I have to admit I was scared going into this. Based on the plot summary it sounded like it was going to be Strawberry Summer Retread: A Country Wedding, Part II. Strawberry Summer was the epic disaster that I can’t possibly summarize and A Country Wedding was about 90 minutes of snide, stupid, ignorant, and redneck dialogue that made both of the characters look like hicks. Also, this movie was directed by the man who keeps bringing us Baby Geniuses sequels and directed 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998). So you can imagine my trepidation going into this movie. But how bad could it be? I mean I like Luke Perry. Well, it turned to out to reasonably good. It has it’s problems, but it’s not bad at all.
First things first though. With this movie, and Jesse Stone: Lost In Paradise, Luke Perry is yet another of the Beverly Hills, 90210 crowd to make their way to Hallmark:
James Eckhouse in Second Chances
Jason Priestley in Expecting A Miracle
Jennie Garth in The Last Cowboy
Shannon Doherty in Growing The Big One
Tori Spelling in Family Plan
Those are just the ones I have reviewed. However, I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen Gabrielle Carteris, Joe E. Tata, Carol Potter, or Brian Austin Green yet. Ian Ziering is busy fighting sharks. And yes, I am aware that Tiffani Thiessen was in Northpole, but I haven’t seen it so it doesn’t count. Same goes for those other Luke Perry Hallmark movies as well.
But back to this movie. It opens up with Luke in front of a green screen, then we get the title card, before it cuts back to this.
I know his character’s name is Avery Ford, but I don’t care. He is Dylan McKay to me now and always. So Dylan here is an aging star of westerns called Aim To Please. And look! They were made by the same people who worked on this film.
Notice that includes Luke Perry himself as a producer. Dylan isn’t a happy man. He doesn’t like hocking beans. Now we meet Heather (Emmanuelle Vaugier) and her father Casey (Tom Butler).
Turns out Casey is a fan of Dylan’s work as a western star. Also, it turns out the hotel/ranch is in Montana. And by Montana, they mean Agassiz, British Columbia, Canada. Well, at least for these shots.
I have to assume the main set is also in the area, but I couldn’t pin it down. They also do a reasonably good job with the license plates too. I think all the major cars in the movie have Montana plates on them.
So, how is Dylan going to end up in the country you ask? Nearly the same way as in Strawberry Summer. The hotel is in trouble and she figures since her father is a bit of a celebrity cowboy it might be mutually beneficial for her and Dylan if he pays a PR visit. But unlike Strawberry Summer, the first words out of Dylan’s mouth are that she could be a crazy person like Kathy Bates in Misery.
I don’t care that he goes anyways. I am just grateful this movie acknowledged that fact. Strawberry Summer just glosses over that she is an obsessed fan who uses her personal connections to lure a celebrity to her small town because she believes she can fix him. Thank you Luke Perry, Tippi Dobrofsky, and Neal Dobrofsky for writing that into this film.
After landing, Dylan buys some boots because you know, he’s just an actor, not a real cowboy. That’s where a problem with this film is. Also, it’s a little wishy washy about it. She kind of acts like the girl in A Country Wedding even commenting on his obviously new and not really his boots. In her case though, it’s not that she’s being a jackass and more that for some reason she doesn’t know what acting is. If Anthony Hopkins had shown up in town, then would she have been expecting him to be a cannibal? The wishy washy part is that basically nobody else thinks that way. Certainly not the father who makes it very clear he knew he wasn’t a real cowboy. He’s an actor who plays one in movies. Movies that happen to make him happy when he watches them.
Well, they go through the standard city slicker in the country bit. Yes, that includes this nonsense.
But what’s nice is that this tapers off within the first 30 minutes or so of the movie. The rest of the time is Dylan, Heather, and Casey just getting to know each other and themselves better. Dylan already knew he wasn’t super happy with where he was in his life, but it won’t mean that he just up and stops acting. That’s one of the really nice things about this movie. He finishes the film with a much more moderate and realistic response to his time with Heather and Casey. Heather gets to know Dylan and generally begins to appreciate what her father sees in him. Up till then she didn’t watch his movies. They don’t take that as far as I would have liked, but it’s quite implied that she understands his acting has brought her dad happiness. As for the dad, it’s a win win situation for him. He gets to hang out with his favorite actor and his daughter is happy as she grows closer to Dylan. At least as close as most Hallmark romances do before just having them end up together.
There is a little subplot with a guy who wants to do something by buying her place, but I really don’t know why they even bothered with it. It barely comes into play.
However, there are two things to notice in this movie.
In that scene the guy who wants to buy up the place shows up to harass Heather. Luke Perry goes right into classic Dylan McKay for that moment. You know, those scenes when he would walk right over and tell someone to back off if they were bothering one of his friends. It’s suddenly Beverly Hills, 90210 for that moment and she might as well be Kelly.
The other thing.
That is Matt Frewer as the local doctor, and that scene is a major missed opportunity. Do you see it? Let me change the line: Name is Marion, but people call me Max. Boom! A John Wayne reference, which was done that way in One Starry Christmas, plus a reference to Matt Frewer as Max Headroom. Too bad.
Ultimately what do you have with Love in Paradise? You have Strawberry Summer and A Country Wedding put into a blender and mixed by screenwriters who knew what they were doing. It works. There are cliches they could have left out, and moments they could have shot for something more meaningful, but it’s Hallmark. I will gladly praise the ones that really rise above, but I’m not going to come down on this one hard for it’s flaws. I recommend it.