Rebecca Dalton, renowned for her role in “Good Witch,” embodies the character of Charlotte, a burgeoning luxury fashion designer who owns a boutique in the bustling heart of New York City. Despite her significant presence across the five boroughs, an employed staff, and a thriving online store, Charlotte’s world is not as prosperous as it appears. Wrestling with designer’s block and contending with a leaking ceiling, her situation takes a distressing turn when she receives news from home—the beloved Elfcapades are being discontinued.
To complicate matters further, her employee Margo (portrayed by Adriana Vasquez) unexpectedly enters her into the Warwick Christmas Design Challenge. The challenge demands the creation of male and female holiday-inspired looks with a family-friendly touch for the Christmas Eve runway show, offering the tantalizing opportunity to design for a major department store in NYC.
Seeking inspiration for designs aligned with Warwick’s family store, Charlotte returns to her Connecticut hometown. Here, she confronts not only the end of Elfcapades but also her mother’s new partner Rick (played by Tim Progosh), a disapproving family, and an ex-fiancé who now holds the position of mayor. Fate intervenes when she crosses paths with Spencer (Jonathan Keltz), the town’s mechanic and most eligible bachelor.
While initial clashes mark Charlotte and Spencer’s interactions, their relationship undergoes a transformation as Spencer introduces small-town charm into her designs, and Charlotte navigates the attention of local women. As the narrative unfolds, the predictable trajectory characteristic of Hallmark movies takes shape, with the enchantment of Christmas guiding the storyline.
The small Connecticut town annually revels in Elfcapades, a 12-day holiday extravaganza featuring events such as The Night Market and the Pajamboree, where everyone dons pajamas. The absence of actual elves in these festivities remains a Christmas mystery.
Staying true to the typical Hallmark formula, the film introduces the Warwick Christmas Design Challenge, resembling a mini Project Runway challenge that culminates in a Christmas Eve runway show. Despite the familiarity of this pattern, “Christmas by Design” falls short in injecting uniqueness and quirkiness into the narrative. The change in title from “Jingle Jammies” reflects the film’s larger issue—opting for the familiar over the daring.
While following the well-established Hallmark path, “Christmas by Design” lacks the depth, heart, and originality found in other 2023 releases like “Checkin’ It Twice.” The film misses opportunities to delve into character arcs, explore relationships, and introduce unexpected twists. Questions arise, such as what if Charlotte brought her assistant home or if Spencer played a larger role as a buffer against the town’s eager ladies. The absence of makeovers in a fashion-centric holiday romance further accentuates the film’s conformity. These minor adjustments could elevate a formulaic Hallmark romance, but regrettably, “Christmas by Design” blends in with the multitude of holiday movies, lacking the boldness to stand out.