The title “Family Plan” sounds a bit like a group insurance option, which is appropriate, since watching this sugarcoated movie is about as much fun as a trip to the dentist. A meet-cute romance whose piano score works overtime to overcompensate for a lightweight premise, Hallmark’s latest original shoots an arrow through the heart of Valentine’s Day, and not in a good way.
Tori Spelling, of course, has a long history of TV movies, so perhaps the thought was that she could carry any vehicle — even one this misdirected and ridiculous. Actually, the only way to salvage the experience would be to transform the pic into a college-style drinking game, taking a belt every time someone mentions the name of Spelling’s character, Charlie.
Employed by a cookie company, Charlie is a driven career woman with scant time for romance, until the business is acquired by a family values type (“Ally McBeal’s” Greg Germann), who makes clear that he thinks a grounded home life is key to business success. So Charlie fakes a family — borrowing a kid from her friend Stacy (Kali Rocha) and hiring an actor, Buck (Jordan Bridges), to masquerade as her husband.
Alas, the one-night charade turns into an ongoing one when the boss decides to buy the house next door, thrusting Charlie and Buck together while caper music constantly plays on the soundtrack. Despite minimal chemistry between them, the two still not-so-slowly start to fall for each other, while Buck’s presence rekindles Stacy’s marriage by making her estranged husband jealous.
Because the deception is so absurd, it’s hard to care when (not whether) Charlie will be exposed. When Charlie inevitably admits that her scheme “spiraled out of control,” she could just as easily be describing the movie.
Similarly, most of the dialogue would come across as sappy and stilted even on a Hallmark card. Spelling can’t do much more than sound shrill, while Bridges (son of Beau) has a more engaging part, albeit a paper-thin one. And seriously, an actor named Buck?
Press notes characterize the movie as a Valentine’s Day treat, but beyond showcasing Spelling in another ritzy ZIP code, it’s doubtful many will be tempted to partake. Indeed, if this is Hallmark’s idea of a holiday gift, next time just send candy.