Christmas in the Pines is a 2021 film released on Amazon Prime, YouTube and DVD on November 2, 2021. It stars Jillian Murray (Code Black) as Ariel and Dean Geyer (Glee, Terra Nova) as Mark.
Ariel is an up-and-coming writer for a major magazine who wants to buy a cottage in the Carolinas to try and recapture the magic of Christmas her family once had. While shopping, Ariel and her mom and sister run into a mall Santa who overhears her wish. When she arrives to see her newly purchased home, she is surprised to also shortly be joined by Mark, who also claims to have won the bid to purchase the home. The two real-estate agents consult their documentation and find out the house’s owner accepted both bids for exactly the same price and according to the contracts, the first person to leave the property line (marked clearly with a candy-cane border) will forfeit their claim to the cottage. Both decide to put up a fight as long as possible.
Meanwhile, we find out Mark is an architect and needs to be in Australia in a few days to work on a new project and Ariel has been given an assignment to write an article on someone who hates Christmas. Based on her initial interactions with Mark, she decides to write about him. Mark meanwhile, invites his brother and father to the cottage to help him try and convince Ariel to leave, while Ariel does the same with her sister, mother and father.
Unfortunately for Mark, his dad (Grant Goodeve) actually likes Ariel. He arrives with Mark’s brother (Aaron Mees) with several plastic totes of food for Christmas dinner. Ariels mother (Leigh-Allyn Baker) and sister (Victoria Staley) arrive with similar rations, intent on waiting things out as long as possible.
The two families, even Mark and Ariel, start actually getting along and manage to cut down a Christmas tree and decorate it using hand-made decorations, including making wooden balls on a lathe the brothers rig up in the front yard. Mark then gets a phone call that pushes up the timetable for his moving to Australia that all but solidifies Arial will be the winner of the home.
Ariel decides that even though she will be the one buying the cottage, they will make it a tradition for both families to spend the holidays together each year. Mark also decides to send his brother to Australia in his place so he can stay closer to the cottage and Ariel. A surprise ending as only a Christmas movie can do helps tie up all the loose ends.
When I first began reviewing Christmas movies here in 2020, I knew I was going to have to take on the stereotypical rom-com, which this film definitely embraces. However, Christmas in the Pines really is a fun movie that can be viewed with the entire family. While the initial plot point is pretty far-fetched, the film progresses nicely and has a pretty high production value.
All of the main actors with the exception of Ariel’s dad (Jeff Rose) do a good job in portraying the two vastly different families. Jilliam Murray is endearing as Ariel and Dean Geyer equally shines as Mark, despite being reduced to cringe-worthy closeups of him grinning throughout the film.
If you are looking for a rom-com that won’t have your significant other rolling their eyes, I can recommend it as a good alternative to the usual Christmas fare.
You can find Christmas in the Pines at Target or on DVD on Amazon.com, or streaming for purchase or rent at YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.