After a decidedly rough patch, the Hallmark Hall of Fame gets a bit of its mojo back in time for Mother's Day with "In My Dreams," a magical-realist-tinged romance pairing Katharine McPhee (no, she doesn't sing) with "Under the Dome's" Mike Vogel. As is often the case with the brand, the slight premise requires a bit of goodwill to sustain things through to the well-telegraphed ending, but the central duo is so dreamy and the idea so unabashedly romantic it should put those who bother to watch -- a challenge since the franchise landed on ABC -- in a card-buying mood.
It doesn't hurt that McPhee and Vogel look like prototypes for the top of a wedding cake, although writers Teena Booth and Suzette Couture, along with director Kenny Leon, manage to scatter enough hurdles to make them helpfully vulnerable.
Vogel's Nick is a serial one-and-done dater still smarting from a failed relationship, while his mother (a very fun JoBeth Williams) nags him about opening up to someone new. He's also an architect, slaving away under a boss who turns a blind eye to his big ideas. Meanwhile, Natalie (McPhee) has inherited a family restaurant from her late mother, but is resisting the changes necessary to potentially make the business succeed.
A chance non-encounter in the park sees each cast a penny into the same fountain, and the coins (metaphor alert!) land land one on top of the other. In short order, when Nick and Natalie fall asleep, they encounter each other in their dreams, forging a growing bond that has them so starry-eyed that neither ever thinks to somniloquently ask for an address or phone number.
Awake, each principal doubts the other truly exists, and the story keeps bringing them together only to have them tantalizingly miss each other. Natalie's attention also is deflected by her handsome new chef (Antonio Cupo), while Nick's ex (Rachel Skarsten) tumbles back into his life.
Although the story is perhaps more naturally suited to Hallmark's traditional pre-Valentine's Day window, this is one of the more satisfying movies the storied franchise has delivered in some time, after a string characterized by misfires and mediocre ratings that appear to have cast doubts over its broadcast future.
Granted, this simple yarn still doesn't rank with the Hall of Fame's greats, but in terms of Hallmark's reputation for gently plucking at the heartstrings, that's precisely the stuff "Dreams" is made of.
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