Plot: Alice (Alicia Witt) is about to meet her future in-laws for the first time and while that is a stressful event for anyone, her situation is a little more stressful than most. She is nervous about being engaged in general, but then her fiance Will (Scott Gibson) has to tend to some last minute business, which means Alice will travel to her in-laws by herself, ahead of his arrival. A series of mishaps follows, with Alice’s phone broken and an encounter with a clumsy fellow traveler, Matt (Mark Wiebe). But as it turns out, Matt is Will’s brother and he is traveling home for the holidays, so he and Alice go together and Matt helps introduce her to the rest of the family. Soon Alice’s stress melts away, as she feels right at home and has a lot of fun with her in-laws, though soon things take a strange turn. While Matt does indeed have a brother named William, it is a different William and Alice has been with the wrong family the entire time. This proves to be a real problem for her, as when she finally meets the right family, she can’t help but wish she back with Matt’s family instead.
Entertainment Value: This Hallmark holiday romance has most of the elements the channel is known for, so while it is predictable, A Very Merry Mix-Up is likely to appeal to Hallmark fans. I think these kind of light, upbeat holiday romances are more or less cinematic comfort food, so the assembly line approach isn’t a hindrance, at least not to the intended audience. The narrative here takes mistaken identity to ridiculous levels, but that adds some b movie charm and these films often ask us to suspend disbelief in the noble name of love, so no issue there. The movie is light and brisk, to the point it doesn’t want to paint Alice’s original relationship as problematic, which would have helped the bonding with Matt’s family a little, I think. But it does remedy that to a point once she meets the real fiance’s family and again, the romance is the point here and the feel good vibes aren’t cramped by relationship dysfunction. The humor is fine and there are some laughs here, especially for those who have an affinity for light romantic comedies, which is where this one resides. I don’t think it will convert nonbelievers, but for fans of Hallmark’s holiday romance movie, A Very Merry Mix-Up is likely to offer some solid entertainment.
The cast of this movie falls in line with the usual Hallmark movie standards, passable, likable, and not always memorable. Alicia Witt is easily the standout, turning in a very likable performance in which she plays up a kind of awkward charm. She has a little clumsiness or ditziness in the character, which she uses to great ends and endears herself to the audience. Witt is able to make you root for her, even if you’re not one to typically invest in these light romances, as she is just so likable and her screen presence is terrific. The way she handles the humor is skilled and while the chemistry between her and Mark Wiebe isn’t great, Witt is able to convey both the uncertainty of her previous relationship and her optimism about the potential in a new one. Wiebe is fine as her romantic interest, but there’s not sparks between the two and he tends to be overshadowed by her presence. The cast also includes Scott Gibson, Lawrence Dane, Susan Hogan, and Richard Fitzpatrick.
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