6 October 2020 | TheLittleSongbird
Ringing with festive joy
Was not expecting to like 'Christmas Bells are Ringing' this much. While certainly not having any bias against Hallmark Christmas output (far from the truth and have always made that clear) and a fair share of them have fallen into the better than expected category, their output has always been very formulaic and can be very cheesy and schmaltzy and the characters and acting have always varied. 2018 was a hit and miss year for Hallmark's Christmas output.
'Christmas Bells are Ringing' was for me one of the surprising hits and easily one of the best of their 2018 batch of Christmas films. As well as actually their Christmas films in general. As far as their overall films for any occasion or genre goes, 'Christmas Bells are Ringing' is somewhere in the top end in my view. This opinion is from judging the film on its own terms without comparing it to anything else, so am not saying (never have, never will do) that it is on par with something else that has gotten the same rating that will make some scoff.
Sure, the structure of the film and what happens is very familiar territory for Hallmark so there is a seen it all before vibe throughout. Did find the ending a bit too rushed and too tidy, as well as easily telegraphed.
A lot of the dialogue early on is heavy on the cheese and corn factors and doesn't flow very naturally, so there were moments where there was admittedly some cringing into my seat.
However, 'Christmas Bells are Ringing' at least looks nice and professional. Although the authenticity of the locations can be, and has been, questioned, the scenery still looks lovely and appropriately festive, complemented very nicely by the photography. The soundtrack is nostalgic and isn't as intrusive in tone or placement as most other Hallmark Christmas films, as that has been a common criticism from me and quite a number of others. The direction is accomodating while not going through the motions.
The dialogue is less than great early on but if one sticks with the film it does improve, it is tighter and less stilted and the cheese and sentiment isn't as much. The story is very predictable admittedly, but it still engaged me and was charming and heart-warming while not taking itself too seriously. The characters may be well worn cliches, but they came over to me as likeable enough and any negative character traits didn't come over as over the top like can be the case in Hallmark Christmas films. Emilie Ullerup and Josh Kelly are very appealing leads, they look comfortable and don't overdo any habitual mannerisms. Their chemistry came over as genuine, took time to unfold and didn't come over as contrived. The supporting cast also do very well.
In conclusion, surprisingly very well done. 8/10