“You Didn’t Talk to Him, Did You?” “No! Of Course, Not. I Might Have Talked to His Wife.”
I’ve often started that the Murder, She Baked movies were my gateway drug to the Hallmark mystery movies. I started watching them because I’ve been a longtime fan of the Hannah Swensen book series they are very loosely based on. I was disappointed when the movies stopped four years ago and the actors went on to other things, so when I heard that Sweet Revenge was in production for the newly retitled Hannah Swensen Mysteries, I was excited.
While it’s been several years for us, it’s only been six months for the characters. Hannah Swensen (Allison Sweeney) and Mike Kingston (Cameron Mathison) haven’t set a date or done much else toward planning their wedding, much to Hannah’s mother’s dismay. Delores (Barbara Nivens) wants to start planning the day to be the social event she wants it to be.
But all that gets pushed aside when an early morning trip to the gym leads Hannah to discover the dead body of Ronni Ward, the new fitness instructor at the Heavenly Bodies fitness club Hannah has joined. Since Hannah found the body, she can’t help but get involved. Will she figure out what happened?
I have thoughts. Lots of thoughts. Honestly, I’m not completely sure where to start.
This movie is very loosely based on the book Cream Puff Murder. I say loosely based since it takes out most of Mike’s connection to the victim, having Ronni just be a neighbor instead of an ex-girlfriend. Honestly, it’s been so long since I read the book that I couldn’t tell you who did it in the novel or how the story unfolded.
Having said that, I did enjoy the mystery. It followed a logical progression including some nice red herrings and detours on the way to the climax. It could have been a little stronger overall, but this is a minor complaint.
It’s the characters where I have more of an issue.
From what I’d seen, I knew that Hannah’s sister Andrea, who had been played by Lisa Durupt in the earlier movies, wasn’t going to be in this movie. They wrote her out with a couple of sentence explanation fairly early in the movie. That left room in the cast for Hannah’s other sister, Michelle, as played by Tess Atkins, to show up. Since I love Michelle in the books, I was happy about this.
That is until we actually saw Michelle. This is not the Michelle I love from the books; she’s a bit of a brat here. I was disappointed with her portrayal and her scenes in general.
Then there’s Delores. It’s been years since I watch the original movies, so I couldn’t tell you if this is how Delores acted in those films, but she was so overbearing here it was painful. Granted, she was overbearing in the early books in the series, but she’s softened as the books have gone on. Maybe I’m just used to that version of Delores now. A sub-plot of the film, taken from the book, is a launch party for Delores’s debut novel – a Regency romance. I saw where that storyline was going very early, and I was cringing the entire time. It was supposed to get a laugh, but it wasn’t funny. It was so painful, and I had to give Hannah props for not blowing up and yelling at her mother. She had every right to.
Not that all the character interactions were bad. Allison Sweeney and Cameron Mathison have excellent chemistry. While I did find their characters’ engagement rather abrupt at the end of the last movie, they really sold their relationship here.
Fans of the book series know that it is infamous for the ongoing love triangle between Hannah, Mike, and Norman (Gabriel Hogan). (Trust me, don’t ask us about that.) Obviously, the movies have resolved that, but Norman was still a character in this movie. I loved his sub-plot and scenes. While I am Team Norman in the books, I’m Team Mike in the movies. Anyway, it was nice to see Norman’s character still a part of the story and still part of the Hannah’s life. Heck, I think he got more screen time here than he did in some of the earlier movies.
All of these notes on the characters have nothing to do with the actors. They all do a good job of bringing their characters to life based on the script.
I find all this comparison funny since, as I watched the earlier movies, I was able to separate the book characters from the movie characters. I said over and over when they were airing that I viewed them as an alternative universe Hannah, and I enjoyed them as a result. So why I am nitpicking this movie based on the books so much, I’m not sure. I guess it just felt off compared to how I remember the earlier movies.
Maybe I was expecting too much from Sweet Revenge, or maybe too much time has passed to recapture the magic of the earlier movies. While I would love to revisit the characters in a future movie, I hope next time, it feels more like the original movies.