Love, Lights, Hanukkah: A Shanda For Hallmark

Love, Lights, Hanukkah. Courtesy of Hallmark/Crown Media.

Love, Lights, Hanukkah is another failure of the Hallmark Channel’s trying efforts to incorporate Chanukah into its Xmas movies.

The gist of the film is that a restaurant owner, Christina (Mia Kirshner), takes a DNA test and learns she’s 50% Jewish.  If the filmmakers knew anything about such tests, they would know that the proper phrasing would likely be Ashkenazi or Sephardic.  Instead, they just go with Jewish because let’s face it–Hallmark doesn’t know what they’re doing with Chanukah films and it shows.

Christina has taken over the restaurant following the death of her adopted mother.  After taking a DNA test and finding out the results, she hears from Becky Berman (Advah Soudack) about meeting up.  All we know at this time is that they are somehow related.  Becky invites Christina over for brunch where Ruth (Marilu Henner) realizes it is the daughter she gave up for adoption after finding out she was pregnant at 19 years old.  Becky and Christina have so much in common.  She has taken over running Lenny’s Sports Deli following the death of her father.  Becky has a brother, Scott (David Kaye).  Family friend David Singer (Ben Savage) grew up nearby and is also a food critic.  He gave a negative review to Christina’s restaurant.

Predictably, Christina decides to rush into all of these Jewish traditions while holding onto her own traditions as a Christian-raised woman.  Even if she is halachically Jewish at birth, the film only makes me angrier.  Someone can correct me if I’m wrong but if her adopted mother ever baptized her, it would mean having to undergo the entire conversion process, which is an exhaustive process in and of itself. (A reader did correct me on this: no conversion is necessary.)

Nothing against my friends who are the products of interfaith marriages or are in one themselves but some of us just want a Chanukah film that has nothing to do with the other holidays at this time of year.  Outside of maybe Full Court Miracle and Eight Crazy Nights, they just don’t exist.  Give me a Chanukah film with Rachel Bloom or Seth Rogen!  This isn’t so hard, studio executives.  But of course, Hollywood has a sad history of not having their Jewish actors appear in Jewish roles.  It’s kind of a shame, really, but this–alas–is another story.  While non-Jewish actors still portray Jewish characters or real Jewish lives on screen, I reserve the right to be critical when they can’t capture the mannerisms or look correctly. DO BETTER!

Listen, I would have loved a film about someone meeting her birth mother and not have Xmas thrown into the mix.  This is without a doubt the biggest fault of Love, Lights, Hanukkah.  Why couldn’t her adoptive mother have been Jewish?!?  Mia and Ben Savage are Jewish in real life so I was hopeful about the film when I saw the casting.  Sure enough, Hallmark found a way to screw us over again.  To my knowledge, Marilu Henner is not Jewish and yet Ruth is the most obsessed with Chanukah, calling it her favorite time of year.  If Hallmark did their research, they might have made a film about the fall chagim or Pesach instead.  If you’re going to make a Chanukah movie, maybe gear it more toward Chanukah, less gentile-fying it, and MAYBE NOT CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE OUR RELIGION FOR YOUR BENEFIT.

I can think of a better film that manages to touch on adoption in a positive manner.  The Bruk family of Montana, for instance.  Their story is told in The Rabbi Goes West.  For a limited time, you can currently watch the film through the Gene Siskel Film Center.  This is just one story.  There are Jewish agencies that do focus on Jewish adoptions.

I had low expectations going into the film because I saw the dreck that Hallmark came up with last year.  These are not Chanukah movies and while I keep hoping they get better, Hallmark just doesn’t learn.  It’s just another example of: how to get Jewish people watching holiday movies on Hallmark.  Listen, there are so many potential ideas out there for Chanukah or, you know, THE OTHER JEWISH HOLIDAYS THAT ACTUALLY DO GET MENTIONED IN THE TORAH.  The only reason why Chanukah gets so billed up in December is because people think it’s a major holiday because it falls in December.  No, the major Jewish holidays fall in the month of Tishrei.  Plus, the two spring and summer holidays, Pesach and Shavuot.  Change seasons for the Southern Hemisphere.  And I still haven’t touched on the things they did wrong!

Here’s how billed up Chanukah is: I once had a co-worker ask me why I was working on Chanukah.  They knew I took the days off for the Jewish holidays in the fall (because those are required by the Torah).  I had to explain how Chanukah is a minor holiday where we are allowed to work and use our electronics.  Media that helped to raise up Chanukah in such a level, this is all your fault.  Not to get all Oliver Queen on you but you have failed our religion!  The only reason gift-giving started was so that children wouldn’t feel left out during this time of year!

Let’s talk about wreaths.  Jewish homes do not have wreaths.  These are a Christian custom to celebrate the Advent, which also represents the second coming.  Just so you know, Jews are still waiting for Moshiach to come.  This is an extreme failure in production design and every Jew in the cast had a responsibility to speak up the very moment they saw this.  The moment I saw a wreath on the Jewish home made me so angry that I didn’t even bother to look for a mezzuzah on the door.  Come on!  This is just another example of trying to gentile-fy Jews so that their homes won’t stand out on a street full of homes with Xmas lights.  It’s beyond offensive.  DO BETTER!

Moving onto candle lighting.  Jewish custom for Shabbas and Yom Tov is to light before reciting the blessing. The Chanukah custom is to light AFTER the blessings.  It is not customary to light after the first blessing on night one.  You have to wait until after reciting the third blessing before lighting.  On all other nights, you must wait until after completing the second blessing before lighting.  Whereas this film completely butchers the candle lighting altogether. DO BETTER!

Love, Lights, Hanukkah is another shanda for the Hallmark Channel as they continue to put Xmas into Chanukah.

DIRECTOR:  Mark Jean
CAST:  Mia Kirshner, Ben Savage, and Marilu Henner

Love, Lights, Hanukkah premieres Saturday, December 12  at 8 PM ET/PT on the Hallmark Channel. Grade: 1/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.