Stream It or Skip It: ‘The Christmas House’ on Hallmark Is the Best Hallmark Holiday Movie of the Year

Hallmark history is made with The Christmas House! It’s the first Hallmark film to feature LGBTQ characters in major, leading roles—although it’s one of many 2020’s Hallmark Christmas movies to have diverse casts. The film, co-written by star Robert Buckley, boasts a cast that includes Jonathan Bennett, Treat Williams, and Sharon Lawrence. When it comes to Hallmark, this is just about as marquee as it gets—but does The Christmas House live up to expectations?

The entire Mitchell clan is called in to send the Christmas House tradition out in style, including Mike, his brother Brandon (Bennett), and Brandon’s husband Jake (Brad Harder). Also pitching in is Mike’s high school crush (and former magic partner!) Andi (Ana Ayora).

However, there’s a lot more going on with the Mitchell family than this final Christmas House extravaganza! Brandon and Jake are keeping a secret: they’re trying to adopt and don’t want to get the family’s hopes up if it falls through. Also complicating matters is the fact that Andi is a real estate agent—and Bill and Phyllis are listing the house! Not only is this the last year for the Christmas House, it’s the last Christmas in this house! But why are they selling the house, and why are Mike’s parents acting so strange? There’s more going on here—but what?!

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: While there is a classic Hallmark romcom storyline to follow between Mike and Andi, The Christmas House actually follows another classic holiday trajectory. This is a big ol’ family Christmas dramedy in the style of The Family Stone or Love the Coopers. All three storylines—Mike and Andi’s will they/won’t they, Bill and Phyllis’ moving on, and Brandon and Jake’s adoption—all carry more or less the same amount of weight.

Performance Worth Watching: It is really, really hard to pick just one performance because every single actor is outstanding! The Mitchell’s family dynamic is so real, so emotional, and so familiar. And Ana Ayora plays a romantic lead that’s just so… cool. She’s falls outside of the perky/clutzy/Type-A range that we so love in these movies and that so many other actors do so well. She’s just Andi, a down-to-earth straight-shooter who knows what she wants and plays it cool.

But of all the performances in the movie, you have to give it up to Sharon Lawrence who, as the Mitchell matriarch, is the film’s emotional center. She sells the gravity of Phyllis’ inner struggle long before you know what’s going on, and it gives the movie weight.

Memorable Dialogue: Love this line delivery from Lawrence: “This is not just a teapot. This is a part of our family’s history. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks it matters, but I do. Ultimately the memory of a thing is all you have.”

A Holiday Tradition: Duh, the Christmas House! The Mitchell family backed a moving truck up and emptied their house every single November and refilled it with holiday joy. We’re talking multiple themed trees, a toy room, a train room, indoor fake snow—! There was even a magic show out front starring Mike and Andi. And then… it all stopped 20 years ago.

Does the Title Make Any Sense?: While The Christmas House seemed like one of the more vague Hallmark holiday movie titles (but nothing beats the Time for Me/You/Us to Come Home for Christmas franchise when it comes to vagueness), it becomes incredibly specific when you learn that the Christmas House is a literal Christmas House and is called such in the movie.

Our Take: History has been made—and this Hallmark movie is definitely one for the history books. This is just a good—nay, a great—Christmas movie, period. No other qualifiers necessary. Everything about The Christmas House, from the legitimately funny script (every single Handsome Justice joke landed for me) to the warm performances (I want Treat Williams and Sharon Lawrence to be the parents in every movie!) to the representation. And not only LGBTQ representation, but Lantix representation. The Christmas House has a big Christmas table, and all are welcome!

The Christmas House makes history as its gay characters are part of a six-person lead; their adoption storyline is as emotionally resonant as the straight romance. This is where The Christmas House met my expectations, and here’s where it exceeded them: Brandon and Jake are affectionate. They hug, they hold hands, they are generally affectionate—and they kiss.

This is something that may be lost on straight audiences, but seeing a married gay couple kiss in a Hallmark Christmas movie, a movie wherein their struggle does not involve coming out—the effect that that moment is going to have on an entire generation of queer kids will be felt for decades to come. I speak from personal experience—to completely toss my Santa’s Little Movie Critic hat off to the side—when I say that for queer people, kissing at the holidays is a Major Statement. I, personally, have never kissed my husband in front of anyone in my family, and definitely not at Christmas. The cozy Christmas intimacy that straight couples take for granted can be a fraught ordeal for queer couples. To see Brandon and Jake sit on the couch, arms entwined while Mama Mitchell runs through an elaborate CG game plan of how they’re going to decorate their house? It’s transcendent.

If watching Jake and Brandon be a committed, loving, fun, healthy couple allows even one couple to be allowed to express their earnest, unfiltered love for each other in front of their families at this time of year, then it was all worth it.

Okay—popping my Santa’s Little Movie Critic hat back on, because I can also say glowing things about the straight parts of this movie too. Mike and Andi are a charming pair, and watching their lifelong love story unfold via Rashomon style flashbacks had me fully invested in the straights. And, oh my god, the entire storyline with the parents had me in genuine suspense—to a degree that I have absolutely never felt while watching a Hallmark movie. The movie is a delight through and through, and—as if that’s not enough—it’s one that will actually change the world for the better.

Our Call: STREAM IT. This is a Hallmark movie that shelled out for the music rights to Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and the money spent was absolutely warranted.

The Christmas House premiere on the Hallmark Channel on Sunday, November 22 at 8 p.m. ET

Watch The Christmas House on the Hallmark Channel

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