Hallmark finally announced they would have a movie that included a gay couple, but the marketing I saw for this really varied. I saw that John Bennett, who is out and in a relationship with a man, would be in The Christmas House and I was interested in seeing him outside of a Food Network hosting position again. I love Mean Girls and he is Aaron Samuels for those who might not know and has recently been the host on shows like Halloween Wars on Food Network. The poster for this movie features not one, but three couples, which immediately made me think I was being misled. I then read a later blurb that said the movie focused on a gay couple adopting a child, which is only partially true.
The movie opens in a fictional court room where Robert Buckley, Mike, is filming an episode of Handsome Justice, which is a sort of prime time lawyer drama style show. After he wraps he gets a call from his parents and they insist they want him to come home for Christmas for the revival of The Christmas House. This used to be an annual tradition where they fully decorated their home and made it into a massive Christmas experience. We are then introduced to his brother Brandon and his husband Jake. The two have also been asked to come help with The Christmas House, but they are a bit distracted by news they are waiting for. We learn they have been trying to adopt for a while and they are in their third attempt, with fingers crossed that this time it will actually go through. As the story progresses we learn, like with most Hallmark movies that the lead, who is definitely no questions asked, Mike has an unrequited love. His best friend, Andi, who is a woman in case you wondered if both sons were gay, is also back in their home town and has gotten divorced. She and her son are living with her parents for now and she has set up a reality business. A majority of the movie is focused on Andi and Mike getting back together after a sort of missed connection moment in high school.
The third couple from the poster and the third plot in the movie focuses on the parents of Brandon and Mike. I will say that because this is a Hallmark movie and the mom constantly seemed sad I really thought they were going to reveal she was dying. In a weirdly happier note, she isn’t dying, just thinks that she and her husband have drifted apart since his retirement. Now don’t you worry this is a Hallmark movie so the magic of Christmas helps bring them back together. Andi and Mike rekindle their love, which is helped by her young son Noah, and Brandon and Jake learn they have finalized their adoption. Happy new all around, per Hallmark rules, but while I am very familiar with reused plots in the Hallmark franchise this movie felt a lot like a non-Hallmark movie that also features a gay couple.
The Family Stone released in 2005 and involves a big family Christmas, beware there are spoilers ahead. There are more siblings in this plot, but there are some major similarities. The mom and dad are hosting Christmas like always, but the seem a bit off this year. In this case the mom has learned she is dying and they are trying to keep this a secret from the kids, but much like in The Christmas House one son learns everything. The focus of the story in The Family Stone is predominantly the relationship between the girlfriend of one of the sons and the rest of the family, which leads to heightened tensions and even what I call a couple switch. What struck me immediately as familiar between these two movies were the parents acting sadly and sort of secretively. The other similarity is basically lifted directly from The Family Stone and dropped into The Christmas House with some changes made to the couple it focuses on. In the 2005 film Thad, the deaf and gay son of the family, and his partner Patrick are trying to adopt a child. Patrick is played by Brian White, who is an actor of color and, and Thad is played by Tyrone Giordano, who is actually deaf. The Family Stone is already knocking it farther out of the park in terms of representation just right there. In both movies the couples find out and the next year we see the couples with their newly adopted child. The timeline is a bit less obvious in The Christmas House, but they do have a child before the movie is over and it seems likely that roughly a year has passed at least.
The Christmas House was a fine Hallmark movie, but it definitely did not showcase the gay couple. I really like Robert Buckley and I enjoyed seeing him in this movie, but I would have preferred his plot be the secondary plot. The fact that the plot for the gay couple was not a coming out was nice, but it felt like it was so closely modeled after The Family Stone that it didn’t feel really new at all. I had hoped for a gay couple falls in love at Christmas story or even if they wanted to do the adoption story a couple tells their family about how they are adopting and we get some sort of cute family stories or help impressing an adoption agency. It was as expected a fine Hallmark movie and small kudos for branching out with characters a bit, but going forward I would really like Hallmark to actually create a gay couple focuses story. Lifetime has a gay couple focused movie coming out later this month, The Christmas Setup, and I will have a review for you once I get a chance to see it.