this point. After finding out that their mothers have been secretly been friends this entire time, Grace and Tony decide to join forces to inspect her dad’s books.
Both families make it past the preliminary round of Christmas light decorating. Because this lighting competition is multiple rounds. This is after Tony’s dad decided to take all his lights down and start over so the icicle lights can look like they’re melting. Uh. What a nightmare.
The stakes are quite high because Wade…or is it Gabe? The wackiest person in all the land, has some big plans. I think his name is actually Gabe. Anyway, his Christmas displays are so impressive, he gets interviewed on the local news. How can Tony and Grace’s family compete with that?
At some point, both families start to realize they just cannot compete against Gabe/Wade. Grace wonders if they should join forces. Tony agrees. So, they miraculously convince their dads. And they’re in! Grace drew a beautiful design that everyone loves. BUT they don’t have much time.
However, old wounds do not heal quickly and right after agreeing to work together, the dads take shots at each other AGAIN. It’s tough to watch.
Now, I can’t remember if this is before or after the families team up, but Grace gets a phone call from her business partner. The television producer, for whom they staged a home at the beginning of this movie, invited them to his Christmas party. They are interested in creating a show about the girls’ business. Grace wonders if they should prepare a pitch, but the friend, in what I believe to be a rare moment without ADR, says it’s just a party so that is unnecessary.
However, at the Christmas party, Grace’s partner blurts out an entire pitch for a show which is NEWS to Grace. To be fair, Grace, I’ve seen the show she’s pitching. I’ve seen several thousand iterations of the show she’s pitching so it’s not NEW. But this is the last straw for Grace, so she decides to leave. Poor Tony, who drove her after she lent her keys to her mom, didn’t even get a chance to start his drink.
At a bar, Tony talks about singing carols in Italy with his family as a kid. This gives Grace an idea to fix things between their families. First, they carol in Italian outside Tony’s family’s house. They love it and agree to go to Grace’s family’s house. Grace’s mom invites them in. And miraculously, the old boys make up. THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS CAROLING.
They spend the next day happily working together until Tony’s dad falls off a ladder and breaks his collarbone. YIKES.
Later, Tony and Grace talk to her dad about his business. Tony has a great idea to keep it afloat. Grace’s dad is mad at them at first but is won over by good business ideas. You love to see it.
Tony’s dad’s broken collarbone doesn’t seem to slow the gang down too much and they finish on time. But while they’re working, Grace’s partner stops by to apologize for everything. That was unexpected. I thought maybe Grace would just step away from that business. But no! They’re going to patch things up.
Now we get to see the light displays. This may be the best part of the movie. I love watching the Christmas light displays. I love the song the family team uses but I don’t know that I liked their lighting display the best. BUT is ANYONE surprised when they win? And then Grace and Tony kiss but the movie is still not over.
We flash forward one year to the gang getting ready to watch the premiere of Grace’s new show. The dads are back to working together and Tony’s new consulting business seems to be booming. They all settle in on the couch to watch the show, happy as can be.
This movie felt like classic Hallmark. It had a very silly premise and seemed to follow the old standard format. But there have been so many heavy movies this year that I was very much HERE FOR IT. This was a great movie to watch while I did other things and it probably made me like it even more. What did you think?