Last Christmas, Netflix had a hit with the incorrigible romantic-comedy The Christmas Prince. So this Christmas, they’re offering a bevy of holiday-themed rom-coms. Some are cute, others are mind-numbing nonsense. With a bizarre plot and a string of WTF revelations, the 2017 made-for-TV movie Christmas Wedding Planner is firmly in the latter camp.
Based on Stacy Connelly’s Harlequin novel Once Upon A Wedding, Christmas Wedding Planner centers on Kelsey (Jocelyn Hudon), an aspiring wedding planner whose first big job is arranging everything for the Christmas Eve nuptials of her favorite cousin. A clunky intro reveals Kelsey’s relatable and cool because she’s not a graceful, tall, icy, chic, thin, gorgeous blond who has her look and life together. She’s the clumsy, less tall, flustered, thin, gorgeous brunette who wears a ribbon around her neck to show she’s quirky! She’s the girl who accidentally spills the cool blond’s coffee. And when Kelsey’s not sending diary entry-like texts to a mystery recipient, she’s handling the latest whimsical request from “stunning, rich, oozing kindness” Emily (Rebecca Dalton), or defending herself against her frigid and ever-judgemental Aunt Olivia (Kelly Rutherford). Standards are high for this posh family’s big day. And things only get trickier when Emily’s ex-boyfriend Connor (Stephen Huszar) pops up, declaring he’s a private investigator who may be here to ruin the wedding.
After a meet-cute over a blueberry scone, Kelsey spends much of the movie chasing after Connor to figure out his deal. It is a bit weird considering she and Emily are so super close, yet she knows nothing about the details of their college romance or its abrupt and cruel end. Conveniently, her inexplicable ignorance gives tertiary characters, who are defined solely by labels, something to do. So, Jealous Bridesmaid—that is literally how Melinda Shankar is credited—spills the metaphorical tea, while Clumsy Bridesmaid (Gabrielle Graham) spills literal cookies. But regardless of warnings about what a scoundrel he is, Kelsey can’t help but fall for this dick who looks like he might be Chris O’Donnell’s rugged younger brother.
Along the way, there’s a bit of intrigue, battles with a fussy baker, a cutesy stakeout, and a surprise appearance by NSYNC’s Joey Fatone as a chipper restauranteur. Staying true to the Netflix brand, this Christmas rom-com also has a dress reveal that is deeply disappointing. Behold the dream wedding dress that inspires more envy in Jealous Bridesmaid!
And then things really get weird in the final act.
Warning: major spoilers for Christmas Wedding Planner.
Kelsey hijacks her cousin’s wedding “with blessings!” After uncovering Emily’s groom-to-be has a dealbreaker secret, that wedding is off. But hey, Kelsey and Connor have known each other for a few days. They enjoyed wine and spying on mutual acquaintances together. And thanks to some heavy exposition, we know he’s not really the heartless “dirtbag” her family thinks he is. The church and the guests and the reception are all right there. So why NOT just get married? Kelsey actually offers up a pretty good counter-argument with “You can’t do this. We barely know each other!” But Connor confidently replies, “Well if you let me, I’d like to spend a lifetime fixing that.” Cut to Kelsey in the family heirloom wedding dress that Emily had stuck her nose up in the second act. Tada! The end! (Don’t think about how this might impact her career as a wedding planner because she sure hasn’t!)
Now, this is the kind of wacky rom-com twist that could have worked if the actors within it leaned into the zaniness, maybe at any point. But there’s no whimsy or wonder to the performances in Christmas Wedding Planner. No star power to smooth over its gaping plot holes. And it’s not fun enough to just ignore its utter lack of sense. The Christmas setting feels like an afterthought, playing in mostly through decorations and characters repeatedly using the phrase “Christmas wedding.” The key couple’s chemistry is on low-simmer at best. There’s a lack of mirth to the shenanigans as Kelsey’s defining character trait is anxious. And this rom-com doesn’t even know what to do with a decent joke!
During the gown fitting, Bitter Bridesmaid (Samantha Helt) tries to share the wisdom she’s learned as a recent divorcee, declaring, “Like the saying goes ‘Give a guy your heart and he’ll make out with your sister. In a closet. At the family reunion.” This could score a cringe-inducing giggle on its own, but the capper should be Jealous Bridesmaid’s response, “Is that Nietzsche?” But rather than playing this punchline as sincere or even mocking, it’s treated as a throwaway line, trampled by cutting to Clumsy Bridesmaid being clumsy! Ha huh.
But most frustrating of all is just how lazy Christmas Wedding Planner is. To convey Kelsey’s thoughts and feelings, it won’t trust Hudon to do the job. So instead, there’s a relentless smothering of voiceover narration. She’s doggedly telling us the story even as we watch it. But to give it a modern twist, her soul-baring texts are incorporated in too, making it clear we are not the real audience for her sharing. So who is the mysterious receiver of so much minutiae about Kelsey’s life? Her mom! Which would be cute, except her mom is dead. In an uncomfortable scene, she and Connor share secrets and Kelsey confesses she still pays for her mom’s phone line because she takes comfort in sending texts she knows will get no response. It’s an unnerving reveal that the film treats as another Kelsey quirk. And swiftly, it moves along to the more pressing matter of her finding her identity not as a wedding planner but as a bride!
My advice would be to avoid Christmas Wedding Planner. Its preposterous plot cannot be saved by its pretty but banal cast. Its romance is odd. Its humor is thwarted by Justin G. Dyck’s inept direction. And it’s so startlingly boring, I had to will myself to even finish it. “You don’t have to write about this,” I’d tell myself, “You can just switch it off, and no one needs to know.” But I was 40 minutes in. Then 50. Then 80. I still wasn’t invested in any of the characters. I still sat there without a smile on my face, just a furrowed brow and an irked sneer. But I kept going, because if I just shut it off, then what I had sat through would be for nothing! And at least this way, I can warn you off of this dismal and dull holiday offering.
Header Image Source: Netflix