Movie Review: Haul out the Holly: Lit Up (2023)

Synopsis: A year after regaining her Christmas spirit at Evergreen Lane, Emily is helping her boyfriend, Jared plan the annual Christmas activities while Jared secretly makes plans to propose to her. However, their plans are disrupted when the Jolly Johnsons, a famous reality television family, moves to the neighborhood and immediately try to take over the holiday planning, eventually pitting neighbor against neighbor.

Who's in it? The movie stars Lacey Chabert, Wes Brown, Melissa Peterman, Seth Morris and Jennifer Aspen.

Review: Hallmark Christmas movies, by their very nature, have a one-and-done feel to them. So, when I saw there was a sequel to a movie that I wasn't overly impressed with, I had a lot of doubts. However, it still starred Lacey Chabert and, as I've said, my wife and I are big fans, so we gave it a try anyway.

As it turns out, my first instincts about this movie were correct.

I think the biggest problem I had with this movie is, much like the first film, the plot isn't overly original. The first movie reminded me a lot of Christmas with the Kranks. This movie reminded me a lot of Deck the Halls. Obviously, it's not the first movie to borrow a premise from another film (or multiple films) but when you do that, and the film that was borrowed from is considerably better, it just makes your movie look worse by comparison.

My other problem with this movie was, even though Emily (Chabert) is supposed to be the protagonist, I thought she seemed a lot more like the bad guy than she probably should have. Yes, the Johnsons were a bit pushy about their ideas but most of those ideas weren't terrible. Plus, Jane Johnson (Aspen) seemed like she would be a valuable asset just for her organizational skills. In comparison, Emily and friends seemed kind of childish with their resistance to change, when there was plenty of time for them to make compromises.

Even the negative and divisive feelings created by the big Christmas contest between Emily and Jane were Emily's fault. Jane's proposal was a competition that would include every household. Emily was the one that wanted it one-on-one. It seems like the former would have been much more fun than divisive.

I will say the proposal scene toward the end of the movie was better than expected, even though, as I told my wife, I have a very hard time believing Jared (Brown) could include the entire community without someone accidentally tipping Emily off. I don't think it was enough to save the entire movie, but it was a decent happy ending at least.

Final Opinion: Chabert has some fantastic Christmas movies but between this one and A Merry Scottish Christmas, I don't think this was one of her better holidays.

My Grade: C-


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