Plot: Tess (Hannah Barefoot) has been able to carve out a niche career in country music, but her label has been getting impatient over her record sales, as her recent albums have not been hits at all. A last chance to keep her record deal arrives when the label offers her the chance to record a Christmas album, which she dislikes, as she wants to perform original music, not retreads. Her concern only grows when she learns the album will be duets with Derek (Evan Gamble), a troubled pop star. This project has red flags all over it for Tess, but with a child to support and a dream to keep making music, she has little choice but to participate. As soon as the sessions begin, her worries seem to be well founded, as she clashes with Derek and the two couldn’t have more different views on what the album should be. The producer tries to broker peace, but can these two coexist, let alone record a hit Christmas album?
Entertainment Value: This might look like another light, brisk holiday romantic comedy, but Country Christmas Album is more of a drama in most scenes, with some romance and humor mixed in at times. I still think it will appeal to those who appreciate Hallmark or Lifetime style holiday romances, but the tone is a little more serious than most, so I wanted to get that across. The narrative is predictable of course, playing on the tried and true odd couple dynamic, but I did like that the film weaves in some side threads that help break up the formula somewhat. So yes, we have seen all this before, but I still think the movie is well made and as these films are comfort food cinema, I don’t see a familiar storyline being a negative for the intended audience. The country music element isn’t just a gimmick here either, as the music is a central element and the movie does include some original songs, no less. I think that will lure in some potential new viewers, but otherwise, I doubt Country Christmas Album will win over those who don’t usually watch the genre, as it follows the usual patterns. In the end, if you’re a fan of the Hallmark or Lifetime style holiday romance movies, this one will likely appeal to you, as it falls right in line with those kind of pictures.
While the movie is solid across the board, I think it is carried by Hannah Barefoot, who elevates the entire experience. A less capable lead would have been unable to distract from the film’s lesser points, but Barefoot is able to do so, as she is so magnetic when she appears on screen. I think an effective performer like Barefoot can make you overlook a lot, especially in the scenes they’re part of, so bringing her in was a wise choice and the movie benefits greatly from that decision. She is likable and brings a lot of charm to the role, but she is also a natural for the music elements here. I’m not sure that she was always the voice of her character in the songs, but a quick search revealed she provided the vocals for at least some of the tracks. Her costar Evan Gamble has the opposite impact on the movie, as he lacks the kind of presence and charisma a pop star should have, while Barefoot radiates these qualities. This dynamic makes the odd couple angle seem ineffective, since Barefoot provides both the artistry she is supposed to, but also the rock star presence that Gamble lacks. The cast also includes Kevin Crowley, Alexander Kane, and Valerie Jane Parker.