Film Review: 'Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding'
Wedding dilemmas and delightful fun abound in this thoroughly spectacular Christmas sequel.
Jacquie Liddle (Kelly Rowland) can hardly believe how much her life has changed since last Christmas. Her romance with Tyler Brooks (Thomas Cadrot) began when they met and bonded during Jacquie's disaster-ridden time hosting her family for Christmas--and now, they're on the verge of getting married. With her dream wedding being planned out exquisitely and her family arriving at the resort where it's taking place, Jacquie thinks her Christmas Eve wedding is going to go off without a hitch.
But after a squabble between Kiara (Bresha Webb) and wedding planner Garrett (Dean Marshall) leads to the latter quitting and taking all his work with him, Jacquie is at a loss. Her and Tyler's families, however, decide that nothing will stop this destination wedding--even if they have to plan it themselves! But on top of all the wedding preparations, other problems crop up that threaten to put a stop to the Christmas nuptials. Will Jacquie get the fairytale wedding she's been longing for?
Being Lifetime's first Christmas movie sequel, Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding had some big shoes to fill. 2019's Merry Liddle Christmas was a lighthearted and fun family comedy with an excellent cast playing lovably goofy characters. But not only does Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding maintain that feeling of yuletide cheer (despite the change in director), Sharon Lewis and writer Andrea Stevens are able to correct the flaws with the original and improve on what made Merry Liddle Christmas so great.
Starting with the corrected flaws, Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding avoids falling into any of the slow spells that plagued the first movie's last act. This may owe to the fact that, unlike Merry Liddle Christmas, there's more consistent action when it comes to conflict. While the previous film had the overarching conflict of Jacquie's need to host a perfect Christmas to land a job opportunity, it only came to a head near the third act and was quickly resolved. By the first commercial break for Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding, however, Jacquie and Tyler's dream wedding is in serious danger and both families are scrambling to put the ceremony back together themselves. And while all that's going on, some other smaller subplots are unfolding in the background--all of which are fun or engaging in some way. Stevens' script allows all these threads to get equal attention, with the final act lacking Merry Liddle Christmas's bloatedness.
WARNING: Spoilers Below
Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding also deserves some credit for two other things it does story-wise: how it wraps up Jacquie's character journey and how it handles a Third-Act Misunderstanding-type scenario without making it frustrating. After the first movie made a point of showing Jacquie the downside to her relentless perfectionism, it's nice how the sequel has Jacquie come to fully realize the trouble it can cause and make an effort to tone it down. And because she does, she not only connects with Coco and Josh and strengthens her relationship with Tyler, but still gets the Christmas wedding she wanted--albeit not the perfect one she had in mind. It's a nice wrap-up to Jacquie's character growth over both movies.
As for the Third-Act Misunderstanding (or in this case, Second-Act Misunderstanding), it's handled much better because of how in-character Jacquie and Tyler act during it. Jacquie's perfectionist attitude makes it believable that she'd see her crumbling wedding plans as a "bad sign" for the future, and Tyler's justifiably upset reaction to hearing Jacquie express doubts about their relationship doesn't cross the line into unsympathetic cruelty. Instead, after taking some time to cool down, Tyler returns and he and Jacquie share an honest conversation that affirms their faith in their marriage and their love for each other. Hallmark writers should follow Stevens' example when employing this easy-to-mangle trope.
With most of the Merry Liddle Christmas cast returning, the sequel's acting is as charming as its predecessor's. As I predicted, Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding puts a greater focus on Jacquie and Tyler's relationship, allowing Kelly Rowland and Thomas Cadrot all the time they need to build on their chemistry and fully sell the whirlwind romance. The rest of the Liddle family cast is as stellar as they were a year ago, with Chris Shields getting a little more room to play with as goofy but loving father Wade. The new cast is able to keep up with the returning players, with the best of the bunch being Cadrot's fellow My Best Friend's Bouquet co-star Nathan Witte. Ironically playing Tyler's best friend Chris, Witte is effortlessly charismatic as he and Kiara share their own romantic subplot. Witte and Bresha Webb play well off each other in their dynamic as two people awkwardly navigating their feelings for each other, fearful of taking another chance at love.
Bobby Stewart and Lossen Chambers align neatly with Shields and Debbi Morgan as Tyler's parents Calvin and Candis, with Stewart sharing a very heartfelt father-son scene with Cadrot. Dean Marshall brings all the hysterical shade in his brief time as wedding planner diva Garrett, and Adil Zaidi (another My Best Friend's Bouquet alum) has some fun/sweet moments as quirky receptionist Melvin. This time around, the child characters--consisting of Ava and Tyler's children Coco and Josh--are completely free of any aggravating moments. Thalia Campbell's performance has improved, and both Nakai Takawira and Aiden Stoxx are adorably likable as Jacquie's soon-to-be stepchildren. Takawira's best scene is when Coco and Jacquie begin bonding over wedding dress buttons and makeup, with Takawira and Rowland striking heartfelt chemistry as the pair open up to each other for the first time.
As the first-ever Lifetime Christmas sequel, Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding does exactly what any great sequel should do: build onto the world and characters the first film created and fix whatever problems the original movie had. Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding replaces the first movie's overly drawn-out final act with a more consistent plot structure. The various subplots are interesting and allow everyone some time to shine, and there's plenty of fun scenes to put a smile on your face. The Liddle sisters' sultry rendition of Santa Baby (and their respective love interests' reactions to it) is the crown jewel of such scenes. And with a cast where the newcomers are just as appealing as the returning favorites, Stevens' well-written story has steady hands to carry it across the threshold. If you enjoyed Merry Liddle Christmas, I can just about guarantee you'll fall in love with the sequel.
Score: 10 out of 10 Santa Claus waffles.