Hallmark’s Three Wise Men and a Baby might be the funniest, most bonkers (in the best way), and most vulnerable holiday film the network has developed. And I’m talking laugh-out-loud, hilariously organic dynamics in the same vein as classic comedies. I said what I said. I’m referring to the classic Three Men and a Baby, even when today’s holiday film stands entirely on its own. Co-written by Paul Campbell and Kimberley Sustad, the film is sharp, clever, and doesn’t miss a beat where the comedy is concerned, which is generally much harder to accomplish when moving a compelling narrative along.
The casting director who decided that heartthrobs Paul Campbell (The Santa Stakeout), Tyler Hynes (An Unexpected Christmas), and Andrew Walker (My Christmas Family Tree), should play brothers deserves some kind of a Christmas award—not sure what, exactly, but something. The film features some of the most sidesplitting subtleties and shines its big heart all the way through. If quoting every line would be considered credible for a review, then that’s the route I’d take here.
Three Wise Men and a Baby isn’t a romance, but it’s still a holiday love story worth every minute (save maybe the epilogue, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there). To give the film its due, first, we’re going to break down each Brenner brother’s arc before we look into their dynamics collectively, followed by how the film looks into second chances stunningly.
Luke Brenner (Walker) is the one who tries to consistently please everyone by showing up, only to resent them (and maybe his actions) later on. He admits to it as well, thankfully, exhibiting that though pieces of him are genuinely selfless, much of his inability to see things to completion is his own doing. As we learn, the house he’s building is physical evidence of his failure to push forward because he’s too busy losing himself along the trenches of carving out pieces of himself to distribute. It’s a fascinating arc that allows the audience to see that characters like him are often scared of what others might think of them, even when they simultaneously shut the world off.
The human complexities the film explores through his do-gooder personality are riving and make him much more agreeable in the end. He had to step up as the oldest when their father left, but young adults don’t often know how to carry the burdens of others while balancing their needs at the same time. Thomas, the baby, and spending more time with his brothers thankfully teach him this, giving the character a chance to be a sibling again as opposed to a father.
Stephan Brenner (Campbell) is the one who hides—the dog therapist who has difficulties connecting with human beings and suffers from severe forms of social anxiety. Like many of us, Stephan places his fears into doing things his way to make the days easier to manage. It’s so easy to wish Three Wise Men and a Baby were longer so we could see a proper display of his condition because it’s not something we often see in television or film. While it’s hard to imagine that a Christmas film could even get the angle across properly, I would hope that with a lot of research, it’s something we could look into with more depth.
As the middle child, there’s also a lot that we can say about how Stephan operates in the shadows and the quiet moments, which continues to layer him further. He wants to move forward, but he also wants to stay put. He wants to be left alone, but at the same time, he wants companionship. What’s in his head translates to his body language and burying himself in tasks to release what they’ve all bottled up.
Taylor Brenner (Hynes), meet Mythic Quest’s Ian Grimm—either the fictional characters will murder each other at the same time or become inseparable best friends with matching friendship rings. Not sure, but it’d be entertaining as heck for viewers. Tyler is the one who blows things up—the one who runs away, sinks lower and lower, and allows his anger to marinate for so long that he doesn’t even realize it’s burned him crisp. But like Luke, Taylor’s complexities make him far more riveting as a character because it’s natural for people to address their abandonment issues internally instead of externally. It’s why his fight is consistently against his brothers, co-workers, and anyone who makes him angry along the road.
Taylor is both the most hilarious character in the film and the most frustrating, but it’s all entirely due to how well he’s developed. Everything about him works, including the haircut and the cardigans. He’s comfortable in his ways, showcasing the detail that he armors himself to protect his heart from getting hurt again. He leaves before people can abandon him.
Now, Three Wise Men and a Baby exists on an incredibly relatable plane. The issues the boys each deal with can be familiar to many viewers, but at the same time, their obliviousness is something many women will note. Women carry crutches in a way no one could imagine until they even try to walk a block in their shoes. (Not many even make it a mile.) In every sense of the word, the film is about empathy—it’s about living with it and choosing to understand it. The thematic importance of empathy begins with the boys’ mother, Barbara (Margaret Colin), and ends with the brothers opening their doors wider.
The film does a fascinating job of showcasing that though the brothers live together, blood is momentarily the only thing that binds them. The plot is simple, their father left them, and a few days before Christmas years later, a baby is left for Luke at his fire station. Their mother wants this Christmas to feel like old times, but when she’s stuck taking care of her sister after she suffers a concussion, the boys must not only take care of the baby on their own but fight to ensure that they give their mother the best break she deserves.
So much of the film succeeds because it’s not trying to be too corny, and the one line we get with the men vocalizing how much they love each other, the admittance of corniness, makes it feel raw and honest. The men feel like brothers. They move as brothers (even in that awkward, gloriously choreographed number). How they reach their conclusions brings forward the right level of vulnerability to make each growth process believable. Because we see them at their worst, it feels earned when we gradually see them at their best.
While the hilarious moments are remarkable, we need to also discuss the sincerity inside the car after Thomas’ health scare. After a fight where they each vocalize their frustrations with each other and go their own way, Stephan calls to say that Thomas is at the hospital because of a spreading rash. While it turns out to be teething, each of the brothers admits to how much the situation scared them, exhibiting that the time they spent with the baby allowed them to grow attached.
Luke apologizes for lashing out and admits to his resentment, then Taylor and Stephan admit to the fact that he’s right, acknowledging their own parts in the drifts their brotherhood fell victim to. And then the way the men cry over their mom in this scene as they acknowledge how fortunate they truly are because she’s the best? Be still my heart. My tear-ducts hurt.
The most impressive detail about this moment is the organic screenplay and the performances carrying the words to life. Campbell, Hynes, and Walker are not only great at matching each other’s sharp timings, but they each do an excellent job of showcasing vulnerability. I was especially floored by how young Hynes looked momentarily as he wiped his tears in the backseat. It was an organic, gorgeously vulnerable moment that we don’t see much of in films like this.
There’s also something to be said about how, where their argument occurs in a spacious home, their reconciliation takes place in a small, dark place. It serves as a stunning metaphor for all the emotions they’ve compartmentalized. Since their father left, a hole was left in each of their hearts, and much like the confinements of a car, the best of them was shoved and stored away there. At this moment, each of their pent-up emotions releases, filling the tight space with the words they’ve needed to say to free themselves from the heartaches they’ve carried. It’s what they’ve needed to replace the hole inside of them with the stitches necessary to move forward and lead with love.
At its core, the film is about learning to be transparent after heartache closes you shut, and it’s where the Three Wise Men and a Baby succeeds almost perfectly. None of these men are equipped to take care of a baby independently, but the partnerships make them ridiculously unbeatable. It’s only a shame that they don’t win the contest, though Mark’s quick redemption isn’t as believable. Let him be the Grinch next door. The nativity scene is also a stunning moment that brings imperfections to life exquisitely, showcasing that where there’s a glimmer of light, the point still gets across beautifully. It’s about the brothers, Susie (Fiona Vroom), Fiona (Ali Liebert), and even little Thomas, all working together to revive the magic of Christmas.
How the men give their mother the best Christmas by allowing their time with the baby to make them better is the sweetest thing. The decorations, the growth, and, most importantly, the transparency all work together seamlessly.
Now, here’s where the film loses me. How Sophie (Nicole Major), Thomas’ mother, enters the picture is slightly off. In no way does Sophie and Luke’s meeting make sense. How am I meant to believe that he thought about her and that night she went into labor a thousand times but didn’t recognize her instantly? Did she go into labor on Halloween? Was she wearing a costume? Or, was Covid a thing—was she wearing a mask? Those are the only scenario in which this makes sense. These details are something the audience should’ve been made aware of.
This plot hole led me to the one-year-later epilogue, which generally is one of my favorite things in the romance genre, but unfortunately felt too rushed here. I would’ve instead (and still hope it happens) taken a Three Wise Men and a Toddler sequel. Sophie has to go on a business trip, adoptive father and uncles take over—when’s this happening? Seriously, I need it. We need to rally for this film.
Ultimately, I needed more to believe in this development between Luke and Sophia, but I’m not faulting the film, considering the superb serotonin boost it provides throughout.
On another note, Taylor and Fiona’s reunion was both sweet and poignant. Though we don’t see the development between them initially, it’s easy to understand where their relationship went wrong and exactly how they can be good together when he grows for the better. Though the film isn’t technically a romance, what we get with their dynamic is enough to allow us to root for them until the very end. You believe in their reconciliation and see the evident sparks throughout their sparring.
Stephan and Susie…are a bit of a predicament. Still, it was easy to appreciate Stephan’s understanding that anxieties don’t magically go away overnight, but sometimes, having someone who understands makes the difficult days more manageable. That’s always one of the best lessons in romance because it allows viewers to see that love doesn’t heal all heartaches—it makes the burdens easier to carry.
Lastly, it’s necessary to note how beautiful it is that the film makes it clear that asking for help is never a weakness but a strength. No one should have to carry anything alone, and extending our hands to those in need is always the right way to go. Barbara choosing to understand where Sophie was coming from in leaving Thomas was a shining showcase of the detail that human beings should often remain judgment-free. It’s what’ll make human connections that much more compelling.
Similar Christmas Film Recommendation: Time for Him to Come Home for Christmas
While it’s generally the romance that keeps that works with Hallmark Christmas films, the humor elevates every moment in Three Wise Men and a Baby, making the added relationships a nice bonus throughout. Now, about that sequel again…