The amazing thing about this new Hallmark Hanukkah TV movie is that it is just like all of the network’s Christmas movies, except that in this movie everybody’s Jewish.
The movie -- premiering Sunday night on the first night of the eight-day Hanukkah holiday -- is about two star-crossed young adults who experience various misunderstandings on the rocky road to love. Will love triumph in the end? Oy vey, I should tell you what happens?
With a title that could have been composed by Mel Brooks or Jackie Mason, “Hanukkah On Rye” is about the rivalry between two Jewish delis -- one multi-generational and long-established, and the other an interloper into the same general area.
This deli duel is supposed to take place on New York’s Lower East Side, but the very first image in the movie shows a street corner café on which a huge sign for the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper is prominently displayed.
So, the movie isn’t perfect (shrug shoulders). Neither is anything else in this world. This you should complain about?
In the Hallmark Christmas movies, cute little cupcake bakeries (or craft shops, or quaint country inns, or homey cafés) run by plucky young women and sometimes men are threatened with extinction.
The baddies are hard-charging young men or women from “the big city” who represent huge, heartless development companies that covet the land and/or locations of these adorable, small-town businesses to build posh resorts and shopping centers -- or just replace these bakeries and cafés with soulless chain restaurants. In the end, love conquers all.
“Hanukkah On Rye” adheres to the same general outline. The young woman in the movie, Molly (played by Yael Grobglas), is being groomed to someday manage the family’s deli.
It is the fictional Gilbert’s, 100 years old and the last traditional deli on the Lower East Side.
As the movie opens, we learn that Gilbert’s is renowned for its latkes. But its egg creams? Not so much.
But before you can say “these latkes are very good, but they used to be better,” the scion of a similar deli dynasty in L.A. arrives in New York with plans to bring his family’s West Coast deli brand, Leven’s, to the Big Apple.
And wouldn’t you know it? This mashugana -- Jacob (Jeremy Jordan, above photo) -- means to locate the New York Leven’s just blocks away from Gilbert’s! Oy gevalt.
Since this is a story about a single Jewish man and single Jewish woman, their parents and grandmothers all want to see them married, but only if the mate they each choose is a nice Jewish girl or boy (respectively).
In “Hanukkah On Rye,” gentle jokes are told, cheeks are pinched and the grandmothers are called “bubbe.”
And before you can sing, “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match,” the two bubbes, unbeknownst to each other, each hire a matchmaker for their grandchildren.
Each matchmaker has the same strategy for their new clients -- each of them will write letters to the other under an assumed name in order to get to know each other better. This you call a strategy? Actual letters? In the mail?
So Molly and Jacob adopt the pen names of Beth and David and exchange letters. Beth and David? Put ’em together and you get Beth David, the name of numerous synagogues all across the U.S.
While the letters from Beth to David and back again seem to warm things up, Molly and Jacob continue to fight their deli war.
Only a Hanukkah miracle can save these two, and since “Hanukkah On Rye” is premiering on the first evening of Hanukkah, it is not exactly going out on a limb to predict that that is exactly what is likely to happen.
So, this movie is predictable (shrug shoulders). You were expecting maybe “Fiddler On The Roof”?
“Hanukkah On Rye” airs Sunday night at 8 Eastern on Hallmark Channel