Hallmark continues to celebrate their 2023 Countdown to Christmas with one of their latest releases, Everything Christmas. In it, Christmas lover Lori-Jo (Cindy Busby) quits her job to make good on a promise she made to her late grandmother to hang their favorite ornament up in Yuletide Springs. Joined by her best friend Tory (Katherine Barrell), LJ embarks on a road trip to the Christmas-centric town, and ends up finding a bit of holiday magic and romantic connection along the way.
The Gist: Lori-Jo, AKA LJ (Cindy Busby), is a 32-year-old woman who loves Christmas more than anything except, perhaps, her late grandmother. The two shared a special bond over the holiday, which leads LJ to finally make good on the promise she made her grandmother four years ago right before she died to visit and hang up their precious handmade ornament in Yuletide Springs, a town that celebrates Christmas all year long.
LJ goes as far as quitting her job just to make sure nothing stands between her and this trip, and then she manages to convince her workaholic best friend, roommate, and former coworker Viktoria, AKA Tory (Katherine Barrell), to fake sick so she can join her. The two women then embark on a three-day road trip to Yuletide Springs but end up getting sidetracked en route by car trouble. That’s how they meet garage owner Zack (Corey Sevier), who immediately connects with LJ over their shared love of Christmas and inserting quotes from historical figures into casual conversation.
When Zack leaves to get the car part that LJ needs, a man driving a red car and looking remarkably Santa-like pulls over to help. He introduces himself as Kris Kringle (George Masswohl) and then fixes the vehicle free of charge with some “ho ho hos” for good measure before driving off. Zack returns to offer the gals a brief respite in his nearby town of Clover Bend, where Tory meets a potential love interest of her own in workaholic turned family-focused traveling freelancer, Jason (Matt Wells).
As LJ and Tory take a meandering route to Yuletide Springs, they’ll find that some Christmas magic from Kris will cause paths to cross in unexpected ways and make coincidences feel something a lot more like fate, leading to an unforgettable holiday celebration.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: The way that some of these grown adults are super into Christmas and little else feels reminiscent of Buddy from Elf, but it at least makes sense for him since he was raised amongst actual elves in the North Pole. What are LJ and Zack’s excuses? They ditched their work commitments to take a last-minute Christmas trip. Not trying to sound Scrooge-like here, but I don’t think any amount of holiday cheer will make up for a lack of health insurance.
Performance Worth Watching: Katherine Barrell’s Tory was the bright spot for me in this movie. Tory felt like the only character with any real depth, stakes, and relatability, and a large part of that was felt thanks to Barrell’s acting giving Tory a sense of genuineness that was a breath of fresh air in a film that was otherwise full of some pretty unbelievable characters and events.
Memorable Dialogue: “Okay, how did he do this?” “Because he’s a magician.” This is probably the thesis of the movie. Anything (even the unsettling and uncanny) can be explained away as long as the person doing it is a magician!
A Holiday Tradition: It’s a tradition for Christmas lovers to make the pilgrimage to Yuletide Springs to celebrate their favorite holiday with seasonal delights. It seems that the biggest attraction of them all, though, is the yearly practice of people hanging their ornaments on the town’s big tree on Christmas Eve.
Does the Title Make Any Sense?: Sort of? It’s just vague enough that it doesn’t give a clear sense of what the movie will be about besides Christmas, but we kind of expected at least that much, right? The title itself doesn’t explicitly come into play until the movie is almost over, when the characters visit a store called Everything Christmas All the Time where they sell all sorts of oddly expensive seasonal paraphernalia.
Our Take: Everything Christmas is ultimately a bit confusing. I think that it has potential as a friendship story more than a romance, and if it had focused on that, it would have ultimately been much more successful. While most of the figures in this movie aren’t given much characterization or backstory, the bond between LJ and Tory feels real, albeit a bit uneven, since Tory is the one putting her job on the line to go along with LJ’s Christmas road trip. The two women are supportive of each other, though, in whatever capacity they’re allowed to be, and that shines through as the brightest spot in the film.
Unfortunately, this is ultimately overshadowed by the attempts at romance, which for both pairs feels pretty forced (we barely know anything about Zack and Jason, who aren’t even in the movie enough for us to feel super connected to or invested in them), but even more so by the Santa Claus of it all. Indeed, the thing I keep coming back to with this movie is Kris Kringle.
Let’s just take a look at what he does throughout this film. Kris is there to conveniently help LJ and Tory when their car breaks down. Then he just so happens to already be in the next town they visit to work as Santa Claus (which no one even hired him for, it’s implied that he just took it upon himself to step in) doing card tricks for children (because we all know Santa is canonically known for sleight of hand magic). When Kris first meets Zack, he makes it seem like he’s known him for a long time, even though Zack is like “Huh? We’ve never met.” Kris gives Zack, LJ, and Tory random presents that turn out to be useful in hyper-specific situations later down the line.
On the way to the next town, Kris claims that his car has broken down and he asks LJ and Tory if they can give him a lift because they’re all going to the same place. The two women then look at this strange man and are justifiably a bit unsettled as they wonder how he knows where they’re going.
Kris continues to keep setting up “coincidences” that are then brushed off as fate though at times they feel like prophecy or the product of extreme hacking. How does he know everything he knows? How does he always know what the main characters need and where they’ll be? They collectively (even, eventually, more logical characters like Tory and Jason) agree that this man is Santa Claus. Because if not, the alternative is, well, frankly quite frightening. And with that in mind, I, too, chose to believe that this man was Santa.
But then Everything Christmas has to ruin everyone’s small shred of comfort by revealing towards the end of the movie that Kris Kringle isn’t Santa Claus. Instead, he’s JUST SOME GUY?! Yeah, his license falls out of his shiny red car to reveal that his real name is Chris Bronstad and he’s just a magician (though he apparently would prefer to call himself an “illusionist”) who goes method with the role of Santa Claus and takes it upon himself to tail two random women to contrive romances for them in an ultimate Christmas they’ll never forget. I have chills just thinking about it.
Why couldn’t he just be Santa? We come to Hallmark during the holidays for whimsy and escapism, not something that’s one step away from turning into an episode of Dateline.
Dramatics aside, all of this is just to say that a lot is going on and it kind of distracts from what the film was trying to be about. Which I assume was that Christmas and love trump all, even (especially?) pesky things like jobs. Now there’s a whimsical thought.
Our Call: SKIP IT. However, I will say that if it was recut into a horror movie starring that vaguely unnerving, magic-loving Kris Kringle, Everything Christmas could be well worth a revisit. Maybe for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries?
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