Friday, December 22, 2006


Each year at this time I watch at least one made-for-TV Christmas movie (usually on a cable channel like Lifetime or ABC Family) which stars a blandly handsome leading man (and they all do, which leaves me a big choice). This year's pickings, though plentiful, felt slim in terms of theme: they all were romances. I realize that holiday romance stories are nothing new, but most of the classic Christmas movies (WONDERFUL LIFE, CHRISTMAS CAROL, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, THE BISHOP'S WIFE, etc.) put romance on a back burner or make the romance just one element of a larger, more general "miraculous" redemption. Until recently, even the TV movies were often versions of these stories, but now they all seem to be average love stories set almost at random during the Christmas holidays. This one in particular, despite the presence of a climactic snowstorm, really has almost nothing to do thematically with Christmas. Our couple consists of Eric Mabius, a mellow advertising guy who yearns to be a serious (as in magazine features) writer, and Sarah Paulson, a driven real estate agent. They meet cute while skating on Christmas Day; he proposes to her a year later and they set their wedding for next Christmas. At Thanksgiving, Paulson's boss (Dean Cain) calls her away on an extended trip to sell a major resort to some Japanese investors, but she's confident that all the plans are in place and she'll be back in plenty of time for the wedding. Of course, as soon as she leaves, things start falling apart (the organist cancels, the reception hall can't accommodate them), leaving a frazzled Mabius to pull things together. Cain talks Paulson into staying a few extra days by promising her a vice-presidency, and when she finally does get headed home, a couple of storms snarl her travel plans; as the hour of the wedding nears, she is stranded several miles from the church, so things look grim, but since this is a Lifetime movie, there's a happy if implausible ending (hint: pay close attention to the throwaway line early in the movie about a group of Vietnam vets that Mabius is writing about). I like Paulson on "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," but she's nothing special here, and Mabius is on the low end of the "blandly handsome" continuum. Cain almost saves the show with his high-powered shtick. At first, I was glad that the writers resisted the urge to have Cain become a romantic rival, but later I wishing they would have done anything to give him more screen time. No one in the supporting cast registers, due more to weak writing than to their performances. The plot is contrived and the weather disaster scenes (involving both rain and snow) are poorly done. I hope this is the only piece of coal I get for Christmas this year. [Lifetime]

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