Cinema Slueth – Baking Spirits Bright

For all movies released by Lifetime Channel, go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation:  Another holiday movie with a similar plot such as saving family business by the lead actress, but they lost it on the chemistry part. Too bad it wasn’t marketed as a romantic comedy. Not bad for a first watch, but not likeable enough to watch again either.

Baking Spirits Bright is a 2021 Holiday movie by Lifetime channel. It stars Rekha Sharma, Dion Johnstone, Praneet Akilla and Riun Garner in the lead. Directed by Aubrey Arnason, the story was written by Alison Spuck McNeeley and Casie Tabanou. Again produced by a plethora of producers as these movies usually go.

Brady Phillips (portrayed Dion Johnstone) is hired by Varma family to boost their business – Varma Fruitcakes – for holidays. While Mira Varma (portrayed by Rekha Sharma), the oldest daughter, wants to hold on to traditions and keep the heart of the company intact. Little do they know that while they are at odds with their ideas, they find love and also find a way to re-kindle the love for fruitcake, a one time much-gifted American holiday treat.

While browsing channels, I came across this movie a couple weeks ago. What attracted me to the movie was that, a Holiday movie made centering on a family from Indian descent (South Asian). I am born Indian, so the movie touched me. This was the first time I was seeing such a movie. It has its ups and downs like any movie, but it did make me smile a lot.

Rekha Sharma playing the part of the oldest daughter suits to the role. I have seen her in a few episodes of various TV shows here and there and she has potential for sure. Dion Johnstone as Brady Phillips is a bit uptight just like how a ad consultant would be. Individually they are great. However, there was clearly the spark of chemistry missing between them. Lots of comedy between them though.

The movie offered a few more surprises to the viewers. A whole plot revolving around fruitcake, the one treat that America has been lately mocking on, is a brave idea to bring to screen. At least now viewers would appreciate this treat. I have eaten it once or twice, and it is too sweet for my palate, but it was pleasant. I wonder why Americans have forgotten their love for fruitcake.

It was interesting to see several cultural references – from India – in the movie. Smart of the writers to blend in the words from Indian language in the script such as Beti (= daugther); Nani (=maternal grandmother). They also pull in Kerala Christmas Cake coming from one of the states in India, Kerala. Although it would have been called as a Plum Cake in India. And am glad that writers put that tidbit in the dialogue as well. I found quite a few recipes online. If only I was a baker, I would have tried it for sure.

The camaraderie between the Varma family is what we normally see in Indian nuclear families, a concept that has been handed down from joint family system. Surprisingly the family chemistry was spot-on as opposed to the romance chemistry between the lead actors. Although for a change the lead actress does not change as many coats as most heroines of Hallmark or Lifetime holiday movies usually do.

There were a few downsides to the movie too. They could have had more of an Indian accent than an Americanized Indian accent. I was surprised to see a gay romance between Mira Varma’s brother Jay Varma (portrayed by Praneet Akilla) and Finn Webber (portrayed by Riun Garner), Brady’s assistant. But I don’t think Indians have started to accept gay/lesbian concept so freely yet. Did Lifetime just wanted to push that concept to viewers or they might have found a much forward Indian family! Who knows!

I saw a few reviews saying that the lead actor is stuck on the story of Nani and the fruitcake; and that it is repetitive. But isnt that what is common with all these holiday movies. The lead cast holding on to a memory; or repeating a story from past again and again; or trying to relive a romance from past. I disagree with those reviewers.

This movie should have been promoted as a romantic comedy instead of a holiday movie. With all the comedy and timing of dialogue delivery it would have been liked more if the promotion was right. Ironic that ad campaign of the fruitcake was central to the plot, and the filmmakers didn’t market their own film well. 😛

Another holiday movie with a similar plot such as saving family business by the lead actress, but they lost it on the chemistry part. Too bad it wasn’t marketed as a romantic comedy. Not bad for a first watch, but not likeable enough to watch again either.

Spoiler Alerts:

Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

  1. The one aerial shot of the Varma company, their land and houses that we see in the beginning is repeated over and over again all through the film. The could have tried different angles too.

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