“Once Upon a Holiday” Hallmark Movie Review

By Ruth on November 25, 2015 in Christmas, Holidays, movie, review, television
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1337798When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth?

First of all, I was overjoyed to realize that this is movie is a based on a beloved, classic film of mine–Roman Holiday. Although the leads are not quite Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, they are enchanting nonetheless. If you have never seen Roman Holiday, I invite you to check it out as it was the film that introduced Audrey Hepburn to the world, and I never grow tired of watching it.  As I eagerly anticipated the version of this Hallmark version, I couldn’t help but wonder if Hallmark would keep the traditional ending or “Hallmarkise” it. Well, I won’t give any spoilers in this review, but I will say one thing. The ending left me speechlessly emotional with a heart filled with nothing but Christmas rapture and warmth.

Tara Wilson as Emily

Tara Wilson as Emily & Casey Manderson as Ross

Let’s start with one of the minor characters who holds a special place in my heart–Tara Wilson as Emily. I hadn’t even realized that Tara was in the film until she tweeted it out as I was screening it, and I am so grateful she did.  I watched for her character, Emily, to emerge, and I was immensely captivated from the moment I saw her. Tara is one who seems to fit into an extensive variety of roles that sometimes one just never knows when she may pop in a film. I was thankful that her part was a bit more substantial than the last one in which I saw her, and she infused all the enthusiasm and sincerity into this vivacous character that was required to make her memorable and enthralling.  In fact, in my opinion, her character had the most supremely humorous and classic moment in the entire film–right towards the end. It was truly my favorite scene of the entire film, and something tells me Tara had just as much fun filming it as I did watching it (probably more, come to think of it).  While some may say a role like Emily could be easily forgettable, with Tara portraying her, there is not way on earth that this character can be overlooked.

Not to be disregarded is the man who plays her boyfriend, Ross. Thanks to Tara (who responded so quickly when I asked her), I can tell everyone that Casey Manderson plays this role, and it is not the first appearance in something Hallmark-related. You might remember seeing him in Signed, Sealed, DeliveredA Novel Romance, and your kids might remember seeing him in the non-Hallmark film Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. As the annoying but bewitching news reporter who is attempting to determine the whereabouts of the supposed-runaway princess, he is eminently cast, and I hope that Hallmark (and other networks) will continue to feature him as I believe we have only begun to witness the talent that lurks beneath that exterior. And by the way, that scene of Tara’s that I mentioned was my favorite–he is an integral part of that scene, too.

Jay Brazeau as Harry

Jay Brazeau as Harry

No doubt you recoognize this face from the countless times he has appeared in a variety of roles on Hallmark, Lifetime, and more. As Harry, the magic shop owner, he shines yet again and portrays the character with grace and efforlessness that only a true professional can. The viewers know that he is suspcious about the total situation on every level, and he will do everything he can to see that the right people are protected from getting hurt by unncecessary scrutiny. His character has one of the biggest hearts of any in the film by a longshot, and no matter what character Jay plays, he is always ideally suited.  By the way, his role is pivotal in my favorite scene as well.

Tony Alcantar as Simon

Tony Alcantar as Simon

If this face seems familiar, you might recognize him from A Harvest Moon (his most recent Hallmark appearance), but he is no stranger to the acting world (just check out his resume). In this film, he depicts the man who only wants to guard the princess against people who may seriously wish to injure her. For his character, it is not just a duty or a job. He is fiercely devoted to her safety, and because of this, his character might be viewed in a negative light. However, towards the end of the film, the viewers are treated to a look into the heart of Simon as provided by Tony’s heartfelt and faithful characterization.

Jacqueline Samuda, Greg Evigan Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Jacqueline Samuda as “Aunt” Margaret & Greg Evigan as “Uncle” George Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Yet another couple of actors who just might look familiar to viewers. I knew I had seen Jacqueline before, but until I looked up her resume, I was unaware of her credits–Ties that Bind and most notably Real Murders: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery. Of course, these credits only prick the surface on her notable career, and in her role of Margaret, she is ideally cast. She brings sophistication, poise, and the attention to detail and appearances to this royal role where keeping her niece unscathed and retaining tradition are the most important things in her life.  Jacqueline brings that air of significance to the role, but with the disappearance of her niece, indeed we see her character’s composure crumble a bit. But at the end of the day, we know she loves her niece and only wants to shield her from any evil influences whether within or without.

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Greg Evigan Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Greg Evigan Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

The moment I saw this character, Uncle Charles, I knew I had seen the actor, but I could not place him (remember I am somewhat out of the loop on these things).  As I begin to read his resume, I didn’t see anything I recognized until I was suddenly stopped in my tracks–Cerberus? Of course! That’s only one of my favorite films, so naturally I should recognize Greg Evigan.  And seeing him in this kind role was a veritable joy as he is the polar opposite of his character in Cerberus.  As the understanding uncle, he plays his part to perfection. While his character acknowledges the influence of appearances and family tradition, he also only desires authentic happiness for his niece. And if that means doing things a bit differently than in the past, he will do it.  Unfortunately, it is up to him to calm the high-strung Margaret, but if anyone can do it, Uncle Charles can. Greg presents his character as likable, relaxed, and matter-of-fact, but more importantly, he is memorable. That probably has something to do with the fact that Greg himself is a formidable force on the screen, and viewers cannot help but notice his presence. But it is a blessing to see that he is a multi-faceted actor who can tackle any role and infuse credibility and whatever else is necessary to cause the character to be relatable and observed. (It certainly doesn’t hurt that Greg is quite handsome and charming with a quick and easy smile–always one way to cause oneself to be remembered.)

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Paul Campbell, Briana Evigan Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Sven Boecker

Paul Campbell as Jack &  Briana Evigan as Katie Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Sven Boecker

Of course, at the heart of the story is this couple–Jack and Katie. While I identify other works in which they have appeared, I do not officially recall their performances. After all, I didn’t used to pay attention to which actors played what parts in years past, but of course, I do now. Notwithstanding, the chemistry between these two is exactly what I prefer seeing on Hallmark. While I can occasionally go for the explosive chemistry, there is nothing like gentle and fun-loving chemistry where romance is key (rather than lip-locking).  These two interact in the way their respective characters should. Katie should be nervous and somewhat withdrawn as she is worried her true identity will be discovered. Jack, on the other hand, is so completely fascinated by Katie that he practically tosses all caution to the wind.  Both actors are able to convey their character’s respective emotions with expert prowess and ease, and I would not mind at all seeing them together again in future works.

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Whether a concealed or revealed princess, their chemistry rings true and reminds me that love transcends time, place, rank, and even reason. With these two, there is never a question that they should be together, and the threats are very minimal to their happiness. Whether they will get what they require for Christmas is up to the viewer to discover for himself/herself.

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Sven Boecker

Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Sven Boecker

As the simple but dashing Jack, Paul is a perfect fit. I never doubted his credibility and sincerity, and I have to say there is nothing so alluring as witnessing a man’s expert use of power tools. He is industrious and seems to keep to himself until Katie catches his eye. All at once, he is drawn to her, and he gives his heart unabashedly to care for and protect her. Not only that, but he is able to examine her heart and perceive that which she seeks. Paul gives a consummate performance as Jack, and every detail is suited to the character whether it be facial expressions, tones of voice, or gestures. He infuses his character with a rusticity that is refreshing to witness in such films as all too often, the men are the perfect, rich men who often forget the unadulterated pleasures around them. He is out to only satisfy himself and not let anyone tell him how to behave, but in the end, it is Katie who enthralls his heart. While the threats are obvious to their fairytale ending together, the unique twist makes this a delight to watch. And even though Jack’s contentment is not assured, Paul sees to it that his character never loses the down-to-earth charm and wit that we appreciate about him.

 

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Briana Evigan Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Sven Boecker

Until I did the research, I was unaware of the fact that Briana and Greg (Uncle Charles) are father and daughter. Once I discovered that fact, the film became that much more endearing for me. Although they do not play father and daughter specifically, Katie does look to her uncle to be a surrogate father. And there is no doubt that the relationship is befitting that of a father and daughter. It suddenly makes sense why Greg may enjoy this role as much as he does.

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Briana Evigan Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Briana Evigan Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

As the irrepressible Katie, Briana is exactly what one might expect from a runaway princess. She plays Katie as a cautious woman who merely longs for a taste of freedom and nostalgia that her role as princess cannot provide. I was most impressed with her facial expressions as she never gives anything away about her true identity when she is hiding out. She does an exceptional job of keeping a low profile for Katie, but once she dons the proper clothes, no one can deny that Katie is a true princess (or at least, she is something special). Briana infuses delicacy, appeal, and an alluring quality that makes the audience fall in love with her. While at first I wasn’t sure what I thought of her character, I later realized that is exactly what this role needs.

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

As Katie is secreting herself from those that would drag her back to the palace, it is necessary for her appears as ordinary and plain as possible. And Briana definitely does that impeccably. But, of course, Jack notices that vulnerability that Briana has inserted into Katie’s character, and that is what he responds to.

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Briana Evigan Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Briana Evigan Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

As their relationship evolves, so does Briana’s portrayal of Katie. She longs to tell her secret, but she is not certain how it will affect what she is beginning to sense for Jack.

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

When an actual, honest-to-goodness royal princess runs off from her official obligations and duties for a couple of days to see how the other half lives, she winds up falling for a good Samaritan who is unaware of her real identity during the holiday season. Will her true love still feel the same way once he learns the truth? Photo: Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Marcel Williams

Hopefully this picture will not spoil the ultimate conclusion for you as I almost wanted to cry it is so touching. Again, it is always the journey that Hallmark provides for on the road to true love, and I couldn’t have been happier with Briana’s ultimate portrayal of the princess who finally discovers who she is inside and chooses to bring that back with her as she returns to the palace. Again, true love transcends all, and compromise (from both parties) is a key element in making a relationship work.  If you get a chance to watch this delightful film this season, by all means, do so!

For more information:

http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/once-upon-a-holiday

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher

5 Comments

  1. Mary Lacock December 6, 2015 Reply

    The castle on the hill of the town at the end of the movie “Once Upon a Holiday” looks so familiar. Where was the ending filmed or where is that actual castle? Ive been loving all the Hallmark holiday movies.

    • Author
      Ruth December 6, 2015 Reply

      I honestly wish I knew. But I agree it’s beautiful.

  2. MaryJane Kiefer December 23, 2015 Reply

    Do I dare say…I wondered the same about the castle in the background and the hubs swears it’s the castle of Harry Potter Village at Universal Studios, Orlando!? We spent a week there with the kids and the train station and restaurant (in the last picture, above) are perfectly placed according to the castle location. I’ve searched, but cannot find any info…Wow, could it be? Wonderful movie…Love my Hallmark Channel, especially at Christmas.
    MaryJane Kiefer recently posted…“A Christmas Melody” Hallmark Movie ReviewMy Profile

  3. Doug Spivey December 25, 2015 Reply

    The castle (actually a fortress) is in Salzburg Austria, I’ve been there and recognized it immediately.
    I searched the web for a photo to compare and found one with almost the exact angle as in the movie. You can compare lots of features to verify. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hohensalzburg_Castle
    I was fortunate enough to have dinner and a baroque concert up in the castle.

  4. jo November 27, 2016 Reply

    Agree with Doug, it’s Hohensalzburg Castle, Austria.

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