Hallmark's 2021 Sister Swap movies are enjoying another day in the sun all because one man dared to plumb the depths of their infinitely confusing connections: Are Sister Swap: Christmas in the City and Sister Swap: A Hometown Holiday a two-part film series, an original and a remake or (shudder) are they the same movie set in parallel universes? These are the questions Emmy-winning Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon posed in a series of paranoid Instagram posts that quickly went viral, prompting responses (and only some answers) from the stars of the Sister Swap films, real-life sisters Kimberly Williams-Paisley (wife to Brad Paisley) and Ashley Williams. Whew. Get your tin foil hats on, folks.
Like all of us, Harmon sat down to watch some Hallmark holiday fare in the days before Christmas and chanced upon the Sister Swap films, mistakenly assuming they were a two-part series, writing on Instagram, "They are not sequels. Both Sister Swaps are the same story, about sisters - played by real life sisters, who have to swap...cities. It should be noted that the sisters AND the cities AND THE MOVIES are, so far, indistinguishable. It's not like one is a hillbilly and the other is a millionaire, that doesn't matter, we don't go to Hallmark for conflict. The crazy thing is that we also don't go to Hallmark for experimentation on this level."
In both of Hallmark's Sister Swap films, Kimberly and Ashley play sisters Jan and Meg, who swap identities during the holidays. Both films were shot in the same locations, with the sisters wearing the same clothing and uttering near-identical lines of dialogue. Both films also share the same director and editor. It's as if the same story is being told from two different points-of-view.
Instagram users jumped in with their own theories, which ran the gamut from director's cut to intergalactic cables and alternate timelines. Then, co-writer Zach Hug entered the chat and chose chaos, replying with: "@danharmon a quick note on this, the task in writing was to make sure the audience didn't have to see them both but were rewarded if they did. Hallmark also got on board with my sister and I writing them together." What?
Thankfully, star Ashley Williams and producer Neal Dodson (who are married) provided some clarification in an interview with The Daily Beast. According to Ashley, "It's easy to [think we] just took the same footage and edited two movies together. That's totally not what happened. We prepped two movies. We wrote two movies. We shot two movies cross-boarded, which means we shot basically by location. And then we edited two movies and released two movies. It's eight scenes that cross over. Other than that, it's two totally different stories."
Turns out it was Ashley and Kimberly's idea to make two intersecting Christmas movies that tell the same overarching story, but different smaller stories. Each film is focused on one sister in particular, so that Christmas in the City shows details about Meg (Ashley Williams) that are not shown in A Hometown Holiday, led by Jan (Kimberly Williams), and vice versa.
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