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September 26, 2022




Not the Duff you’re looking for: 'Christmas Belle' is unsurprisingly bad

December 13, 2017

Here’s a fun fact: Every single year around July, Haylie Duff, the less prominent Duff sister, begins a journey in which she begins to film a parade of Lifetime and Hallmark Christmas movies. She’s done this to the point where half of my Netflix queue is just Haylie Duff Christmas movies.

It's like she’s made some sort of pact with the candy cane twirling CEOs of Hallmark, who tell her, “You’ll film six increasingly cheesy Christmas movies for us, Haylie, and maybe someday people will know you in the same way which they do Hillary.”

I’m not going to send you into this with any illusions, because I believe that we all have the right to know when a movie is ripping off a “meh” franchise. "Christmas Belle" is Belle as in "Beauty and the Beast."

But with no beast.

Just a sad lonely businessman. And Haylie Duff, whose character Belle works for her father appraising antiques.

Now if you are thinking that you’ve already seen "Beauty and the Beast" with the Beast being a businessman, you are correct. Enter the 2011 "Beauty & the Briefcase" starring Hillary Duff.

This is the offbeat Christmas knockoff of that - the movie that couldn’t afford to pay for the richer Duff sister. They assume that we’ll take the bagged wine substitute over the Pinot Noir 1892, and they are completely correct because I most definitely did in an I-don't-know-the-difference-between-wine-because-I-cannot-legally-drink sort of way. (My status of alcoholic legality will be changed next week, during which I intend to nap.)

Haylie Duff is this lady named Belle who works for her dad’s antique shop. She has exactly one admirer despite being nice as heck and he is in all ways except by name, Gaston.

His name is significantly more horrible: Tony.

Tony loves Haylie Duff, he wants her more than anything and begs her to give him a chance. He personally thinks that the fact her father wants her to work on Christmas sucks, which is chill, and he low-key brings her favorite flowers: roses.

The reason he's not chill is because he tries to take Belle out to dinner. When - for maybe the fortieth time - he is informed once more that she is unable to go, he decides to use the dinner reservation with another girl. Which I oddly respect.

Meanwhile, Belle is spending time with her father, a man who genuinely believes that Garfield is funny.

Spending time with a rich guy at a nice restaurant or spending time with your father who thinks Garfield is a comedic gem.

Belle is making good choices.

Belle has to go to this creepy old estate to estimate the value of - you guessed it - her favorite thing that isn’t roses: books.

Belle Duff goes to town where everyone informs her that the man is horrible. Nothing really happens except for setting some background details.

Beauty and the Duff has to go to her accommodations, the exact house where she is cataloging items for auction. Because, you know, where else will you hole up the help when you plan to sell your million dollar mansion? The hotel?

The Beast is exactly as rude and inhospitable as you would imagine from a man who is unwilling to pay hotel expenses for a girl he made travel to the boonies. He looked kind of like a Spanish Soap Opera villain the whole time and it weirded me out. Like Antonio Banderas (The man who plays Puss in Boots) in literally anything that isn’t "Shrek".

Also, he has a mole.

And they centered the camera on the mole in some shots. His name is Hunter - not the mole, but the man. The mole is too prominent of a figure to require an actual name. In fact, whenever the mole did come into view, it was always in the same location on my screen. I know because I locked an arrow down about fifteen minutes in.

None of that matters, though, because his dog is named Beast.

Hunter is sad and mean as heck because someone died. It wasn't his grandparents, who I assumed passed away fairly recently due to the whole, “inheriting this estate and it being imperative that I not own it long." Instead, it was his fiancée.

Forget grandma.

Apparently, his fiancée is in the floorboards of his family estate - painted every picture and hand wrote every novel. The fact that it is owned by his family and therefore a location dominated by the heritage of his family is forgotten.

Everything after that moved pretty slow. Dead wives and fiancees are a dime a dozen to heterosexual male leads and therefore they can cast them aside at a moment’s notice.

But since this "Beauty and the Beast" ripoff doesn’t quite have the grand emotional audience connection that every Hallmark movie strives for (likely because it’s a knock-off of a very well known Disney movie’s Hillary Duff knockoff), no one really cares.

A Christmas dance is canceled via nondescript unofficial signs. It’s back on due to being a rich heterosexual male with no hobbies other than the pursuit of love. This leads to an obligatory Beauty and Beast ball scene.

And at one point the guy threw stuff, which was like it.

The emotional climax of the movie is the evil twin from a Spanish soap opera throwing books as his mole remains static.

The movie was bad but entertaining. I reached that point in every person’s life where you watch bad movies solely because you are emotionally numb inside at the moment and this is the only joy in your life.

“Oh, I get it, the old lady that’s bound to the house by duty and talks like a Victorian lady even though we’re in the south? She’s Mrs. Potts,” I said out loud to myself as I ate instamashed potatoes and fought the stinging feeling of failure in the back of my skull.

“What an original and wonderful, well thought out movie,” I chimed as I fought back hysterical sobs about family disappointment. “A tale as old as time? Haha, I think I’ve heard that line before.”

You may think to yourself, “Oh it’s probably better than other movies in the Hallmark lineup because it has a more gradual, realistic pace.”

Have you ever watch emotional anxiety slowly seep out of your body and waited to be emotionally bled out? Because let me tell you, this movie is about as fun as that.

½ Duffs.

Not horrible, but not the superior Duff movie.

Happy finals everyone. May your moles be properly framed and your Christmas dances be brought back to life by a rich man-child.