Plot: Elizabeth (Cindy Busby) is a passionate woman, driven to nurture young minds as a teacher at an elite private school. But that passion for education has landed her in hot water, as her insistence that one of the school’s spoiled athletes improve his academic performance gets her fired. She is devastated and beyond frustrated, watching her career ended just because a rich, entitled parent didn’t want their child held to the same standards as everyone else. But she gets a chance to focus her attention elsewhere, when she is able to enter her beloved canine companion in a dog show, though even then, she runs into trouble. She meets one of the show’s judges Mr. Darcy (Ryan Paevey) and the two clash right off the bat, with some of Elizabeth’s ire because Darcy is part of the social elite that she feels wronged her. But when the two wind up crossing paths over and again, will the banter turn romantic?
Entertainment Value: This Hallmark romance is based on Teri Wilson’s book, which was in turn based on the classic Pride & Prejudice, so the narrative elements here are likely to familiar to most viewers. While the inspiration is obvious, this is a Hallmark movie first and foremost, with all the expected tropes and such. In other words, even if the idea of a Pride & Prejudice adaptation wouldn’t normally be in your wheelhouse, don’t dismiss Unleashing Mr. Darcy out of hand. The story is there, but it is told through the usual Hallmark lens, so you can appreciate the movie even if you have no frame of reference with either novel. The tone is light and while there is conflict, it is typical romantic comedy level stuff, so the ride is a smooth one, though also predictable. But Hallmark movies have a reliable formula that connects with audiences, so the lack of surprises or twists isn’t going to be a concern, at least for the target viewers. I do think this one tends to stand out from the crowd however, thanks to Cindy Busby, who is magnetic and fun to watch as always. So for fans of light romances or the magical Busby, this movie earns a recommendation.
At this point, I have seen a number of her movies and I am confident in saying that Cindy Busby simply makes any movie better. Even in small roles she brings such energy and presence, but she can easily carry the lead roles as well and in Unleashing Mr. Darcy, she does just that. I am not a big romantic comedy fan, but Busby makes even the kind of roles we’ve seen a thousand times seem fresh, with her attitude and little bit of crazy that bursts out at times. I like that she can take roles that might otherwise be forgettable and spice them up and to me, that can lure in even those who might not be over the moon about Hallmark romances. In this movie, she brings that sharp attitude, but remains likable and even humorous throughout, while also showing believable heart when the romance blossoms. Another excellent performance from Busby, who easily steals the show as per usual. Frances Fisher has a smaller role in this one, but performs well and is one of the more memorable supporting characters. The cast also includes Lini Evans, Sarah Desjardins, Ryan Paevey, and Tammy Gillis.