Katherine Noble, Contributing Writer
The holidays are a time for family, food and to celebrate being together. What better way to do that than with a good movie?
Hallmark movies have become a staple in my household. My sisters and I love to curl up on the couch with snacks and blankets and lose ourselves in a cheery, pleasant love story.
Hallmark movies have become a bit of a meme over the past few years for their cheesiness and predictable plots. Personally, I love them. They’re easy enough to make fun of yet sweet enough to appreciate.
They don’t mess around with heavy themes or deep metaphors. They’re easy to watch. With a Hallmark movie, you know exactly what you’re getting.
In recent years, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have been dabbling in their own movies along this vein. I believe these films — although not from the Hallmark channel — should be counted as Hallmark movies. It’s a genre that’s grown beyond a specific brand label.
These films are identifiable by their blandly attractive, usually white leads; simple and entirely predictable plot structures; incessant but totally chaste romance; and of course, a picture-perfect happy ending.
They’re often set in small towns or fictional foreign countries. Zany hijinks ensue, and someone always discovers the “true meaning” of family, Christmas or love. They’re also particularly abundant around Christmas time, though Hallmark movies are produced for every season and imaginable theme.
Here are five of my favorites in the Hallmark genre.
‘Ice Sculpture Christmas’ (2015)
This film tells the story of Callie (Rachel Boston), an aspiring chef with a hidden talent for ice sculpting. Callie is secretly entered into an ice-sculpting competition by her childhood pal, David (David Manning), in which she has to compete against her boss, chef Gloria (Brenda Strong).
Despite the chilly work, sparks fly between Callie and David as they compete as a team, working to create the perfect sculpture. An ice-sculpting contest is the exact kind of quirky yet innocuous plot device Hallmark movies utilize to distinguish one movie from another, and many of the sculptures in this film are truly beautiful.
The leads are committed and believable in their roles and never come off as self-conscious or sarcastic. It’s a lovely film to keep on in the background during your Christmas festivities, whether or not they involve any grand ice sculptures.
‘Love On The Sidelines’ (2016)
An aspiring fashion designer takes a job as a personal assistant to a famous and injured quarterback. The two are from entirely different worlds and struggle to connect at the beginning, but eventually fall in love.
The star of this film, Emily Kinney, not only has excellent chemistry with her co-star but is delightfully reminiscent of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter and carries the sweet story on her perky shoulders.
‘The Princess Switch’ (2018)
This film is a Netflix original starring Vanessa Hudgens. It’s a take on the classic princess and pauper storyline, following two women who look curiously alike — both played by Hudgens — as they swap places. One is a baker, the other a duchess set to be married to the prince of the fictional country of Belgravia.
They discover their unexpected true passions and fall in love with each other’s counterparts. This movie has a few more twists to it than a typical Hallmark flick.
Hudgens is deeply endearing, and the romantic interests are actually somewhat fleshed out and ridiculously attractive.
‘Unleashing Mr. Darcy’ (2016)
As its name suggests, “Unleashing Mr. Darcy” is inspired by Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” This reimagining changes the novel’s original Elizabeth Bennet character to Elizabeth Scott, a private school teacher who becomes instantly infatuated with a man she meets at a high-end dog show event: Donovan Darcy.
The storyline is nice and all, but we all know what’s happening there. The real stars of the show are the dozens of adorable little puppies featured throughout. We love to see it.
‘Falling Inn Love’ (2019)
This Netflix original follows Gabriela Diaz (Christina Milian), an ambitious designer, as she breaks up with her boyfriend, loses her job and wins an inn. On a whim, she flies out to New Zealand to renovate the place.
The project turns out to be a bigger job than she’d expected — and one with a hearty helping of romance, thanks to the handsome contractor with whom she’s at odds.
Milian has an engaging realness in her performance, there’s plenty of chemistry between the two leads and the setting is idyllic and charming.