Huh? What’s this? A competently made and actually decent Hallmark movie!? Could it be…
Yes, Just In Time for Christmas is a movie that I actually enjoyed. The banter and chemistry between Eloise Mumford and Michael Stahl-David works. Cameos by Christopher Lloyd and William Shatner entertain at every turn, bringing up nostalgia of their past roles. Sean McNamara, who previously directed Soul Surfer, directs in a way that makes it look like the movie actually had a budget. It all comes together into a cute and engaging movie. But all this praise doesn’t mean it isn’t riddled with moments to make fun of though.
Mumford plays Lindsay Rogers, a psychology professor who’s finishing up her classes semester not with an exam, but with a lecture on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Her students are unhappy that her class is coming to a close because we’re supposed to believe she’s such a great professor despite the fact that she looks like she just graduated and also acts immaturely later in the movie (which I found charming, if a little un-professor-ish). She leaves the class with the message that to live an inspired life, you have to ask the hard questions about yourself. “What matters to me? What fulfills me? What is it that I really want?” and warns them that if they’re really honest with themselves, the answers might not be what they expect. She will, of course, disregard her own advice until the very end of the movie.
Next, we’re off to the town’s favourite coffee shop, the aptly named Caffeinated Café. Lindsay grabs a coffee and a kiss from the owner/ boyfriend, Jason Stewart. Jason is played with enthusiastic dorkiness and nervous self-deprecation by Michael Stahl-David who, if you’re like me, you last saw running from the Cloverfield monster. He appears to have survived that nuke at the end and moved to Harbour View, Washington to open a coffee shop. Three ladies gawk at them as they kiss and jokingly add that he never kisses them like that. But everyone’s friends here so Lindsay and Jason jokingly play along. Jason, with some quiet pester-waving on from employee Becca, tries to nonchalantly ask Lindsay if he can take her out to dinner at Gino’s tonight – no occasion, just young and in love, meet me there at 8pm. Lindsay of course does not catch on to the greater meaning of this but accepts and heads to her mother’s house.
Her mother’s house is the typical Hallmark mansion and makes the neighbours’ houses look bad with its dazzlingly light display.
I’m pretty sure most of the lights in the movie are CGI but it’s well done enough to question but not to distract. Lindsay tries to help the old neighbour, Mrs. Jameson, with her groceries but she barely accepts the help while being a real Grinch. At least it explains why her house is not decorated.
Inside, Lindsay walks in on her grandpa, the inimitable Christopher Lloyd, struggling nonsensically to wrap a dress he’s obviously bought for Lindsay off her Christmas wish list.
He’s clearly gone mad with age and the relationship they have borders on creepy throughout the movie. Eventually he just gives her dress with a bow on it because he’s a sucker and as pointed out by Lindsay’s mom, Shannon, she has Grandpa wrapped around her finger. Lindsay proceeds to tell her mom about the Gino’s date who clues in immediately to what’s going on, but has to coax the realization out of Lindsay that Gino’s is the most expensive restaurant in town, there’s no occasion, etc. Shouldn’t someone well versed in psychology have noticed this right away? Anyways she puts on the dress for the dinner and looks stunning according to Grandpa (creepy or sweet?). Before leaving, Lindsay’s mom gives her a message to call back one Stephanie Jackman. Oh, and also Lindsay’s dad is dead (of course) and her mom has a dizzy spell which comes into play later.
Lindsay uses her snazzy Nissan Bluetooth car – no points lost for product placement – to call Mrs. Jackman back, whom she learns is the Dean of Yale. Dean Jackman is interested in Lindsay’s thesis and wants to publish it because Yale believes it could be a bestseller. Lindsay is giddy and smile-laughs all the way through this. Dean Jackman is also fairly young but at least she seems to be classy in the way she presents herself ,unlike Lindsay. Her thesis “Inspired: A Study in Self-Conceptualization and its Quantifiable Impact on Interpersonal Paradigm Outcomes” is an Alex-worthy trope in its title length. They agree that the title should be shortened to “Inspired.” But that’s not all Dean Jackman has up her sleeve; she also offers Lindsay a tenured path position as associate professor of psychology. Lindsay’s at a loss for words and the movie decides it wants to keep us in suspense for the moment so we cut away to Lindsay arriving at Gino’s restaurant.
Unfortunately, as Lindsay tries to enter, she discovers the restaurant is closed. Just as she’s about to give up, an Italian man, whom I can only assume is Gino, arrives at the door to let her in. Clearly Jason has reserved the whole restaurant for this occasion, but again this seems to slip the very grasp of Lindsay’s brain as she asks dumb questions like “Could someone tell me what’s going?” Gino sits her down and tells her that Mr. Stewart has prepared a private screening of a very special little movie. We then get this gem:
Pipe and smoking jacket? Check. Addressing the audience with the ol’ “oh, I didn’t see you there”? Check. Forced gravitas and sand timer overlays? Check. Funny sound effects? Check. Pictures that are photoshopped by a professional and not a 12 year old? Check. Self-deprecating humour? Check and double check! Yup, I loved that and if it doesn’t at least put a smile on your face, then bah-humbug to you! And bah-humbug to Lindsay who just walks away and out into the cold without her jacket. Of course Jason, who I now deem the best Hallmark guy ever, follows her as he doesn’t understand what just happened, also his hairstyle has changed just by going outside.
She explains that she was offered a job at Yale in Connecticut. Both act kinda selfish in this exchange with Jason saying it’s great news…for her. He explains that he just re-upped his lease and Lindsay’s clearly already made the decision to move, but she says they can do long-distance. It ends with Jason telling her to keep the ring because he never wants to see it again and him storming off. Even with this little spat, considering the appalling mediocrity of other Hallmark guys, he’s still miles ahead as the best.
Lindsay, who must’ve returned for an awkward convo with Gino in order to get her coat back from the restaurant, drives to a park and calls her mom, who’s watching It’s a Wonderful Life (hint, hint!). She tells her that Jason did propose but that she didn’t accept. She then hangs up and decides the best course of action is to go walking… late at night… in a dark park… all alone! I don’t care how safe of a town you live in, there’s always a chance that there’s a weirdo out there.
Or at least William Shatner playing Christmas Colonel Sanders!
He tells Lindsay that she looks like she could use a carriage ride and that it would be an adventure…cue wink at camera. He also apologizes that it’s not a sleigh ride but the Pacific Northwest doesn’t get much snow and pulling a sleigh would be tough for his horse, Mistletoe. Lindsay apparently grew up in Pleasantville, so of course she just hops aboard this strange man’s means of transportation without any question. On the ride, Shatner hears about how Lindsay got two proposals that night, one for marriage, and one for a job. Lindsay also explains that it’s like she told her students; that some decisions aren’t as easy as we think. Shatner, who never gets a name but it wouldn’t shock me if it’s Clarence, tells her that she’ll figure it out. As he strokes that overgrown soul patch, he says all she needs is a little time…cue furious winking at camera. Just then they come upon the Northern lights shimmering in the sky. Lindsay gets out to take a closer look…or something…and sees a shooting star as well. She turns around to find Shatner and Mistletoe have magically vanished. Some Guardian Angel Shatner is, he’s now left her walking… late at night… in a dark park… all alone!
She’s upset that she now has to walk back to her car, but is more upset when she discovers her car has also vanished. Also her cell phone has no signal…this part doesn’t really make sense as she used it previously in the exact same spot to call her mom. Spoiler alert, she’s travelled forward 3 years (note, you were about to find this out in the next paragraph, so big deal), and I highly doubt Harbour View’s cell phone towers or cell phone broadcasting standards changed so much in 3 years that the signal is no longer available. She doesn’t bother trying again…for the rest of the movie.
Instead she walks into town where she notices the bookstore has *gasp* her book on the shelves!
A bookstore worker recognizes her as his professor, congratulates her on the book, and welcomes her back to town. Lindsay is confused and so she continues walking when she comes upon the Caffeinated Café, but in a new location. She enters to find Becca there and asks if Jason had opened up a second shop without telling her and if he’s here? Becca is slightly confrontational and thinks Lindsay has gone mental. She reveals that Jason is in Bellingham, opening a third store and that Lindsay has been gone for years. There’s more potential CGI lights on Lindsay’s walk to her mom’s house.
Her mom’s house is now slightly dilapidated and Lindsay’s key doesn’t work. She tries yelling for her mom but is interrupted by Mrs. Jameson who yells at her that she must be drunk and tells her her mom’s been gone for 2 years and that Lindsay wasn’t there when she had a heart attack! That’s a lot to take in but luckily out comes Grandpa whose favourite show must be Everybody Loves Raymond as he lives right across the street.
He asks unsettlingly if Lindsay is his Christmas present but she tells him that he just saw her 2 hours ago when he gave her the dress. Grandpa reveals that that was 3 years ago. They go inside and it’s revealed that Lindsay’s mom is not dead (Hallmark only allows one dead parent!); she lives in Stockholm with Dr. Stefan, who treated her after her heart attack. Lindsay doesn’t remember any of this or the last 3 years and expresses that she must be losing her mind, what other explanation could there be? Grandpa Doc Brown then suggests, “Time travel?”
Lindsay disagrees and suspects amnesia is much more likely. Wrong again, Lindsay!
The next morning, we learn that Grandpa has an unhealthy obsession with keys, which may be another subtler nod to Back to the Future where Doc Brown got the idea to utilize lightning from Benjamin Franklin’s kite experiment.
It could also be a metaphor for unlocking the mind but I suspect this is much too lofty of a goal for a Hallmark movie, even one of higher calibre. Grandpa also just has some clothes lying around in Lindsay’s size (creepy or sweet?). Lindsay decides, in her professional opinion as a professor of psychology, that she’s lost her mind and should go to the hospital. Grandpa does not meet this with enthusiasm for really no reason so they end up going anyway. In another potential nod to BTTF, Grandpa Doc Brown drives a car from 1949.
On the way there they pass by Caffeinated Café and Grandpa explains that Jason is getting married over the holidays to a girl who works at the coffee shop. That’s right, Jason is obviously the best guy ever so it only took him 3 years to be able to land another babe that actually wants to marry him.
The hospital visit proves a waste of time as the expert in amnesia is on vacation. Another doctor, who keeps reminding them this isn’t his field, tells them her brain scan is fine and that it may be Dissociative Amnesia, a psychological disorder. Lindsay recalls that this type of amnesia can go away with time to which Grandpa jokes, “The recollection of an amnesiac, now that’s irony.” Nobody laughs. The doctor’s recommendation is to rest up and hope her memory comes back. What a waste of money.
Lindsay decides she should go for a walk, alone of course and for some reason Grandpa lets her. I mean, I guess she’s okay because she’s perfectly healthy physically but usually it would be a good idea to keep an eye on someone with amnesia. Anyway, she ends up back in the park where she bothers a man raking leaves about Shatner. He tells her that there’s no carriage rides and there’s never been, horses are forbidden in this park (unfortunately, he doesn’t explain why but I suspect a planet of the horses scenario…or tramplings). Lindsay hilariously throws a short tantrum because she doesn’t understand what is going on. Even better, it shocks these nearby uptight parents who might as well be clutching their pearls and exclaiming“my heavens!” in southern accents.
More shenanigans and hilarity ensues when Lindsay spots Jason and *gasp* Becca together in the coffee shop. Lindsay ducks behind a car twice to avoid being spotted but ends up confusing more shocked parents who just want to get to their car. She claims she was checking the tire pressure and decides hiding behind a pole is a better option.
I would’ve kept this running gag going and had a hydro worker show up but the movie decides twice is enough. Jason spots her and rushes out which causes a nervous and scared Lindsay to walk in the other direction and pretend she hasn’t seen or heard Jason running after her. Again, kinda childish for someone who is supposedly a professor at Yale. She does realize that this isn’t going to work and finally stops pretending.
It. Is. Awkward. Do they hug? Do they shake hands? A mix of both apparently as they compliment each other on their respective successes. Jason cracks first and asks how long she’s in town for. Lindsay doesn’t actually know but manages to hide the fact for now that she has amnesia.
Later on, Lindsay receives a call from Dean Jackman who exposits that Lindsay has apparently gone AWOL and that she had to use her emergency contacts to find Lindsay at Grandpa’s house. Lindsay is supposed to be on all the morning shows on the east coast next week to promote her book. Again, Lindsay doesn’t bother coming clean about her amnesia but gets the dean to send her her passport, ID, some clothes and her purse. The dean also takes advantage of Lindsay’s current location and sets up a signing at a bookstore in Seattle. A car will pick her up tomorrow. The dean also wires two million dollars to her account as proceeds from her book. Is it odd that this really doesn’t come up again? Why would the dean have access to her book money?
Meanwhile, Becca tells Jason to go talk to Lindsay because they have history and she needs to be sure he’s thinking of her on their wedding day and not Lindsay. Oh Becca, you’re so naïve to think this is a good idea. They also reveal that their wedding is at Gino’s; either this town has no other venues or the wedding scene is run by the Italian Mafia.
The next day, Lindsay’s limo shows up with all her stuff, including airline tickets for her east coast tour and some new clothes. She tries these new clothes on for Grandpa (creepy or sweet?) and gloats that her blouse costs $300. She’s so happy she thinks she’s dreaming.
Just as she’s about to hop in the limo for Seattle, Jason shows up and says, “I would’ve called but I don’t have your number anymore.” Total burn by Jason as he says this in a manner that means “I totally moved on and got over you.” He wants to talk about closure but Lindsay really needs to leave so she invites Jason along. He happily accepts (told ya Becca!) because he’s the owner of the café so he can’t be fired if he doesn’t show up for work. Along the ride we learn it was pretty clear Lindsay’s choice was Yale as Jason visited her after her initial move to Connecticut and she’d already purchased furniture and plants.
They arrive at Munro’s, which is about the fanciest bookstore you’ll ever see.
That’s not CGI trickery, Munro’s is a real place…except it’s in Victoria, British Columbia! Hallmark has to stop trying to pass off Canada as the USA and just set a film there already. It’s where most of them are shot, for Pete’s sake!
Lindsay is clearly nervous about this presentation because she hasn’t prepared anything; you had all day yesterday, Lindsay! Jason tells her this is nothing compared to her Ivy League classes. He then does a terrible stilted impression of the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz, which he and Lindsay performed in the sixth grade, to give her some courage. His purposefully hacky performance works as Lindsay says she’s going out there just to get away from him.
She doesn’t bother with an opening speech and instead just opens it up for questions with the first going to the handsome charming man in the back who is definitely not a plant, i.e. Jason. And by that, I mean someone in the crowd to support rather than a green leafy thing. Jason shockingly asks if her father’s death inspired her to write a book about inspiration. Yeesh, Jason, if you hadn’t just so ably charmed everyone with that handsome, charming, plant comment you’d be knocked down a peg. I guess maybe Lindsay wrote it in the book or something because the question doesn’t faze her or the audience (where are those shocked parents now!?). Instead she just talks about how her parents and Grandpa always strived to help people and this seems to get her over her initial nervousness. The movie doesn’t show any other questions but we learn that Lindsay seems like a really bad teacher. One of her former students approaches her – she doesn’t recognize them of course – and tells her she dropped out of her MBA to pursue cosmetology because it gives people more confidence, a lesson she gleamed from Lindsay’s inspirational class.
On the way back home, Lindsay and Jason pop champagne and state that each of them are happy…right? Lindsay brings up how she never thought he and Becca would be together and Jason zings her again by saying Becca’s a rock and didn’t leave town when he proposed. Eventually they end up back at Jason’s coffee shop where they finally get real as Lindsay says he’s a amazing guy and life with him would’ve been an incredible adventure. They also almost kiss but don’t, and Jason asks Lindsay why she didn’t ask him to come with her to Yale. She responds that she couldn’t because it felt like deciding between her life and his. They hug and of course Becca is there and has seen and heard everything. But unlike worse movies where Becca would’ve misinterpreted the situation, she actually just interrupts them and Lindsay leaves peacefully so Jason and Becca can talk.
Lindsay flies back to New Haven which gets a title card to ensure the slower members of the audience are aware that she’s back at Yale. Naturally, she owns a mansion and sees pictures of her meeting the Dalai Lama (again, not a bad job with the photoshop!)
She awakes the next morning to frantic banging on her door. It’s her agent who tells her to get ready for the Noon Show with Ashley that apparently is being taped right in her living room. This is an odd scene because the only question Ashley asks her is how she’s going to celebrate Christmas and Lindsay simply responds with a blank stare. Who cares how the rest of the interview goes, we’re off to Yale’s Christmas party where Dean Jackman gives her tenure as a Christmas present. Lindsay then gets a video call from her mom in Stockholm. The phone says it 6:56am in Stockholm, and since the time difference between Stockholm and New Haven is 6 hours, we can deduce that those Yale professors are partying pretty hard with colleagues rather than family on what we later find out is Christmas Eve. Lindsay and her mom have a heart to heart where Lindsay admits she just wants to go back and this Yale thing was a mistake. Her mom repeats her book’s mantra back to her that to live an inspired life, she needs to be truthful to herself.
This lights a fire in Lindsay and she immediately flies back to Harbour View where she barges in on Grandpa to borrow his car without barely saying hello. She drives to the coffee shop only to find a note that Jason and Becca got married and will be back after the honeymoon. She then gets stuck in a horrible, pathetic montage of what’s happened up until now in the movie all set to some terrible song about love, risking things for love and coffee.
Other than silly character decisions, that’s really the only misstep the movie takes so I’m willing to forgive it. After Lindsay emerges from her crying and sad memories, she ends up back at the park bench. You can tell where this is going, the return of William Shatner’s goatee! She asks him who he is and what did he do to her, but Shatner just charms her because she hops aboard AGAIN when he states that she could use a carriage ride. Shatner hears about how Lindsay can’t remember the last 3 years and he tells her that all she needs is a little perspective. At this point, he strokes his goatee again and the northern lights appear. Remember the goatee stroking from before and what happened because it’s going to come up one more time. Lindsay is transported back and she’s wearing the same dress and her car and the ring are still there. Shatner of course is gone.
Lindsay is giddy to be back. She sees the bookstore that displayed her bestseller previously no longer has it. She rushes to her mom’s house and tells her they’re taking her to the hospital tomorrow to have her heart checked, she knows a great doctor, Dr. Stefan of course. She tells them she loves them and is so happy to be back that she even invites grumpy Mrs. Jameson to Christmas dinner.
We then cut over to Jason, who apparently after having a proposal gone bad, likes to relax with a glass of wine at his coffee shop. He gets a text which now appears on screen for some reason even though it hasn’t happened anytime earlier in the movie. Lindsay tells him to open up for gnocchi and suddenly the waiters from Gino’s appear and begin setting up dinner in Jason’s shop. Lindsay explains to him that she still wants to go to Yale but any success she has won’t matter if she can’t have him. So if he still wants her, her answer is yes. Jason leaves her hanging for a second like the rascal he is, and then asks if there are any coffee shops in New Haven and proposes and they finally get to have that sweet Gino’s dinner.
This would’ve been a good time to end it but instead we get a very brief wedding and a couple more callbacks. Jason uses some terrible coffee puns in his vows like “you’re the perk in my percolator” and Lindsay comments that she’ll cherish him today, tomorrow and the Christmas season 3 years from now, which Jason comments on as oddly specific. I guess Lindsay never bothered telling anyone of that time travel escapade she had. There’s also one of Jasons’s groomsman who oddly creeps in slowly over the course of the ceremony.
To wrap up, Lindsay hugs everyone, gives Becca the bouquet rather than throwing it, and kisses Jason to which the 3 ladies at the coffee shop again sigh, “He doesn’t kiss me like that.” Lindsay looks out the window as the limo pulls away and sees Shatner again atop his carriage. He strokes his goatee, which if you’ve been following along means some crazy time travel shit is about to happen again! Except the movie ends. And to add a cherry on top, it ends with “The Beginning” instead of the classic “Fin.”
Despite its predictable plot and its musical score that sounds like they stole the demo tracks from Home Alone’s soundtrack, I did like the movie. It has the correct amounts of sweet and charming, and coasts along on the likability of its actors (mostly Michael Stahl-David). It actually feels like thought and effort went into the movie, unlike so many other Hallmark movies.