Let’s give this made-for-TV Christmas movie thing one more try…
By Diana Beechener
“Oh no you don’t!” My husband exclaimed when he saw me pull up a new made-for-TV Christmas movie. “I put my time in last week!”
After I coaxed him back into the room with promises that my next review would leave him alone, we started our next foray into holiday made-for-TV movies, Dashing in December.
“Are you sure you can’t just review this without me?”
“No, now let me explain the plot!”
Wyatt Burwall (Peter Porte: Filthy Rich) is a financial planner in Manhattan who specializes in finding angel investors to fund massive builds and projects. When a possible deal takes him west, Wyatt decides to visit his mother Deb (Andie MacDowell: Wireless) in her small Colorado town for Christmas. But Wyatt has an ulterior motive: He wants to convince his mother to sell the family horse ranch to his investors.
Wyatt thinks the plan will benefit his mother as well. The horse ranch is hemorrhaging money and she needs his financial help to keep the place running. He also doesn’t miss the town, where he was closeted for most of his life out of fear. But things have changed on the ranch since Wyatt left. Deb has taken on a horse whisperer, Heath (Juan Pablo Di Pace: Minutiae), who adores the ranch and is fiercely protective of it.
Though Heath and Wyatt initially bump heads, soon they recognize a bit of chemistry growing between them. Wyatt is drawn to Heath’s open, kind nature, and Heath…well the plot requires Heath to fall for abrasive Wyatt, OK? Can these two men find love among the horses? Or is this western romance all hat and no cattle?
“Why do they always have to go back to small towns?” My husband grumbled during a commercial break.
“Because it’s cheaper to film on lots and not get permits from cities.”
A rote holiday tale about appreciating family and the “little things” in life, Dashing in December has one major advantage over the Hallmark movies: production value. Filmed on Paramount lots in Utah, the film has some lovely cinematography and pretty good sound design. There’s a noticeable care that’s taken with the filmmaking that makes it easier to focus on the story and the performances.
“The filmmaking is way better in this movie.”
My husband sighed, “The writing isn’t.”
It’s true, though the film is slicker and better quality, the script seems to come from the same holiday movie well all these films draw from. Small town life is better, more honorable, city folks don’t understand, all the typical trimmings. It also should be noted that the same clunky exposition in Hallmark movies can be found in this flick, too.
There is a problem with Wyatt right off the bat—he’s kind of a jerk. He does exactly three nice things the entire movie, but somehow, we’re supposed to root for him to find love with Heath. There’s also the lack of character development. Perhaps if he experienced homophobia in his small town, Wyatt’s disdain for it would be understandable, but everyone he encounters is supportive. And when Heath’s past experiences being assaulted for his sexuality are mentioned, they’re brushed off as something sad he got over.
But while the script could still use a revision or two, the acting is pretty impressive. Di Pace and Porte have a lovely easy chemistry with each other. And there are several scenes with palpable romantic tension between them. Di Pace in particular cultivates a shy charm that is endearing. It’s easy to understand why Deb and the rest of the townspeople adore him. MacDowell also gets some lovely moments in the film, crafting Deb as a lonely but determined woman who fears she’s somehow pushed her son away.
Though I was heartened by the uptick in quality in this holiday TV movie, I have to admit it didn’t earn unanimous raves in my household.
As the credits rolled, I turned to my husband. “Well…what do you think?”
“I’ll give it this: I didn’t actively wish for death this time.”
Everyone’s a critic.
Dashing in December is available to stream on Philo or video on demand if you have the Paramount or Pop channels.
Good Holiday Entertainment * TV-PG * 90 mins.