Review by C.J. Bunce
When you think of your favorite Christmas movies, you probably think of Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, or even Die Hard. But maybe you don’t. What about movies that aren’t big-budget blockbusters, that never made it to the big screen and in fact weren’t intended for a theater release? I’ll Be Home for Christmas Movies is a look at a subset of holiday films that might be thought of as the unsung heroes of Christmas: Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. The genre has a niche fandom, a fandom whose creations are about lost romance, conjuring a magical spirit, featuring locales of finely decked halls, strings of lights, and rafters of evergreen–and lots of happy people, at least by the end. They also feature some favorite actors from other genres.
Compiled by Alonso Duralde and the “Deck the Hallmark” podcast, I’ll Be Home for Christmas Movies is both a love letter and a tongue-in-cheek tour of the best and worst of the sugar-sweet world of the Hallmark Christmas movie and its fans, who don’t limit their viewings to December. You need to already be a fan of these movies to appreciate the content, with the three podcast members taking different angles at reviewing 116 movies assuming the reader has seen them, too. There isn’t much included by way of plot descriptions except 1-3 sentence summaries. This is really about sound-bite critiques from the podcasters. The subtitle of the book “116 Christmas Movies That We Love, Like, and Despise” says it all.
Before you knock ’em, consider the variety of actors you know and love who have made their mark on Hallmark Christmas movies and are featured in the book, like the Arrowverse’s Brandon Routh and Danielle Panabaker, Star Trek Discovery’s Doug Jones, Psych’s Maggie Lawson, Steven Weber, and Rachael Leigh Cook, Wynonna Earp and SurrealEstate star Tim Rozon, Tron’s Bruce Boxleitner, Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer, comedy legends Tom Arnold, Tim Matheson, John Ratzenberger, and Brian Doyle-Murray, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Marc Blucas, Top Gun and Alien’s Tom Skerritt, and TV legends Henry Winkler, Robert Wagner, and Ed Asner.
Putting aside the glaring lack of diversity in casting these movies, the commonality among the actors involved seems to be a result of the Canada-based filming locations–a majority of the actors are Canadian. The book could benefit from more information about the productions of these series, notations of repeat settings (like picturesque Squamish, British Columbia), and some insight into how these movies are developed. Instead the gist of the book is a light-touch, harmless investigation into whether these films are worth watching or not, and whether they are worthy of your holiday re-watching plans.
Especially after last year’s quarantining at home, Hallmark Christmas movies have their fan base and I’ll Be Home for Christmas Movies will have its audience (you know who you are). Published in time for you to get it for your own Hallmark Christmas enthusiast, I’ll Be Home for Christmas Movies is available now in a colorful, thick 262-page paperback edition here at Amazon from publisher Running Press.