Mariah Carey may be the biggest draw of the small screen’s seasonal offerings by directing and starring in A Christmas Melody (Hallmark, Dec. 19), but she’s not the only one getting festive. (Well, as festive as she can be playing a mean-girl PTA president who matches wits with Lacey Chabert.) Three dozen-plus new Yuletide movies — overstuffed with hokey holiday cheer — are vying to shimmy down your chimney, so pull up your stockings and brace for these trends.
In A Prince For Christmas (Ion, Dec. 5), a king’s son, who is faced with a looming arranged marriage, flees to America and dons plebeian duds to find truer love. Once Upon A Holiday (Hallmark, Dec. 4, pictured) reverses the lead’s gender with a princess who ditches her royal obligations and regal garb to experience life like us commoners — one of whom wins her class-oblivious heart. Oh, and in semi-related royal news, The Wonder Years alum Danica McKellar stars in A Crown for Christmas (Hallmark, Dec. 3) as an unemployed maid who becomes a governess for a princess — and possibly a soulmate for her father, the King of Winshire (who, no matter how rich he is, is no Kevin Arnold, clearly).
Are your heartstrings easily pulled by a puppy? A young Jack Russell Terrier/Chihuahua mix finds friendly shelter with a little girl after a dog tag appears in a magical stocking bought at a church rummage sale in Magic Stocking (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, Dec. 6), while an adolescent Jack Russell is adopted by two strangers brought together by a road trip in Debbie MacComber’s Dashing Through the Snow (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, Dec. 13, pictured). Prefer to see multiple dogs at once? A coddled college student exercises a real estate developer’s Old English Sheepdog and possibly helps save a pooch park in A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale (UP, Dec. 9). Do you find deer dear? One of Santa’s helpers searches for a substitute reindeer for the injured Prancer in Last Chance Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 6). Wait, wait, let me guess — more of an equestrian? A woman gets gushy over a special horse and strapping cowboy in Rodeo and Juliet (UP, Dec. 21, and winner of this year’s hammiest title). What’s that? You need to see a photo from Rodeo and Juliet? One gift horse, ready to be looked in the mouth …
Okay, moving right along …
CLASSIC SITCOM PARENTS REUNION ALERT!
Mom and dad are getting back together! In Becoming Santa (Lifetime, Dec. 12, pictured at top of story), Family Ties liberal patriarch and matriarch Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter play the politically ambiguous Santa and Mrs. Claus, whose daughter brings her unsuspecting beau home to the North Pole. (Sorry, no Michael J. Fox.) The Flight Before Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 5, pictured) features Family Matters folks Reginald VelJohnson and Jo Marie Payton as innkeepers in a tale about two strangers — she, freshly dumped; he, about to propose to his girlfriend — who meet on a plane before winding up stranded together in a Montana town. (Sorry, no Jaleel White.) And if you’ll allow us to slightly stretch the term “classic sitcom,” in Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge (Hallmark, Dec. 5), Hope & Faith parents Faith Ford and Ted McGinley play a bookstore-owning couple. (Sorry, no Megan Fox. Look it up — she played their daughter!)
Does a little snowfall make you happy? Not really — you want crap-tons of snow. In addition to the previously mentioned Flight Before Christmas, which includes a plane-diverting storm, Angels in the Snow (UP, Dec. 5) focuses on two families stranded at a plush cabin during a whiteout. Over on A Christmas Detour (Hallmark, Dec. 6, pictured), two travelers — he, freshly brokenhearted; she, about to get married; yes, kinda like in Flight Before Christmas — are drawn together when their flight to New York is rerouted to Buffalo during a blizzard, and they spend most of the movie arguing over what’s better: Buffalo wings or New York pizza. (It’s possible we’re making that last part up.)
Where there’s a will, there’s a way to find drama. Maureen McCormick stars as a woman who inherits her grandmother’s run-down Christmas tree farm, which she plans to sell in Christmas Land (Hallmark, Dec. 13), whereas in Northpole: Open for Christmas (Hallmark, Dec. 2), a woman is bequeathed her aunt’s hotel and she aims to cash out. Meanwhile, in A Christmas Reunion (Ion, Dec. 13, pictured), Denise Richards plays an ad exec (slightly more realistic than a nuclear physicist) who learns that her aunt left her — and her ex-boyfriend — a bakery. Our prediction: They bake it ‘til they make it.
The aforementioned Prince for Christmas seems awfully similar to Coming To America, and the celluloid semblances don’t end there. Things get a little bit Freaky Friday when a father (William Baldwin!) and 11-year-old son switch bodies in Christmas Trade (UP, Dec. 12). And our pants would be engulfed in flames if we didn’t say that I’m Not Ready For Christmas (Hallmark, Dec. 10, pictured), in which a girl’s wish for her aunt to stop fibbing comes true, sounds like a Carrey-over from Liar, Liar.
Angels, those messengers and meddlers from upstairs, are a stalwart staple of the Christmas TV movie genre. This year, you get one in guardian form — played by Dean Cain — in Beverly Hills Christmas (UP, Dec. 6), one in handcarved ornament form in Angel of Christmas (Hallmark, Dec. 3), and one who can’t make her final ascent to heaven until she fixes something from her past in How Sarah Got Her Wings (Ion, Dec. 6). But only one film — Just in Time for Christmas (Hallmark, Dec. 5, pictured) — had the brass balls to deck its halls with William Shatner as a spiritual emissary. He whisks a woman a few years into the future (and given that time travel is involved, you gotta throw Christopher “Doc Brown” Lloyd into the cast, right?) to help her with a huge decision: Stay in this small town and get hitched or become a professor at Yale far, far away? Our prediction: She lives long and prospers after naming her own price for happiness.
Personal shoppers are apparently all the rage this season. (Chanukkah movies are not, totalling zero.) In The 12 Gifts of Christmas (Hallmark, Dec. 2), an unemployed artist buys for an overworked corporate exec, while in A Gift-Wrapped Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 11, pictured), a purchaser helps, yes, an overworked corporate exec/single dad with his to-do list. But what if a shopper gives a shoppee the greatest gift of all this holiday season? (Hint: It’s either love or Bose noise-cancelling headphones.)