Monday, November 19, 2012


Every year, I review at least one made-for-cable Christmas movie, and after a couple of years of slim pickings, there seem, thanks to the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and ABC Family, to be more holiday movies than ever. As usual they fall into one of two categories: fluffy romance or heart-tugging melodrama. This one, a fluffy romance, is a little different—instead of a Christmas romance, it’s a Thanksgiving romance, a variation on MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET—and there’s even a direct reference to the earlier movie, though there are enough Christmas trimmings here to make this appropriate viewing right up through December 25th. Emily (Autumn Reeser) is in charge of Chicago’s traditional Thanksgiving parade—think Macy’s but on State Street in downtown Chicago. This year, she’s worried when Henry, a rather aloof consultant (Antonio Cupo), arrives to potentially overhaul the parade and, in her eyes, ruin it or even halt it completely. Both are having relationship troubles: Emily has been with Brian, a slightly nerdy marine biologist (Ben Cotton; think Richard Dreyfuss in JAWS but less cute and funny) for years and assumes that when he returns from his latest trip that he will propose to her; Henry has drifted apart from his girlfriend Gretchen, accused of not understanding how to work at keeping a relationship alive. Of course, after a rough few days, Emily and Henry hit it off and smooth out each other’s rough spots—but what about Brian and Gretchen?

The movie looks colorful and shiny, and it helps that there is a fair amount of footage shot on location on the streets of Chicago, though I suspect that, with the number of Canadian actors here, most of the interiors were shot in Canada. The two leads are attractive, and after all, that’s what really counts in these cable TV romances, and I was pleased that Cupo’s “bad guy” personality was a bit more rounded than usual. Cotton was fine as the clueless biologist though his character could have used a bit more fleshing out (poor Gretchen gets almost no characterization at all, only present near the end to provide one more speed bump on the way to the happy ending), and Ali Liebert is quite likeable as Reeser’s best friend—more of her would have been welcome. The script could have used another draft; once it gets to the last 15 minutes, things are rushed and plotholes are exposed—I’m still not sure how on earth Cupo wind up in a Santa suit??—but given the genre, it’s fairly satisfying. [Hallmark Channel]

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