Christmas in the Smokies: Carols, Pies, and a Good Dose of Hope (Movie Review)

John FarrellBy John Farrell7 Minutes

“I’ve always believed in the hope of Christmas.
No matter how hard life is …
No matter how much we’ve messed up or how broken our lives have become.
At Christmas, good things can happen.”
– Shelby Haygood, Christmas in the Smokies

If you’re looking for a charming, feel-good, family-friendly (there is no cussing, violence, or sexual innuendo—there’s not even kissing) Christmas film with great acting, popular carols, and a positive message, Christmas in the Smokies (2015) delivers.

If you’re a fan of Christmas music, especially the classics like “O’ Come All Ye Faithful” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” Christmas in the Smokies won’t disappoint musically. Other songs you’ll enjoy throughout the movie include “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells,” “Amazing Grace,” “Good King Wenceslas,” and “Joy to the World.”

Sarah Lancaster (“Everwood,” “Chuck”) stars as the jaded Shelby Haygood, who is still hurt by her ex-boyfriend’s failure to come home or call on Christmas Eve back in 1996. Years later, Shelby lives with her parents on the family berry farm in Pine Valley, Tennessee.

Playing opposite Lancaster is Alan Powell (Worth Fighting For, The Song) as local boy turned country music star Mason Wyatt. Mason is Shelby’s ex-boyfriend who will be dancing live on television to raise money for the Nashville Children’s Home. In an introductory video prior to him taking the dance floor, he comes across as arrogant and lazy.

Troubles with the Farm, Troubles with the Ex

Christmas in the Smokies opens on December 24, 1996, with a 17-year-old Shelby staring out the window, waiting for Wyatt to either show up or call. He does neither. It immediately fast-forwards to December 1 of present day, which also happens to be Mason Wyatt Day in Pine Valley to honor his appearance on the hit show, “Dancin’ Country.” Shelby and her parents, played by Barry Corbin (“Anger Management,” Urban Cowboy) and Rebecca Koon (Sharp Objects, “The Detour”), are up early doing chores around Haygood Farms.

After finishing her tasks, she heads to town to take care of some errands, including dropping off an order of jams at a local store, taking a cherry pie to a girl in the hospital, and meeting with her representative at the savings and loan office. Unfortunately, the news isn’t good. She learns that the farm is about to be foreclosed on unless they can pay off some of their loans soon. It seems that local businessman Mr. Baxter (Brett Rice, Sully) is interested in buying the farmland for retail development.

The problem is that the Haygood family has no intention of selling the land, and they don’t have enough money to stave off losing the farm.

The day after embarrassing himself on “Dancin’ Country,” Mason returns home to Pine Valley to hide from the media. Instead of taking practice seriously with his dance partner Lana Parker, he goofed off and didn’t learn their routine. When the show went live, it was immediately obvious that he didn’t have the dance memorized. When Lana walked off mid-dance, leaving Wyatt alone on stage, he resorted to horrible renditions of the Dougie, Macarena, the Robot, and even John Travolta’s Stayin’ Alive moves, among other dance moves.

When Mr. Haygood runs into the newly arrived Mason at a local store, Mason asks about Shelby.

Mason: How is she?

Mr. Haygood: Oh, she’s Shelby.

Mason: Still got that fire? (Mr. Haygood shrugs) … Any chance she hates me any less after all these years?

Mr. Haygood: Well, like I said, ‘She’s still Shelby.’

Mason: I can’t blame her if she does, I guess.

Mr. Haygood: She’ll talk to you. I doubt it’s what you want to hear, but she’s got some things she wants to say to you.

Shelby’s dad invites Mason over for dinner that night and offers him a place to stay while he’s in town. This doesn’t sit well with Shelby or her mom. Having never gotten over Mason not calling, writing, or visiting, Shelby angrily tells him that he can stay in the barn for $5,000 in cash. Mason doesn’t have much money, but he agrees to the living arrangements and the cost.

The Power of Hope

Despite the likelihood of them losing their farm, Shelby’s parents remain hopeful. That night as she’s going through financial papers with her mom, her dad reminds her that Jesus represents hope and as long as they remember that, they’ll be fine:

“As far as I know, a child was born in that manger. Everything’s gonna be all right. You’re a strong woman, Shelby Belle. We raised you that way. But there’s some things strong just don’t fix. You need a good dose of hope. And you’re not gonna get that rooting through them papers in the middle of the night. Now the sun will come up tomorrow, I promise you, just like it always does.”

Unfortunately for Shelby, using Mason singing talents may be the solution to the farm’s financial woes. Is Shelby able to put aside her grievances long enough to work with Mason? And will Mason stay around long enough to come through when he’s needed most?

In the end, is a good dose of hope, a couple of pies, and some Christmas carols enough to save the farm and reunite Shelby and Mason?