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NY Post
21 Oct 2023

NextImg:Stream It or Skip It: ‘Where Are You, Christmas?’ on Hallmark, Where Lyndsy Fonseca Must Save Christmas from a Black and White World

Hallmark goes high concept with Where Are You, Christmas?, the second movie in the network’s Countdown to Christmas. Lyndsy Fonseca plays a big city professional whose trip back home takes a turn for the metaphorical and supernatural when a stray wish erases Christmas from existence and leaves her in a world without color. See? High concept! Should Hallmark have kept it simple, or does this concept take Hallmark to new heights?

The Gist: Lyndsy Fonseca (Next Stop, Christmas) plays Addy, an advertising exec who spends all year trying to sell people on the more materialistic aspects of the holiday season. And when your job is Christmas, you kinda prefer to spend the holiday in the Maldives than in your hometown — a hometown with the town motto “Christmas is a way of life.” But Addy’s plans are ruined this year when her brother Connor (Andrew David Bridges) calls to let her know that he’s going to propose to his girlfriend on Christmas Eve. Now that is a way to get your sister to come home for Christmas!

Upon arriving in Red Lake Falls, though, Addy’s car stalls out. She takes it to the local auto shop, now run by the late owner’s grandson Hunter (Magnum P.I.’s Michael Rady). If you guessed that there’s chemistry between Addy and Hunter, you are correct. At home the vibes are not friendly between Addy and her dad (Parks & Recreation’s Jim O’Heir), who can’t stop taking passive aggressive digs at his daughter for leaving Red Lake Falls behind and not coming home for Christmas in years.

Things take a weird turn when Addy, stressed out by her family and missing her island vacation, wishes that there was no Christmas. She should really know better than to make wishes that would lead to sweeping changes during the holiday season. Those always come true and they never turn out well! Sure enough, that’s what happens with Addy’s wish and she wakes up to a world without color and without Christmas. How will she break free of this black and white existence and save Christmas? And will she have any help on her mission? I mean, yes, she will, and his name is Hunter. But as for the other question, you’ll have to watch Where Are You, Christmas? to find out the answer.

Photo: Hallmark

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: The play on people erupting in color in a black and white world is clearly reminiscent of Pleasantville, except it’s the warm feelings of Christmas that bring people back to normal. The instant the movie shifts to black and white, though, and you start watching Lyndsy Fonseca wander around a strange world that’s just like the one she knows except for one crucial missing element, you immediately get a jolt of It’s a Wonderful Life — or, I don’t know, In the Mouth of Madness if you’re feeling spooky.

Performance Worth Watching: Good on Hallmark for letting Jim O’Heir show that he’s more than lovable punching bag Jerry Gergich. This Christmas ain’t nothing like a Gergich Christmas! But what I was really impressed by was O’Heir’s turn towards anger and disappointment. So few Hallmark movies wedge themselves into the cracks that form between family members, and it was emotional seeing O’Heir act in that space.

Memorable Dialogue: The holiday season looks a lot different in a world without Christmas. As Addy’s mom (Julie Warner) explains: “Every year they make like a hundred New Year’s movies and they start airing them in June!”

Where Are You Christmas cast
Photo: Hallmark

A Holiday Tradition: Red Lake Falls throws a Christmas pageant every year and Addy’s dad organizes a charity for the troops called Operation: Christmas Smile — and Addy misses both of these events because she goes to the Maldives.

Does the Title Make Any Sense?: This is a rare example of a Hallmark holiday movie wherein the lead actually says the movie’s title out loud. It makes sense!

Our Take: Now this is more like it. Not to knock Checkin’ It Twice, which was a perfectly fun example of the Hallmark formula done well, but Where Are You, Christmas? is exactly the kind of high concept, formula-eschewing excitement that I want from Hallmark, if not downright expect. As I’ve said in my reviews before and will undoubtedly mention in many more reviews this holiday season, I do love and find comfort in the good ol’ Hallmark formula, but you gotta applaud the network for taking a bold swing like this.

The TV-G avant-garde draw here is the interplay between black and white and selective pops of color, which is an eye-catching visual trick that immediately makes Where Are You, Christmas? stand out. But even before the color starts to sporadically flourish through the population of Red Lake Falls, there is something warmly familiar about the sudden shift to black and white. The Hallmark formula was essentially invented by 1945’s Christmas in Connecticut, a screwball romcom with small-town feels and big characters. When Where Are You, Christmas? fades to black and white, that connection becomes even more apparent. Honestly, after this, I would be genuinely interested in Hallmark producing one new black-and-white holiday romance every season.

This color story proves to be more than just a visual gimmick. For one thing, the movie actually plays with the idea of a black-and-white world gradually turning to color in ways that are both thematically relevant and great visual gags. Oftentimes a Hallmark movie will forget to explore its rich premise and become more generic as the story progresses. That is definitely not the case here. In fact, the emotions of the characters who are still in black and white in a colorful world only become more intense as the movie goes on — for reasons I don’t want to spoil here.

What really makes Where Are You, Christmas? stand out, though, is what the movie has to say about the holiday season. A lot of the movies that we’ll watch on a loop across multiple cable channels for the next two months are boilerplate romances and comedies dressed up as holiday movies thanks to a Christmas tree here or an office holiday party there. That is perfectly fine, but it is wild how few “Christmas” movies have something to say about Christmas. Where Are You, Christmas? stands out because it does have something to say about the holiday, what it means, why we celebrate it, and the idiosyncratic relationships we all have with it. There is a romance here, but it’s not as integral to the story as Addy’s own inner emotional journey. You’re gonna relate, you’re gonna think, and you’re gonna feel!

Where Are You Christmas - lead
Photo: Hallmark

I also just have to shout out Lyndsy Fonseca who does an incredible job as the lead of an incredible supporting cast. She plays a character who is both determined and exasperated at the same time — and she manages to make Addy’s frustration funny.

The only problem with Where Are You, Christmas? is that the concept feels bigger than the budget at times. Not just the budget, but the production and the shooting schedule. That is not to say that the movie looks low-budget or rushed. It looks like a Hallmark movie, one of the more visually engaging ones too. But the premise feels so special and classic, like the kind you’d find in a holiday movie on TCM, that I couldn’t help but wonder what this exact movie — cast, crew, script, everything — would be like with twice the budget and twice the shooting schedule.

This year Hallmark is releasing extended cuts of some of last year’s most popular movies on the Hallmark Movies Now streaming service. Where Are You, Christmas? is a shoo-in for next year — and, I dunno, maybe that extended cut can get some extended attention.

Our Call: STREAM IT. We’re only in Weekend #1 and Where Are You, Christmas? is already a contender for holiday movie of the season.