Jill Wagner stars as Janie Collins, a high-powered marketing professional who lives in NYC and comes up with brilliant ways to sell dinosaur-themed energy drinks. Her life, which includes a corporate ladder-climbing boyfriend named Charles (Morgan David Jones), gets a major interruption when she has to go back home upstate to Woodland Falls and settle her late great uncle Randall’s estate. That’s when Janie finds out that she’s inherited the whole farm — including a farmhand named Dylan (Cameron Mathison).
Making matters more complicated? Randall’s dying wish was for Janie to put on Winter Wonderland, a three-day Christmas market packed with local vendors, carnival games, and farm animals that takes place at the farm she’s just inherited! Fortunately Janie has Dylan to help make this Christmas wish into a Christmas reality. But does Janie have room in her life for a farm, a Dylan, and a boyfriend named Charles? The last one is really high maintenance.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: This is pure pre-2019 Hallmark — which is kinda Great American Media/Family’s whole deal. Can you still see movies about busy career women returning to their small hometown and finding love and a new direction in life on Hallmark? Yes, you absolutely still can.
Performance Worth Watching: Jill Wagner does some great work in this, especially in capturing what it’s like to mourn a relative who made such a tremendous impact on your life. Honestly, everything in A Merry Christmas Wish is pretty standard holiday movie comfort fluff up until one scene in a barn where, illuminated by an impressive yet cozy display of Christmas lights, Wagner adds a very recognizable feeling of loss that strengthens the foundation of the entire movie.
Memorable Dialogue: Of her hometown, Janie says, “It’s only three hours away but it feels so far for me.” Know the feel, Janie.
A Holiday Tradition: The Winter Wonderland Christmas market happens every year and the town really just can’t do without it.
Two Turtle Doves: You don’t have to look far to find a movie about a family dealing with what to do now that they’re taking over the family’s farm. Just follow this movie up with Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ A Maple Valley Christmas.
Does the Title Make Any Sense?: It is really vague isn’t it? Winter Wonderland is really vague too, but what about Shopping in a Winter Wonderland? Or Farm to Table Christmas? Or One Last Winter Wonderland? Actually that one sounds too much like it’s a climate change Christmas movie. Oh — Marketing Christmas! She works in marketing and it’s about a Christmas market! It’s right there!
Our Take: I would say “they just don’t make’em like this anymore,” but… they really do. Unlike Catering Christmas and A Royal Christmas on Ice, which were made by outside production companies, A Merry Christmas Wish is a GAC Family production through and through. That means that this Wagner/Mathison affair is maybe the clearest example of what a holiday movie looks like through the Great American lens — and it looks a lot like Hallmark.
This is obviously not a bad thing. Hallmark has become the standard-bearer for cheesy/sentimental/silly/romantic cable romcoms, so being able to pull off their production value and capture the kind of warmth that the network has cultivated over the decades is quite a feat. And I’ll definitely give A Merry Christmas Wish that praise: when the lights are twinkling and the leads are bundled up in scarves and jackets, it radiates a familiar kind of Christmas warmth. You really love to see it.