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Stream It or Skip It: ‘Haul Out the Holly’ on Hallmark, Where Lacey Chabert Takes the Title of Holiday Romcom Queen

Don your gayest apparel, because it’s time for Haul Out the Holly — Hallmark’s annual Lacey Chabert extravaganza. This festive film marks, by my count, Chabert’s 12th Hallmark holiday movie and her 9th consecutive year turning out can’t-miss TV movie classics. Can Haul Out the Holly live up to such an intimidating tradition, or is this the end of a winning streak?


The Gist: Lacey Chabert plays Emily, a freelance copy editor with quite possibly the worst boyfriend (Jake Stormoen) ever seen in a Hallmark movie (he essentially speeds through their breakup so he can get back to his “virtual ogre fighting thing”). With her holiday plans ruined, Emily heads back home to the overwhelmingly festive Evergreen Lane only to find out that her parents (Peter Jacobson, Carrie Morgan) are moving to Florida — and they’re suspiciously going house-hunting right now. Left alone in her childhood home, Emily’s forced to pick up all of the holiday traditions that her parents still perform, the same traditions that made her childhood Christmases all work and no play. Enforcing all those traditions is the new HOA president Jared (Wes Brown), Emily’s childhood pal who’s grown up to… well, look like Wes Brown. He’s incredibly handsome, and that helps his nitpicky-yet-childlike Christmas wonder not seem like an instant turnoff.

How will Emily get through the holidays while at the mercy of this intense homeowner’s association and a cavalcade of kooky neighbors? Will Emily ever get to just relax?

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: If you want to see a real jingle hell that resulted as part of a contrarian madman’s war against an HOA, watch the Apple TV+ doc ‘Twas the Fight Before Christmas. Emily and Jared’s Christmas clash could have been downright traumatizing! Also there’s Deck the Halls and Christmas with the Kranks, but neither of those comedies are as funny as Haul Out the Holly. Seriously.

Haul Out the Holly - Ned
Photo: Hallmark

Performance Worth Watching: Stephen Tobolowsky turns out a brilliant comedic performance as neighborhood weirdo Ned. He asks Emily if she wants to use his chainsaw by asking if she wants to “ride the lightning,” knows way too much about types of coal, and has a closet full of Santa suits for every occasion (including Darth Vader Santa, which he says is very popular).

But the supporting cast is so strong that I can’t stop at Tobolowsky. Melissa Peterman, who I know and love from Reba, scores major laughs as ice queen neighbor Pamela. She’s blunt, meticulous, and cannot stand it when Emily suggests they meet up “around four.” Just listen to Peterman in every scene she’s in, because she — and Tobolowsky — are constantly making hilarious, seemingly improvised choices. They just might be the two funniest performances of the 2022 holiday season (sorry Spirited!).

Haul Out the Holly - Pamela
Photo: Hallmark

Memorable Dialogue: Ned describes the annual snowman tableau event as “an exhibition of frozen humanity followed by a no rules snowball fight.”

A Holiday Tradition: The entire movie is nothing but traditions! There’s the Christmas Carnival, the Christmas tree lighting, a snowman tableau, a Christmas cookie contest, and Jared’s annual white elephant/ugly sweater party (and they actually play the game correctly).

Two Turtle Doves: If you want to see more hometown reunions between estranged friends, you can watch Lifetime’s A Christmas to Treasure (Dec. 16). If you’re more interested in the home-owning angle, you can try Discovery+’s A Christmas Open House.

Does the Title Make Any Sense?: It’s nice to see “We Need a Little Christmas” getting some love, especially the version by gay legend Johnny Mathis. And the town does haul out some holly to help Emily get her home up to the Christmas code. So while this is one of many song-lyrics-as-movie-title movies, it fits.

Haul Out the Holly - Jared and Emily
Photo: Hallmark

Our Take: I didn’t think that we could get another Hallmark movie this year that came close to the highs of Lights, Camera, Christmas and Three Wise Men and a Baby and #Xmas— but I should not have doubted the power of Lacey Chabert. Not only is Haul Out the Holly a quick-witted treat from beginning to end, it’s funny in a completely different way from every other one of Hallmark’s 2022 triumphs. It succeeds not because it messes with the formula or format of a Hallmark movie, but instead it succeeds because it commits to the format so hard — kinda like how Jared approaches HOA rules.

The fascinating thing about Haul Out the Holly is that the premise is old school Hallmark. This is a movie wherein a woman goes back to her small hometown only to have the entire neighborhood, parents included, compel her into moving back home and hooking up with her now hunky childhood friend. The plot itself isn’t fresh in the slightest, and that’s what gives the script and performances the room to really belt out a tune, like Pamela at a holiday party.

Haul Out the Holly is a magical meeting of witty script and capable performers. Everyone in the town has something going on, be it a little girl who always tells the painful truth or an octogenarian (Ellen Travolta) who is down with the slang of today. These aren’t revelatory character traits, but every role is performed with gusto and the script knows how to balance all of these individually ridiculous ideas.

During the interstitials that aired on Hallmark, Lacey Chabert actually says that this is her first romcom for Hallmark, which I guess implies that the previous 11 holiday movies were all straight-up romances. I’m not going to argue genre specifications with Chabert, but I will applaud her “debut” in the romcom genre. She’s clearly having a blast in this, and its her plausible reactions to everything around her that keep the movie from becoming a surreal fiasco. She knows that Jared is weird, but she finds him weirdly charming. And considering that he spends most of his screen time handing out citations for lack of lawn decorations, Wes Brown remains likable throughout — and no amount of rulebook clutching can keep Brown from being incredibly handsome, especially when Jared opens up to Emily about all of his various feelings.

I really can’t say enough good about Haul Out the Holly. Hallmark’s winning streak continues — and this movie essentially crowns Lacey Chabert as their new queen of holiday movies. All is right in the kingdom.

Our Call:  STREAM IT. Long may Lacey Chabert reign.