There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who love Hallmark Christmas movies and those that don’t. I am part of the latter category, but I know a lot of others who will watch one movie right after the other during the holiday season and I do understand why. The stories are always wholesome, they feature a bunch of likable characters, there is always an element of romance but no swearing or sex and the stories always end on a happy note. These are not bad things. If you find yourself part of the first group, you will not want to miss Christmas Jars, which isn’t a Hallmark movie, but it sure could be. It comes to theaters for one night only in early November.
Based on the novel by Jason F. Wright, Christmas Jars ticks all of the boxes I mentioned above and more. The story begins inside a small diner where a waitress finds a crying baby and a note from a heartbroken mother who feels like she can’t take care of the infant like she should. The waitress ends up adopting the girl, names her Hope and the two share Christmas dinner at that same diner every Christmas until the mother passes away at an early age leaving Hope all alone. All of this happens within the first three or four minutes of the film. Not exactly cheery stuff, but the story gets better.
Now all grown up, Hope (Jeni Ross) is working as an assistant at a local newspaper waiting for her big break. Her coworkers include snarky Brandi (Krista Jang), geeky Steve (Steve Love) and cookie-loving Rory (Jennie Esnard) who all seem to talk a lot without actually doing any work. Editor Lyle Butler (Doug Murray) is reluctant to give Hope a shot as a real reporter despite the fact that no one else in his staff have come up with any original story ideas for the holidays. Things change however when Hope discovers a jar of money on her doorstep and finds out that she isn’t the only recipient of such of gift. She pitches a story to discover who the gift-giver is and find out why they are giving these jars away to strangers.
Soon, Hope discovers that the Maxwell family, who operate a furniture restoring business, are the ones giving away the jars. Instead of just telling the Maxwell’s about her story idea, Hope tells the Maxwell’s that she is a student doing research on family businesses and asks if she can interview the family. Father Ron Maxwell (Ron Lea) is more than happy to oblige and his wife (Zerha Leverman) insists that Hope join the family for dinner.
If you’ve seen these types of movies before, you already know that Hope will fall in love with Ron’s good-looking and hopeless romantic son, Ian (Markian Tarasiuk). And you already know that eventually the family’s secret will get exposed. And you already know that this will cause a rift in Hope and Ian’s relationship. And you already know that a tragic event will happen but everything will get resolved by the end of the story with everyone living happily ever after. This is a well-known formula for such movies.
You can’t get more Christmas-ier than Christmas Jars. The movie borrows ideas from other holiday-themed movies such as While You Were Sleeping and It’s a Wonderful Life. Every scene is filled with tasteful Christmas decorations. Christmas trees are everywhere. The Maxwell family make amazing and perfect-looking Christmas cookies in their perfect-looking and clutter-free kitchen. Except for the cop, every character is filled with holiday cheer. For me, it’s a bit much. But then again, this movie isn’t meant for me.
While the story is short on conflict, the comedy is forced and the acting is uneven, I will say that Jennifer Gibson, who plays a battered woman down on her luck, does an amazing job when she is on the screen. She brings some realism to this idealistic story. I also appreciate the overall generosity theme of the story that is sure to inspire many families who watch it and since the movie is coming to theaters early in the holiday season, families will have plenty of time to make their own Christmas jars to keep this movement going.
Christmas Jars will be released in theaters for one night only on Monday, November 4 through Fathom Events. It will also be released on DVD shortly.
Note: While Christmas Jars is a product of BYUtv (Brigham Young University), the film is not a religious film and does not promote any Mormon teaching.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.