Plot: An annual pumpkin pie competition has become one of Emeryville’s hottest rivalries, thanks to two former friends who parted ways to start their own bakeries after one year’s contest went south. In the years since the rift, Faye (Michele Scarabelli) and Lydia (Jennifer-Juniper Angeli) have battled it out in the competition, though the time has come to pass the torch. The two show no signs of cooling the rivalry, which leads to bringing in reinforcements to take their place in the pumpkin pie showdown, their very own children. Lydia’s son Sam (Rico Aragon) is a skilled chef, but he has little interest in the pumpkin pie legacy, while Faye’s daughter Casey (Julie Gonzalo) has spirit, though she isn’t the best baker around. Both have been around the competition their entire lives and while neither is all that jazzed to carry the torch for their competitive parents, who will win out in this epic bake off?
Entertainment Value: Hallmark Channel is best known for the Christmas themed movies it releases each year, but the network also dabbles in other holidays, including fall themed pictures. Pumpkin Pie Wars one of the fall releases and while the holiday cheer might not be as strong, this light romantic comedy hits all the usual Hallmark tropes like clockwork. The narrative is rooted in baking, we have meddling parents, small town rivalries, and of course in the middle of it all, an unlikely romance that could blossom into true love. That this one follows the usual Hallmark formula is great news for existing fans, but the predictable nature of the experience might not be likely to lure in new fans. At the same time, this is a tried and tested formula that Hallmark has fine tuned to a science, so it knows what its audience wants and Pumpkin Pie Wars is right in those cross hairs. This is the kind of brisk, harmless comfort food style cinema Hallmark has built a television brand around, so it is hard to knock the movie for playing to what the viewers are interested in. The movie has some fun banter, but otherwise sticks close to romantic comedy standards and while it isn’t a genre classic, Hallmark fans should have a good time with this one.
As with the narrative and romantic elements, the cast of this movie are what you’d expect from Hallmark. That means bright, energetic, and likable, the kind of performers that seem destined to be in romantic comedies. In this case, the performances are solid and most of the prominent performers are likable, but I do wish the material was a little snappier. A little more emphasis on sharp dialogue would have given the cast more to work with, especially our romantic leads. Julie Gonzalo is good and handles all the needs of the material, while Rico Aragon is a capable romantic rival for her. The two have decent chemistry, but in this kind of harmless romance, you don’t need searing heat, so a lukewarm charm is sufficient. The real banter in Pumpkin Pie War comes from the moms and that works well enough, as the two have the heated rivalry and that leads to some fun exchanges. Jennifer-Juniper Angeli and Michele Scarabelli play off each other well when they square up, while both are also good as the overbearing parents, so win win in those roles. The cast also includes Dolores Drake, David Stuart, Rhonda Dent, and Peter Graham-Gaudreau.
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