Plot: Rob (Joey Lawrence) has just broken up with another girlfriend, which comes as no surprise to those close to him. He has some obvious commitment issues and if he happens to be in a relationship as the holidays approach, that’s a recipe for a certain breakup. The pressure from his family to settle down is always there, but when his grandmother tells him she wants to see him married before she dies, it shifts Rob’s mindset, at least a little. Julie (Emily Hampshire) is in a similar situation, as her family is turning up the heat for her to find that special someone, which is how she meets Rob, on an online dating site. As both have commitment issues, they agree to pose as a couple for the holidays and that will allow their families to ease up, letting everyone enjoy the festive season. But will the plan work as they hope or will fate throw a monkey wrench into this staged romance?

Entertainment Value: These Hallmark holiday romances often offer light, brisk stories with likable leads and Hitched for the Holidays has those usual elements, but it simply doesn’t spark much entertainment. All of the usual ingredients are there, but it just doesn’t gel and while it is still a harmless, light watch, I think Hallmark fans have much better options out there. The narrative is fine, hitting the expected twists and turns, but the characters aren’t given much depth, even by Hallmark standards and a lot of them seem rather dense, to be kind. I doubt anyone expects incisive commentary from these kind of movies, but the plot leans heavily on a lack of intelligence from the characters, especially to fuel the humor involved. The Hallmark formula is effective and these movies have built an impressive fan base as a result, but sometimes you need that extra little magic to make the formula light up and in this case, that doesn’t happen. I do think the more devoted Hallmark fans might have fun here, but this isn’t one I can’t give even a mild recommendation.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too jazzed about this one, as I haven’t found much of Joey Lawrence’s work to be that engaging. But these Hallmark holiday romances often focus more on the ladies involved and don’t push the performers much, so I hoped his effort would at least be passable. But Lawrence is given more screen time than most of Hallmark’s leading men and while he isn’t bad per se, I just found his performance to be rather mundane. I do think his character is rather unlikable at times and perhaps that played a part, but perhaps Lawrence’s built in fans will appreciate his work here more than I did. His costar Emily Hampshire fares better and turns in a traditional Hallmark style lead effort. She has good screen presence and is quite likable, handling the humor in the material well. The cast also includes Marilu Henner, Lisa Durupt, Linda Darlow, and L. Harvey Gold.

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