It’s hard to tell, with Lifetime Movie Network showing so many OTHER movies, which ones are the actual films that Lifetime produces or distributes in the U.S. That’s what research and the internet are for. Thankfully, the best ones (or worst ones, depending on how you look at it) that I wanted to put on this list were, in fact, either made or distributed by Lifetime, so we know that there are no Hallmark movies or ABC movies that made it on to this list, because that’s not what this list is for. No. This list is for Lifetime Movies – the ones they show on “Fa La La La Lifetime,” or “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime” or whatever they call the programming that particular year. So, here they are, folks. Program your DVR, and sit back and try to enjoy my lovingly written recaps of each of these made-for-TV holiday gems.
A word about the order of the films – I placed them in ascending order of their ranking on IMDB. If more people cared about Lifetime Movies, there would be more information from Rotten Tomatoes and I could have factored their scores into the mix. But since the bulk of the movies were rated by fans of particular actors – it’s skewed and the IMDB rankings are skewed enough. You have to understand that your author (me) finds Lifetime Movies a guilty pleasure, and thinks most of them are pretty awful, as explained in my first list Top 10 Worst Lifetime Original Movies. Now that we have that out of the way….
10. All She Wants for Christmas (2006)
Monica Keena stars as Judith “Noelle” Dunn (notice the Christmassy middle name?), an accountant or something, who returns to her hometown of Forest City to research the Aikens Christmas Decoration Factory. The factory is in trouble, and if it’s in trouble, so is Forest City. She meets Justin Allen, a drifter, who starts working at the plant, and hi-jinks and drama ensues. It’s a Christmas movie, so take a wild guess as to whether or not it has a happy ending. Amazingly, this treacly film featuring a bunch of unknowns garnered some favorable reviews on IMDB, but Rotten Tomatoes never disappoints. My favorite quote from a review? “With a better budget, writers, actors, and scoring, this little film could have been so much better…” Indeed.
9. The Road to Christmas (2006)
She-Of-The-Career-Altering-Nose-Job, Jennifer Gray, stars as Claire Jameson, a “high-powered fashion photographer” who needs to hitch a ride to Aspen for her wedding. She ends up riding with a guy named Tom Pullman (played by Clark Gregg of Iron Man and Thor fame) and his 13-year-old daughter Hilly (Megan Park from The Secret Life of the American Teenager). Guess what happens? Forget that stupid fiance and your Winter Wonderland Aspen wedding, Claire! Life with a starving teacher and his teenage kid will be SO much more fulfilling. One cool thing? Jennifer Gray and Clark Gregg are married in real life, so any sparks that fly between them are authentic, and the movie is not terribly acted. However, one Rotten Tomatoes reviewer called it “drivel.” The same reviewer incorrectly describes it as a Hallmark movie, so you’ll have to make your own call on this one. If it comes on, pop the popcorn for a corny, yet watchable, holiday experience.
8. 12 Men of Christmas (2009)
E.J. Baxter (Kristen Chenoweth) is a successful publicist who finds herself betrayed by her fiance, who she finds cheating on her with her boss. Faced with a lonely and estranged holiday season as a total pariah, thanks to her boss’s cattiness and influence, E.J. heads to Montana (why not?) to take a job with a travel agency. E.J. is bored there, but we’re not, because THERE’S that girl from My Girl. We wondered. E.J. notices all the hot guys in town, and decides a Christmas calendar featuring said local hotties and benefiting charity is just what the PR doctor ordered. Now it’s a question of convincing the salt of the earth to strip for calendar shoot. Truthfully, I’ll watch just about anything Kristen Chenoweth is in (hence me sitting through that remake of The Music Man), and this isn’t too terribly awful. Variety writer Brian Lowry said that the movie proves that “with the right talent, it’s possible to make even the moldiest of material sing just a little.” High praise indeed.
7. Holiday Switch (2007)
Nicole Eggert (didn’t we take away her acting rights after Charles and Charge and Baywatch?) plays a lady named Paula who is married to Gary. Gary is a blue collar, goofy guy who has a hard time getting around to fixing the toilet and is kid of bad with money. Paula runs into her high school boyfriend Nick, who is now rich and successful. So Paula crawls through her dryer, gets the chance to see what life would have been like if she’d married Nick instead of Gary, and decides that, when it all comes down to it, she might the right decision in the first place. So, kind of like The Family Man or Mr. Destiny in reverse but worse with less famous and talented actors. Fantastic. Nicole Eggert doesn’t even look like Nicole Eggert anymore. What’s up with that?
6. Holiday Wishes (2006)
Finally, a Lifetime movie with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum. Amber Benson (Tara from Buffy) plays Danni Hartford, a party planner who, in addition to planning a big party for the King family, has a sister that is missing, or was given up for adoption, or something. The Kings are rich, and have a spoiled teenage daughter named Britney who wants a pony for Christmas. A girl who goes to the same school as Britney, Rachel, is the foster child of a family that owns a horse farm. They treat her like a farm hand, and make her wear homemade clothes (the horror!). The girls’ souls do a little switcheroo ala Freaky Friday, 18 Again, 17 Again, et al, and find that there is more to life than what you want on the surface. Danni finds out that the girls have switched bodies, and of course the orphan girl is her sister. Happy, happy. Joy, joy.
5. Comfort and Joy (2003)
Nancy McKeon, formerly tomboy Jo on The Facts of Life, plays a hardworking, career-obsessed ad exec who gets in a car accident and wakes up to a whole different life – one where she is married with two kids, and is a stay-at-home mom. Nancy, who never lost her tomboy edge, is actually very pretty in this movie, and she does a pretty good job with the acting, even though the script is contrived and we’ve seen the premise, in some form or another, a bunch of times. Plus, Dixie Carter’s in it, so it can’t suck but so much.
4. Lost Holiday: The Jim and Suzanne Shemwell Story (2007)
Jami Gertz, who we thought peaked in The Lost Boys and had a shining moment or two in Ally McBeal, is Suzanne Shemwell – a woman in flux because of her marriage to Jim Shemwell (played by the non-creepy brother from Nip/Tuck). The marriage is on the skids, yet the two somehow end up snowmobiling in the woods together (I wasn’t watching that closely) and get stranded. What follows is several days of rapid fire dialog that is truly irritating and hard to follow, and not very believable. Although some reviewer declares that one should be ready to cry when they watch this movie, I will tell that if you DO cry, it won’t be because of the believable sentiment. If you love fashionable winter sports gear, however, you might be moved to tears.
3. Home By Christmas (2006)
Tread lightly. I’m not one to repeat past mistakes, so I won’t be talking about how the script for this movie was so bad that Linda Hamilton couldn’t even make it good, or how she seemed sort of like they’d given her a partial lobotomy, or that she was heavily medicated when she made this questionably decent film. Linda’s character, Julie, has a perfect life with a beautiful house and a great daughter and a cute husband, until it all falls apart. Her husband leaves her, she ends up broke and living in her car, and her daughter responds way too well to her soon-to-be stepmother. Luckily, Julie meets up with another lady who lives her her own car, and the lady is more clever and invents a business for them on the fly that eventually makes them live happily ever after. The people in charge of this film should be ashamed of two things above all others – 1. the script, and 2. the way they styled Linda Hamilton’s hair and wardrobe. They didn’t do her any favors.
2. Will You Merry Me? (2008)
This movie, visually, looks almost like it was filmed before a live studio audience. The quality is that bad. The two main characters have no chemistry whatsoever, and the only thing that comes close to saving this movie is the presence of Cynthia Stevenson as one mother, and Wendie Malick as the other. Mothers of whom, you ask? Rebecca and Henry are sweethearts. They want to get married, so they decide to spend the holidays with both families. Only problem? Rebecca’s family are wealthy, sophisticated, and Jewish. Henry’s are middle class, unsophisticated, and accepting yet uncomfortable of the Jewishness of the Fines. AND their last name is KRINGLE. According to what I can find online, mine is the only less-than-positive review of this film, which shocks and astounds me, since I found it downright unwatchable.
1. Recipe for a Perfect Christmas (2005)
Fact: Christine Baranski never, ever, ever sucks. She is awesome. Therefore, this movie does not suck. But it is also not awesome. It’s OK, which is more than I can say for many movies on this list. Carly Pope plays J.J., a food critic’s assistant who gets a shot at the big job when her boss leaves. She’s on the right track, trying to find a restaurant to review, when her wild and uninhibited mother shows up to (she thinks) wreck her life. The wild mother, of course, is Baranski. J.J. gets hooked up with what is supposed to be a cute young chef, except he’s played by Bobby Cannavale and I find him creepy, who owns a restaurant that is struggling. J.J. agrees to review the restaurant if the chef agrees to “take her mother off her hands.” What does that mean? Marry her? Whack her? Who cares? It’s all about the karaoke scene in the movie!