Not to be confused with A Heartland Christmas—although I’m sure they’re practically the same thing—Christmas in the Heartland is very much in the vein of those heart-warming Hallmark-style holiday flicks where, when you start watching it, you’re filled with nothing but insults and other bile, yet, by the end, you find yourself so immersed in the characters and story that you almost forget that you’re not invited to their house for Christmas dinner.
Two teen girls from Virginia become friends on the American Airlines flight to Guthrie, which I guess has a municipal airport that takes in planes from Virginia. Along the way, they get it into their heads to switch families—rich girl Kara (Sierra McCormick) goes to stay with the rich relations, sternly spearheaded by Bo Derek, while rich girl Jessie (Brighton Sharbino) goes to stay with the poorer relations, whimsically led by Shelley Long.
At least I think…these young white girls all look the same to me.
Regardless, both girls find themselves and who they are inside by entering the Miss Oklahoma Winter Queen Silent Night Fest Beauty Pageant, which means plenty of montages where various seasonal clothes are tried-on, people repeatedly sing “Silent Night” and, worst of all, the acting debuts of the members of Rascal Flatts, one of whom is named Joe Don Rooney.
And while the first two acts are full of close calls wherein the girls use the wrong names, wrong pronouns and other wrong elements of speech, it isn’t until the third act where things go cinematically bonkers: once the girls come clean, all of a sudden wholesome Hell breaks loose, with septuagenarian divorces, multiple marriage proposals, wives returning from war, the sudden appearance of Christmas presents and, best of all, a half-hearted musical number on the steps of a mansion.
Say it with me: I believe in Christmas!
Actually filmed in Guthrie and not Canada—and it shows!—the cast is accurately acting as though they’re celebrating the holidays in rural Oklahoma, with overdone accents floating in and out, Christmas carols being the most popular music in town, and a place where, apparently, it’s okay for an underage girl you just met to drive your truck down the highway.
Written by Dave Matheny and directed by Harvey Lowry, I have to give them credit for getting the look and feel of Oklahoma right, for once. And while I hope for a sequel that deals with Kara and Jessie’s holiday-based teen pregnancies—they are in Oklahoma, after all—I can fully recommend Christmas in the Heartland, the reason for, at least, this season.