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Butters on the Hallmark map

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If there is a season of romance, aside from the month of February, it very well could be the Christmas season.


And thanks to the folks at the Hallmark movie channel, their newest movie for the season — “Finding Christmas” — will pull you into a pair of holiday season romances that might be predictable, but still part of a cute, family style story.


And there is a surprise waiting everyone in Bladen County who watches this movie. And since I’m not going to tell you how the movie ends, I’ll share the suprise with you — the movie, at least half of it, is set in the tiny town of Butters.


That’s right, the town out near Bladenboro that boasts of only about 275 residents.


But as the story begins to unfold, it becomes quite appropriate that Butters is a part of “Finding Christmas.” And wouldn’t you know it? The four main characters are all on the back side of a recent romantic disaster.


Three of Butters’ residents are single mom Ryan, played by Tricia Helfer; her son; and her brother Owen, played by J.T. Hodges (a new country music artist with a self-titled CD out on Show Dog-Universal Music). Ryan, who is the local veterinarian, has pretty much given up on dating in this rural community and instead has settled on seeing her son as the most important guy in her life. Owen, meanwhile, who is the local handyman, gets stunning news from a girlfriend he dated for seven years — a relationship that she ended eight months earlier.


About 600 miles away, in New York City, advertising guru Sean, played by Mark Lutz, has a plan to pop the big question to his girlfriend on Christmas Day. But his assistant Mia, played by Cristina Rosato, talks him into doing it at the office Christmas party. And when he does, it all goes wrong.


As only happens in the movies, both Owen and Sean are talked into trying a house swap leading up to Christmas. And as fate would have it, since they are each looking to go someplace far different than where they live, Owen is intrigued by Sean’s New York City apartment and Sean is interested in Owen’s rustic rural home in Butters.


A deal is made and the two men swap their surroundings.


Of course, Sean is immediately taken by Ryan, who is pressed into duty as a handyman when the heat in Owen’s home goes on the fritz. And 600 miles north, Owen is taken with Mia, who offers to be his tourguide should he be interested. Which he is.


What transpires takes both men completely out of their comfort zone.


Sean is introduced to grits and finds out that the excitement in Butters around the holidays are the bingo games, led by Ryan, naturally, and hay rides — and the hay ride looks just a little like a ride through Lu Mil Vineyard’s “Festival of Lights.” Owen, meanwhile, gets in over his head with a New York City model, but gets a chance to jump-start his fantasy of becoming a singer by performing at an open-mic night at a small club (where he really nails a rendition of “Joy to the World”).


As will usually happen in these types of stories, things take a twisting turn for the worse in both New York City and Butters — for predictable reasons.


“Finding Christmas” has plenty of twists and turns, humor and heartbreaking moments. The coolest part might be that it’s set in Butters — and how Butters was selected, I have no idea and nobody at the Hallmark channel will tell me — but the storyline is a nice one that captures the Christmas spirit of romance. For me, Ryan and Owen are the stars of the story — perhaps because I can relate best with their rural backgrounds.


If there is one scene that makes the entire movie worthwhile, for me it would be Owen walking into the burger joint to find Mia, and he breaks into one of the best, most romantic renditions of “Silent Night” that I think I’ve ever heard.


How does it all turn out? Well, you can probably guess. But to be sure, you will need to tune in and watch. And even if you find yourself thinking out loud, “I knew it,” you’ll also realize by the time the credits roll that you thoroughly enjoyed the story.


“Finding Christmas” will air on the Hallmark channel on Sunday, Dec. 15, at 8 p.m.

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