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Reindeer Games Homecoming Review – The New Movie Is Romantic and Sweet

Sarah Drew and Justin Bruening from "Grey’s Anatomy" star in this adorable Lifetime Christmas movie.


Reindeer Games Homecoming promotional image

Reindeer Games Homecoming is a new Lifetime Christmas Movie and one of my favorites of the year. It’s a sweet romantic dramedy reuniting former Grey’s Anatomy co-stars Sarah Drew and Justin Bruening with a heartfelt script from Sarah Drew.

So, if you’re looking for an uplifting romantic Christmas film with swoony romantic moments, fantastic chemistry between the leads, and an authentic story, look no further than Reindeer Games Homecoming.


MacKenzie Graves (Sarah Drew, Grey’s Anatomy, Amber Brown) is a brilliant, competitive, crossword-puzzle-loving biology teacher in Vermont who recently lost her father, beloved fire chief and the heart of the town’s holiday fundraising tradition “The Reindeer Games.”

Every year since his death, she competes with her dad’s former team, a group of colorful retired firefighters, to win the Games and keep his tradition alive.

This holiday however, her world is rocked when fading Hollywood star, and Mac’s high school crush, Chase Weston (Justin Bruening, Grey’s Anatomy, Sweet Magnolias), comes home for Christmas to visit his pregnant sister and nephew and is begrudgingly roped into participating in the Games.

When the opportunity to compete against her former megacrush arises, Mac is determined to show him up and win the Kris Kringle Cup at all costs.

As the competition heats up, so does the spark between Mac and Chase, and Chase soon finds himself eager to not only win the games, but also to win her heart as well.

Reindeer Games Homecoming was directed by Brian Herzlinger and produced by Johnson Production Group for Off Camera Entertainment. The executive producers include Sarah Drew, Stephanie Slack, Margret Huddleston, and Tim Johnson.


Sarah Drew Plays MacKenzie Graves

Sarah Drew – known to fans from popular shows like Grey’s Anatomy (as Dr. April Kepner) and Everwood – writes and stars in the new Christmas movie.

She plays MacKenzie Graves, a biology teacher (and former medical resident) still mourning her father’s loss.

In high school, she had a huge crush on Chase Weston, one of the most popular guys in school, but nothing developed further than a kiss.

Her old feelings for him return when he returns (now a famous movie star).

Justin Bruening Plays Chase Weston

Justin Bruening – known for roles in Grey’s Anatomy (as paramedic Matthew Taylor) and Sweet Magnolias – plays the part of the handsome leading man/movie star.

When he returns to his hometown to visit his pregnant sister, he reconnects with Mackenzie, reigniting old feelings for his former classmate. Along the way, he also learns more about what’s important in life.

Brian Sills as Simon Cook

The other primary cast member is Brian Sills as Simon Cook, MacKenzie’s friend and coworker at the high school. Brian Sills is mainly known for his roles in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and other holiday films.

Other Cast Members

The rest of the cast includes Ava Cheung, Vanessa Burns, Dorian Giordano, Shannon McDonough, and Richard Patrick Tolton II.


Sarah Drew and Justin Bruening
Credit: Courtesy of Lifetime

The Appeal of the Romantic Christmas Movie Genre

When I watch romantic Christmas movies, I’m not usually expecting anything revolutionary, thought-provoking, or award-worthy (although I’m open to that possibility!).

However, I expect a good script, good actors, and a professional filmmaking style. And I appreciate authenticity with characterization rather than overly trite, overused stereotypes – particularly relating to female characters.

Cliches are fine, but do the characters feel like real, relatable people? I want a fairy tale, but a fairy tale told well and in an entertaining fashion.

Ultimately, I see the romantic Christmas movie genre (arguably a newer genre) as a media extension of wholesome romance novels made for the screen – happily ever after, familiar plot points, swoony romantic moments, likable characters, and more.

I want to feel nostalgic and warm inside when I watch the film. I’m looking for an entertaining escape.

Reindeer Games Homecoming – Is it Successful?

Well, thankfully, Reindeer Games Homecoming checks off all the boxes. Watching this Lifetime film is like drinking a cup of hot cocoa, leaving you with a warm, cozy feeling afterward.

The story is fun, the romantic chemistry between Drew and Bruening is natural and believable, and the romance is emotionally authentic. I believed these were two people falling in love – and it didn’t feel contrived.

Sure, is it sentimental and sweet? Yes. But in the best ways possible.

Besides the romance, I also appreciated the characterization of MacKenzie and Chase. Each had room for growth – and each had personal difficulties to overcome.

Overall Thoughts

Reindeer Games Homecoming poster

Overall, if you go in expecting an Emmy-worthy TV movie or dislike romance, this is not the Christmas film for you! But if you love Hallmark Channel and Lifetime Christmas movies – and want to watch one of the better ones this year, you can’t go wrong with Reindeer Games Homecoming.

It’s not a perfect film, but the movie accomplishes what it set out to do, making this a success for me. It’s not a Nora Ephron romantic comedy, but it’s not trying to be.

From the humor to the professional filmmaking quality to the adorable Christmassy Vermont setting (with the fabulous idea of yearly competitive Reindeer Games – honestly, more towns should do this in real life) to the acting and fun script – I was all in from start to finish.

And the ending? Without giving away spoilers, all I can say is that all the romantics will love it! Swoon.


This clip gives a good idea of the chemistry between the actors and the sweet love story presented!


Check for repeat airings on Lifetime. You can also watch it for free on the Lifetime website or rent/buy the movie digitally (Amazon and Vudu).

Content Note: TV-PG.

Did you watch Reindeer Games Homecoming? Let us know what you think of the new romantic Christmas film in the comments below.

Featured image credit: Lifetime

Four corsets rating
Five Vintage Hearts Rating

Reindeer Games Homecoming Review – The New Movie Is Romantic and Sweet; pinterest image


By on December 14th, 2022

About Amber Topping

Amber works as a writer and digital publisher full-time and fell in love with stories and imagination at an early age. She has a Humanities and Film Degree from BYU, co-created The Silver Petticoat Review, contributed as a writer to various magazines, and has an MS in Publishing from Pace University, where she received the Publishing Award of Excellence and wrote her thesis on transmedia, Jane Austen, and the romance genre. Her ultimate dreams are publishing books, writing and producing movies, traveling around the world, and forming a creative village of talented storytellers trying to change the world through art.

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