Well I guess we can say, "'tis the season."
The annual onslaught of Christmas movies has begun. In what has almost become an early Christmas present, these movies come at us as soon as Halloween is over. You can find these all over on Hallmark or Netflix. But this year, if you watch Lifetime, you won't be able to miss the Central Coast in a starring role in the film A Very Charming Christmas Town.
These types of movies have become a genre onto themselves, and they bring along a dedicated following of people who love them. During the premiere, almost a million people tuned in to watch this TV movie set in the real famous Danish style village of Solvang. This review might be slightly different than our rest, since we actually had a hand in helping the production, which you may know by now. But we still want to give an honest review of the movie.
There's no spoiler warnings for this movie, because as with this genre, there really is no spoilers. They are so formulaic that you can tell what's going to happen based on just the log line description of the movie. There is going to be a "meet cute" moment, eventual romance, a breakup and then coming back together; all the while there's going to be snow or Christmas lights in every shot possible. This movie does not stray from that formula. But the question is, does this matter? Short answer is, "no!" Because of the skill of the writer and director, we are able to look past the formula and buy into the experience, no matter how familiar it may be. We love to watch happy movies, and this is a happy movie served with danish pastries and chocolate. What's not to love?
I have a personal connection with this film on many levels. Being the official Solvang Film Liaison at the time, I worked with the production company and took them on their first tour of the town and told them all about the history and culture of Solvang. I also explained what Christmas was like as I was the one who would play the Christmas events there, including the parade, tree lighting and tours. So watching this movie hit home, because it follows a reporter from LA who comes to "tourist trap" Solvang to do a story and is taken on a tour by the local community coordinator. It only sounded vaguely familiar. Of course, in the end she falls in love with the town and charming tour guide as it begins to snow.
But what blew me away was how much of the script incorporated the true history and elements of Christmas in Solvang. The Nisse (Danish elves) scavenger hunt, the story about why there are storks on rooftops and even why the architecture is the way it is was all things I loved sharing with guests and they're in the movie! From sampling chocolates and pastries, to walking on candlelight tours and riding the horse trolly, they captured the special elements of the town. Also, the production took care in not hiding or making up names of the businesses. Those are the real names of the stores and not made up. You can actually go there and experience what they did in the movie.
One of the other things that I was blown away by was the credits of this movie. Sure it was nice to see my cameo get a on screen credit and have special thanks shouted out to me, but I was so happy to see the local extras who came out to fill the streets of Solvang get named as well. What production company does that? When CCFS put out the call for extras, I had no idea they were going to do that and it means a lot to us here.
Was it cheesy? Yes. Was it sappy? Yes. Was it a bit jumbled together? A little. Could you tell the snow on the ground was just layers of cotton? Sure. Was it a heartwarming Christmas movie showing off a charming and unique Central Coast town? You bet.
Hopefully this movie will help serve as inspirations of millions of people to visit Solvang in the future in a post Covid-19 world. Solvang is funded 51% by overnight tourism (hotel tax), not including sales tax from all the shops and restaurants. The Solvang hospitality industry, its life force, has been hit hard this year. I personally hope this film helps in some fashion to bring people back when it is safe.
In the meantime, watch this movie and you'll be warmed up by the charm. Have some chocolate while you watch too and it'll almost be like you were actually there. Remember, it's just a Christmas movie... you'll enjoy it.
Overall, 3.5/5 stars from me!
PS: You can also watch this four minute clip below and get a sense of the film.