Story: Karen (Krista Allen) hasn’t been back to the ranch where she grew up in many years, but sadly her eventual return to her childhood home isn’t a happy reunion. Her father passed away suddenly, leaving her devastated and prompting her to return, with her daughter Juliet (Nadine Crocker), who is making her first ever trip to the fabled ranch. She plans to say her goodbyes, sell the ranch, and head back to her life, but the situation doesn’t prove to be that simple. Her father left no will behind and one of the ranch hands claims he is a part owner. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, the ranch worker happens to her former boyfriend Hugh (Tim Abell). Things get tense and a little awkward at times, but both know a solution must be agreed upon, so they push forward. As she sorts things out, Karen realizes she missed the ranch more than she expected and despite the situation, she even likes seeing Hugh again, but how will this complicated scenario work out in the end?
Entertainment Value: If you can’t tell from the plot synopsis, Rodeo & Juliet was crafted in the vein of the Hallmark romance pictures. Whether that is good news or not depends on your feelings about Hallmark movies, but if you are a fan of the romances from the network, this one falls right in that line and should scratch that itch. The narrative is basic and predictable, which isn’t an issue, since this type of movie is often seen as “comfort” cinema. In other words, the formula that Hallmark and others have come to rely on has been welcomed by viewers, so the repetitive stories or predictable twists are a positive, at least to the target demographic. You know what to expect and Rodeo & Juliet doesn’t break from the trusted recipe, but at the same time, some viewers are likely to crave some fresh elements or a little spin in that formula. In any event, I wouldn’t put this one alongside the better Hallmark style romances I’ve seen, as the writing is below the usual genre standard, while the cast is less than enthusiastic, aside from TV movie queen Krista Allen. I can’t give Rodeo & Juliet a general recommendation, but it looks like your kind of picture, it would make a passable choice for movie night.
The best decision the filmmakers carried out here was to cast Krista Allen, who makes the movie much better than it might have been otherwise. Even when the script sags or the cliches get thick, Allen is on her game and does what she can with the material. She isn’t a miracle worker, but she carries the lead well and pulls more out of the script than most of her genre peers would. I wish she had someone better to banter with, as the chemistry within the romance here is lackluster and Tim Abell, another Hallmark veteran, just doesn’t spark much of a reaction. I also prefer Allen as a villainess, but that’s not an applicable criticism in this case, of course. The performances overall are forgettable in this one, so I am glad Allen was involved to add some razzle dazzle into the mix. The cast also includes Nadine Crocker, Zeb Halsell, and Lauren Alexandra.