Hallmark's Take Me Back For Christmas Is Royally Relatable Without A Princess Protagonist

Hallmark has had great success over the years with its romantic films, and adding fictitious royalty into their Christmas-themed movie formula has propelled the network to new heights in viewership. However, even tried and true formulas need to take a break once in a while. In almost every movie or TV show, the audience needs a character they can identify with, and having a protagonist become enmeshed in the lives of royalty adds a fairy tale flavor to which viewers can relate. However, Hallmark's new film tailored for the network's Christmas in July event, "Take Me Back for Christmas," is a departure from the royalty tropes and a refreshing take on the magic of the holiday season.

Directed and starring Corey Sevier ("Lassie"), and written by his real-life wife Kate Pragnell, the film also stars Vanessa Lengies as Renée, wife to Sevier's Aaron. Brynn Godenir ("Burden of Proof") plays Renée's bestie, Tasha, Paula Boudreau ("The Handmaid's Tale") plays her mother, Maria, and Kimberly-Ann Truong ("Star Trek: Strange New Worlds") plays Santa Claus' elf, Cici. Sevier and Pragnell had previously collaborated on the Christmas flicks "Heart of the Holidays" (2020) and "It Takes a Christmas Village" (2021), and their magic truly shines here. Rounding out the cast are Miguel Rivas as Jerry, Moni Ogunsuyi as Asley, and versatile character actor Gerry Mendicino as Renée's boss, Jeff.

In fact, the film might be among the best Hallmark movies to watch this Christmas. Or rather, this July.

Renée finds herself in an alternate reality

Unlike Hallmark's "A Royal Christmas Crush" — which was as flimsy as its melting ice castles — "Take Me Back for Christmas" is a refreshing change of pace. Renée and Aaron are a married couple, struggling with financial woes. Renée had previously aspired to run her own company, but when her mother Maria got sick and subsequently died, Renée's life went into a holding pattern for a decade. Fortunately, she works at a gift shop, and Santa arrives with Cici the Elf, who gives her a bell instructing her to make a wish and then ring it when she needs to. After a string of bad luck, a disbelieving Renée reluctantly wishes her life was different and rings the bell. She passes out, only to awaken in a world where she's the CEO of a hugely prosperous company that delivers meal kits. The often clumsy Renée hilariously has trouble wrapping her brain around what's going on, but is happy to see that her mother is still alive.

However, she's saddened to learn that in this reality, her drive to get her business off the ground cost her Aaron, and the two never married. Her best friend Tasha doesn't recognize her, either, compounding her frustration. Now, as she adapts to the new life she's been given, she must not only save the company from financial failure, but also figure out how to win Aaron back.

Renée has real world problems

Once Renée awakens in this alternate reality, it's obvious where the story's going. But the journey to getting there is what's important and the film delivers. Renée is intelligent and clever, navigating through a life of which she has no knowledge, sometimes very humorously. Often, when a royal family is involved, the prince or princess is unaccustomed to simple, everyday processes — such as Prince Henry (Stephen Huszar) in "A Royal Christmas Crush," who doesn't know how to open a bottle of wine. 

There are no royals involved at all here, and Renée gets help from a magical source instead. However, Cici the Elf merely provides her with a context for how life could be if she made different choices. She must analyze this new life, and learn how one change can have a ripple effect on the lives of everyone she knows. Here, the audience can completely identify with Renée and her realistic problems. Hardly anyone can relate to a royal family or someone who gets involved with one. The fantasy element presented in the film could very well have been a dream as her subconscious works out how to resolve her life's issues.

Well directed with excellent pacing and solid, nuanced performances throughout, "Take Me Back for Christmas" is a refreshing change from the royalty to which we've become accustomed, and it might even bring a tear in your eye.