I know he probably didn’t, but seeing as Ron Oliver and David S. Cass Sr. have seen some of my reviews of their Hallmark films, I am going to just assume director Kristoffer Tabori read my reviews of Love On The Air and Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery. I say this because he fixed the problems with the way he shot those two films, but still kept some of the style he seems to be going for with his recent Hallmark movies. He still has a fondness for mirrors.
Still doing some framing.
The obstructionist stuff in front of the camera is drastically reduced. I’d say it’s only there when it actually does add something to the shot like these parts.
Thankfully, there was no repeat of the blinded by the light shot from Love On The Air and Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery. The good framing and composition in depth are used sparingly. It’s not something that seems to have been just thrown into every shot like it was before. That alone makes this way better than the previous Murder, She Baked film. I honestly don’t know why Tabori chose to do it this way this time, but I want to thank him for it.
The movie starts off with Hannah (Alison Sweeney) discovering a body in a kitchen after a little film noir voiceover from her. I liked that it chose to open up that way. Then it cuts to a title card telling us: “Two Days Earlier”. This is when the movie reintroduces us to Hannah, the bakery, and the town of Eden Lake. Do I even have to say it anymore? Yes? Okay. And by Eden Lake, they mean Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. I know this because of this shot.
However, kudos to the production crew for knowing this shot of her cellphone would be onscreen for an extended period of time so they simply removed the SIM card.
Of course, the rest of the time it’s just Minnesota license plates where the film is supposed to take place.
A competing bakery has opened up across the street and is run by Melanie and her sister Vanessa both played by actress Michelle Harrison.
I thought the two sisters looked awfully similar to each other while watching it, but I wasn’t sure they were supposed to be twins. I don’t think the film ever says they are twins. I think they had the same actress play both sisters for the convenience of the murder mystery plot. Can’t give away too much, but having the same actress play both sisters makes it easier to swallow the resolution of the mystery. However, it is a little confusing and provides a red herring that I’m not sure they were going for. Melanie is the one who is murdered. Since both sisters are played by the same actress it’s perfectly reasonable for the viewer to think that the one sister killed the other and swapped places with her. Especially since they don’t seem to like each other. Not sure if that was something the filmmakers intended or not. Something tells me they did though because the reason Melanie has her hair up in that shot above like her sister is because Hannah puts it up that way under the guise of protecting it while she bakes.
For reasons that don’t matter, Melanie and Hannah end up in a cook off to see who can bake the best Peach Cobbler. It doesn’t even matter who wins either. All that matters is that Hannah discovers Melanie doesn’t know how to bake because she bought her Peach Cobbler at a store. This is how the film gets Hannah to know Melanie as Hannah tries to teach her how to bake and introduces us to Melanie’s mean sister Vanessa. She’s nasty. Then Melanie dies.
Now here’s something I didn’t notice in the previous film, but it sure was an issue for me this time around. Both this and the previous film have Mike played by Cameron Mathison and Norman played by Gabriel Hogan in them. The problem is that both actors bare a strong resemblance to each other in this movie. I kept confusing the two of them. It really doesn’t affect the movie, but it was part of my experience watching it, so I am passing it on.
With Melanie dead, Hannah, her mom, and her sister, AKA The Blonde Brigade, begin to work towards solving the mystery. Or better put, Hannah works towards solving the mystery while the other two blondes are around playing their roles in the story. One of the episodes of Murder, She Wrote that I remember the most is when Jessica Fletcher was really suspected as the murderer. That happens here to Hannah. Something else that I know everyone who has watched Murder, She Wrote thinks is that if Jessica comes to town, then RUN!!!! When Hannah discovers the body it’s:
And this isn’t all there is. Hallmark is well aware that people know they film a lot of this stuff in Canada. I mean it’s spelled out all over the credits for crying out loud. However, it wasn’t until this film that I actually saw them make a joke about it.
In that scene, she tries to tell Hannah to make a run for it by going to Canada. Of course the in-joke is that they are already in Canada.
There are also some well done computer screens and Tabori reuses the technique of overlaying some of the computer stuff onto the shot like he did in Love On The Air.
It’s nice, modern, and has the effect of showing both what’s important on the screen and the character’s reaction to it in the same shot. That helps to keep us engaged rather than having things broken with every cut from the screen to the character and back again.
I also appreciated the scene near the end where Hannah, then Norman, try to social engineer some information out of some people. For me it harkens back to movies like Sneakers (1992) and WarGames (1983), but since this is a murder mystery. It also made me think of The Rockford Files. Rockford socially engineered people all the time and in some episodes even carried around a little printing press to make fake business cards. It’s no wonder that even Kevin Mitnick mentioned The Rockford Files in his autobiography. She also does some dumpster diving.
So with all that babble out of the way, you are probably wondering if the mystery is any good. I could reasonably follow it which is a good thing. However, a section of it is quite obvious. The fact that the other part may be obscured from you till the end doesn’t change that you think you have figured it out from the start, and you basically have. Nevertheless, this installment has changed my opinion on this particular Hallmark mystery franchise. I could go for another one. Even Alison Sweeney who I felt didn’t pull off playing the good character in the previous films finally seemed to settle into the role. That may just be me or that I’ve seen her play the same role three times now, but her performance worked for me. I’d say give this one a shot, but for all the other things I mentioned aside from how well crafted the mystery itself is.