Beauty and the Sort of Beastly
Christmas is coming but that doesn't mean any rest for estate assessor and rare book specialist Isabella (Haylie Duff - Hats Off to Christmas!) as her father sends her North to California to appraise the inherited estate of Hunter Lowell (Nicholas Gonzalez - We Have Your Husband). But after arriving in the nearby town the locals, whilst friendly, suggest she shouldn't bother as Hunter is not the most welcoming of people. But for Belle work is work and the business needs the work so she goes ahead with the job and finds herself falling for the initially miserable Hunter. The trouble is back in her hometown is Tony (Mark Famiglietti - The March Sisters at Christmas) who makes out that he is in love with Belle and would love to date and marry her. The question is whether he really does, or whether he is using her?
Music, music everywhere and ever bit annoying. I know when it comes to these made for TV romantic Christmas movies I should be prepared for that constant piano playing which rumbles along in the background of every single scene but in the case of "Christmas Belle" it is too dominant and becomes annoying. It is so annoying that it is the first thing I had to mention in this movie review as it spoils the movie although "Christmas Belle" is also one of those less than subtle romantic dramas.
Okay so beyond the music what you get in "Christmas Belle" is a play on "Beauty and the Beast" with the beautiful Isabella (Belle) sent to the large estate of Hunter Lowell who for some reason has turned into a real misery and plans to sell the huge estate which he inherited from his grandparents. We learn that there is a former love which mention of makes him moody but we also have a tiny dog called beast. We also learn that Hunter finds being there painful as the memories of his late Grandmother are too much to deal with. The references are frequent and extremely obvious but basically it works as the set up for Belle falling in love with Hunter only for things to be made complicated by Tony who of course shows up. As such within 20 minutes "Christmas Belle" is extremely obvious and not subtle in the least in going about its business.
Aside from that, well we have Haylie Duff giving us the kind and loveable character whilst Nicholas Gonzalez does mean, moody but handsome and who spends a surprising amount of time with his shirt off, more than Taylor Lautner who he looks a bit like. Of course there is Mark Famiglietti who does comically slimy but also C. Thomas Howell who now finds himself relegated to the slightly comical father role although he does it well.
What this all boils down to is that "Christmas Belle" is not really the Christmas movie I had hoped for as it lacks subtlety, suffers from a too prominent musical score and isn't that focussed on Christmas. But for those who enjoy the tale of "Beauty and the Beast" and made for TV romantic dramas will probably find this sweet and entertaining.