REVIEW: The Hallmark Sequel "Haul Out the Holly: Lit Up" Is as Silly as the First One

Emily and Jared are looking forward to celebrating the holidays together as a couple, and they prepare to work with their neighbors on Evergreen Lane to make this year's Christmas celebrations the best yet.  When a house on the block goes up for sale, the soon-to-be-neighbors are holiday royalty, but they are so competitive that they nearly ruin Christmas for everyone. Starring:   Lacey Chabert, Wes Brown, Stephen Tobolowsky, Ellen Travolta, Melissa Peterman, Seth Morris, and Jennifer Aspen Image:  Hallmark Media Haul Out the Holly:  Lit Up Has a Moral When the residents of Evergreen Lane learn that their new neighbors are the Jolly Johnsons--famous holiday reality stars--they are thrilled to welcome them to the block.  Everyone assumes the Johnsons will fit right in since they share their same affinity for elf culture. Emily, Jared, and the rest of the holiday crew quickly realize that the Johnsons aren't interested in joining in on the fun--they plan to take over. Image:  Tw

Did MacFarlane & Patterson Really Play Their Instruments in "Chateau Christmas?" Find Out!

Starring:  Merritt Patterson and Luke MacFarlane

Released:  2020

Summary:  A world-renowned pianist returns to Chateau Newhaus to spend the holidays with her family and try to find her passion for music again.

Chateau Christmas.  Image:  Crown Media

Luke MacFarlane Is Julliard-Trained

Julliard, located in New York City, is the world leader in training students in the performing arts--dance, drama, and music.  Luke MacFarlane's dad was a cellist, which inspired MacFarlane to start playing the cello by the time he was four years old.  He set his sights on attending Julliard, and he graduated from the prestigious institution in 2003, afterwards finding success off-Broadway, then on Broadway, and eventually on screen.

The script for Chateau Christmas originally cast MacFarlane playing the violin, but when he asked the writers to change his instrument to the cello, they quickly made the adjustment. 

Luke MacFarlane really does play the cello.


While in quarantine before filming, MacFarlane wowed the cast and crew by sharing his musical talent. He appears so adept and natural in handling the cello in the movie because he's really a pro!  

The movie's trio ensemble--Sam, Sarah, and Len--are not musicians and had to learn to fake it.

Faking an instrument is much harder than it looks.

Did Merritt Patterson play the piano in Chateau Christmas?  It sure looks like she did, but Karen Allred is actually the pianist who wrote and recorded the Christmas compositions for the movie.  

How did Patterson look so convincing and skilled at playing?  She's a fabulous actress! With a doctorate in music, Allred served as Patterson's hand double.  Patterson kept a keyboard with her throughout production, and she had several Zoom meetings with Allred, who taught her snippets of the songs.  Patterson studied video recordings of Allred playing the songs, which modeled how to assume the correct posture, body language, and technique so her hands would appear on the keys where they needed to be for each song.  Patterson's grandmother was a pianist, which is one reason why she was intrigued by the story.   

First Time MacFarlane and Patterson Met

Sometimes we viewers and fans assume all our favorite Hallmark actors and actresses know each other, since Hallmark seems like one big, happy family.  MacFarlane and Patterson had never met, however, until on the set of Chateau Christmas.  

MacFarlane was totally impressed by Patterson's professionalism, and she was flabbergasted by his musical talent.

In an interview for the Sarah Scoop Show, MacFarlane said this about Patterson, "She takes her work seriously.  She's just so good. I also laughed a ton with her.  She's great.  It was a total pleasure to work with her.  I hope to do it again."  MacFarlane also revealed they've stayed in touch since filming.  Because he's a carpenter and she's trying to buy a new house, she texts him for advice.

Patterson shared her thoughts on MacFarlane in an interview on Home & Family, "He's so incredibly talented! He was amazing!  He would practice in his trailer, and I would just sit outside listening because he was incredible. Incredible."

Merritt Patterson and Luke MacFarlane have wonderful chemistry in Chateau Christmas.

Maybe this mutual admiration helped build the fantastic chemistry they share on the set as Margot Hammond and Jackson Lewis.  Their "attraction" appears very natural.

It's clear early on in the movie that neither of them had ever gotten over the other.  Life choices may have separated them, but the love remained.  

Despite their believable connection, the kiss is a tad disappointing in the end.  They have a second chance at love and rediscover each other.  This time, it's going to work, so you would expect the parting kiss to blow viewers away.  It didn't.  Even though it is a very short kiss, it's still a sweet one.  MacFarlane always exudes tenderness in his roles as a leading Hallmark man.

Evelyn March and How Constructive Criticism Helps Us Grow

Another relatable aspect of Chateau Christmas is Margot's reaction to the negative review she receives on her performance by critic, Evelyn March.

No matter how successful, admired, and accomplished Margot is, she allows March's comments to unnerve and shake her.  

Don't we all do that?  We can receive regular compliments on our appearance, job performance, and character or overwhelming agreement on our social media posts, but one snarky comment launched our direction can throw us for a loop.  Self-esteem can be fragile.  Why do we disregard and throw affirming remarks aside to allow one unkind word to dominate our thoughts?

If we will admit when constructive criticism is spot on, we can respond by making changes for the better. But, if we determine our critics are just mean, negative people, we can dismiss them and shake off their barbs.

Moms always know what to say!

Margot's mom offers her these words of wisdom, "Obstacles are put in our way for a reason--to help us grow."  

Despite the sting of March's review where she says Margot's performance lacks "musicality," or heart, Margot realizes it's the truth.  She has lost her passion and is going through the motions.  It helps her shift gears, select different songs for personal reasons (like her choice to play O, Holy Night and dedicate it to her father), and bring the passion back into her playing.  

What a gorgeous red dress!  The lovely Merritt Patterson really appears to be playing like a professional pianist.  
Image:  Crown Media

March attends the concert at the Chateau and praises Margot for her performance.  Margot didn't just entertain people--she moved them.  March also explains the most talented musicians need honesty to push them to live up to their full potentials, which is why she's sometimes hard on them in her reviews.  No one can be a villain for long in a Hallmark movie, so we forgive her!

Where There's a Will, There's a Way

Despite Margot having a concert tour to finish and Jackson being promoted to the chair of the college music department, the two realize they can follow their dreams AND still create a life together.  The end.

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Cast of Chateau Christmas.  Image:  Crown Media

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  1. I felt Merritt Patterson' s piano playing was very believable!

  2. One of my favorite movies!

  3. Luke is one of my favorite actors for Hallmark. My favorite is A Valentine's Match.

  4. Why or why does Hallmark put all the female actresses in their closing scenes, in "bright red lipstick"! It has become a staple with all the Christmas movies and I find it so distracting and unrealistic. On the occasion when they do have a more natural look, if is so much more believable.


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