Joseph (Josh Swickard) has a lot to prove working for his mother’s company, and he’s determined once and for all that he’s worthy of the job. He’s sent out to a ranch down on its luck to convince the family to sell before Christmas. Joseph is convinced this will be an in and out job, but boy was he wrong.
For some reason, he ends up posing as ranch hand “Manny” and believes that working alongside owner Callie (Lauren Swickard) and getting to know her will provide invaluable insider knowledge so he’ll know exactly what buttons to push to get her to agree (when he eventually reveals himself, one supposes). This actually requires a man with soft hands to work on a dairy farm for some time, which isn’t exactly Joseph’s forte. Luckily he’s got his driver Leo (Ali Afshar) stashed nearby, and Leo’s rooming with the real Manny (David Del Rio), who can be coaxed with cash to provide insight into the job and even he wardrobe.
Laura Swickard wrote A California Christmas, and stars in it with her real-life husband. She wrote a thirst trap for her own husband (who starts removing his shirt well before the ranch work commences). Do they have chemistry? Sure. Nothing crazy, but they’re watchable together. Less watchable: Gunnar Anderson, who is mis-cast as the film’s antagonist. It’s hard to take a man with curly hair seriously as a cattle hand, let alone as a villain – no matter how oversized the tires on his truck are, and believe me, he’s compensating for something MAJOR with the size of those babies.
Callie’s got a sick mother, a dead father, and a tragic backstory; Swickard has really written herself a juicy part, but while she thinks it’s a beautiful piece of tenderloin, it’s actually a hamburger steak, and there’s not enough gravy in the world to convince me otherwise.
This movie is trying to disguise itself as a romantic Christmas movie, and while it does okay in the romance department, it’s a complete failure holiday-wise. However, once the setting was established as Petaluma, I knew that the movie was really neither – it was really part of the Petaluma conspiracy that seems to be even vaster than I’d imagined. A lot of films coming out of Petaluma these days are very thinly veiled ranching propaganda.
Altogether, this is a pretty forgettable movie, and if you’re in the mood for something sweet and Christmassy, you’re better off over at Hallmark.