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Hallmark enters fairytale territory with A fabulous holiday, a supernatural entry in the network’s Countdown to Christmas lineup. Brooke D’Orsay (A Dickens vacation!) and Ryan Paevey (Coyote Creek Christmas) play as childhood friends who are reunited through storybook magic. But does this film create a compelling fairytale romance? Or should Hallmark keep both feet firmly planted in his own version of reality?

The essentials: Brooke D’Orsay plays Talia, a bookstore owner whose dreams of becoming a best-selling author have been put on hold. Their stories just aren’t fancy enough for publishers! Ryan Paevey plays Anderson, a surgeon who wants to escape the stress of his job for a minute. Oh — and Talia and Anderson were childhood friends and fans of the classic Wunderbrook Christmas Storya book of fairy tales given to Talia by her father shortly before his death.

Now 30 years have passed and a chance (or is it?) encounter at Talia’s bookstore has reunited these estranged friends. Before they know it, circumstances truly beyond their control have brought them and a few other wayward guests to the Gingerbread Inn in the quaint and cozy town of Wunderbrook. Sounds familiar? Will the town’s mayor and family be able to get Talia, Anderson and the other guests back on track, or will they leave the inn unchanged – and possibly end the magic of Wunderbrook forever?!

An Amazing Vacation - Anderson, Talia at the bookstore
Photo: trademark

Which movies will it remind you of?: Okay, uh, people getting sucked into the events of a fictional town that suddenly came true? A fabulous holiday is not Not Hallmark’s takeover In the mouth of madness. Wunderbrook has a genuinely uncanny feel – albeit uncanny in Hallmark terms. Still, the way Mayor Miles (John Murphy), Judy (Rochelle Greenwood), Izzy (Daphne Hoskins), and Mildred (Patti Allan) behave feels a lot like Stephen King or like The Endless sandman. They all feel like beings trapped in an endless cycle, forced to play roles that are beyond their control… but in a cheerful Hallmark way.

Notable performance: I have to give it to John Prowse who plays the elderly widower Charles. He may be a supporting character, another patient at the inn, but he really plays the part with the main character’s energy. I would even go so far as to say that his character has a bow – yes, he has a bow! – is more convincing than Talia or Anderson’s.

A fabulous holiday - occupation
Photo: trademark

Memorable dialogue: It’s not exactly original, but when Judy says to Charles, “You still deserve to have joy,” uffit hits.

A holiday tradition: Well, every day is magical in Wunderbrook, but the week before Christmas is Wunderweek. These include tree lighting, a Christmas market and festiva – and an ominous-sounding “Procession” and “Night of Wonder” celebration that only adds to the hilarity of the film midsummer Mood.

Two lovebirds: Trademark The Invention of the Christmas Prince A fairy tale invented by the leading actress (Tamera Mowry-Housley) also features prominently. Oh – and the protagonist’s daughter thinks her grumpy boss really is the prince from said fairy tale.

Does the title make sense?: A fabulous holiday Certainly conveys a bit of a fairy tale feel, but it would be nice to make it a bit more concrete. Could A Wunderbrook Christmas Tale worked? Who is to say that?

An Amazing Vacation - Ryan Paevey and Brooke D'Orsay
Photo: Hallmark/Marcel Williams

Our opinion: With this year’s Hallmark films, it’s been fun figuring out where the plot ventures off the beaten path and into the woods. A fabulous holiday really starts out like a classic Hallmark movie: Talia dreams of being a writer but instead owns a small business. Her best friend is, of course, a best-selling author. And the only person who has ever really believed in her writing is her childhood best friend Anderson, who suddenly came back into her life. There is another version of this film in which Talia and Anderson reconnect as adults, and as their romance blossoms, Talia realizes that this is the basis for a fairytale romance that could pique publishers’ interest. Then, I don’t know, Anderson would find Talia’s manuscript and think Talia would only date him for the story, but then she would turn down the publisher’s offer and they would get back together and then Talia would self-publish a book and it would become one Hit and etc. etc. etc. I’m just riffing here.

Anyway – that’s not what’s happening in A fabulous holiday.

True to the other Hallmark movies I’ve seen this year, A fabulous holiday takes a turn for the supernatural pretty quickly and then, well, all bets are off. The town of Wunderbrook, especially its people, is so fascinating and raises so many questions – questions far beyond any I’ve ever asked about a Hallmark film. As a matter of fact, to Many questions are raised about the origins and rules of Wunderbrook that must be answered in a Hallmark film, and perhaps that will detract from your enjoyment. I was just excited to see a story like this told in a Hallmark film, especially one with a character like Patti Allan’s Mildred. Her performance is very menacing and she actually feels like a real fairytale menace. However, Mildred has layers and it’s really mesmerizing to watch them peel off.

A fabulous holiday - Mildred
Photo: trademark

As for the leads, I loved seeing Brooke D’Orsay play a sweet, reserved, weird woman with a great imagination who is determined to solve this mystery. As far as Hallmark movies go, that’s one of the downsides of A fabulous holiday: If you come here for a great vacation romance, you won’t understand. Talia is certainly a well-rounded character, but Anderson falls a little short. Paevey plays Anderson’s disillusionment and exhaustion with his work well—perhaps too well, since Anderson never sparkles on screen the way Talia does.

But if there’s one thing Hallmark keeps proving this year, it’s that romance doesn’t have to be the only interesting thing in any of these movies. Where Talia and Anderson’s storyline may drag is the fantastical elements – particularly the Mildred/Charles storyline – of A fabulous holiday really increases. It’s not your typical Hallmark story, but then again, none of them are this year.

Our appeal: STREAM IT, and I’d even be crossing my fingers and hoping there’s a follow-up next year that explores more of the Wunderbrook mystery.

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