Monday, December 23, 2013


The plot of this made-for-TV Christmas movie is fairly formulaic, and the acting is routine, but the style is a little off-kilter, which winds up being both good and bad. Peter (Lucas Bryant) is a handsome young man, and, somewhat improbably, an elementary school teacher; his live-in girlfriend and single mom Alex (Kassia Warshawski), more rational and practical, is an astronomer who is working closely with Andrew, a former boyfriend, on gamma ray research partially funded by her father Steven. A few days before Christmas, Peter arranges a lovely space-themed proposal which catches her off-guard, but she says yes. When her (grimly realistic) parents find out, they try to talk her out of it—Dad doesn't approve of Peter and still has hopes that she will get back together with Andrew. But the real deal-breaker might be his parents: Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus (George Wendt and Shelley Long), whose front is that they run a toymaking business in Alaska. Peter has kept this little secret from Alex, but when both sets of parents arrive to spend a few days—the Clauses, of course, arriving in a sleigh they keep hidden in the garage—uptight skeptical Steven clashes with whimsical Mr. C, Steven being the kind of father who told Alex there was no Santa at the tender age of 5. Tensions between Peter and Alex boil up and soon it looks like the engagement is off, until the Clauses work their magic on everyone.

As has become the norm for made-for-cable TV holiday movies, this was shot in Canada with mostly relatively unknown Canadian actors, though Bryant and Warshawski (pictured at left) are both fine, as is Greg Lawson as Alex's cranky dad and Matty Finochio as Andrew. The pairing of Wendt and Long (Norm and Diane from Cheers, pictured above right) seems like it would work well, and mostly it does, but they wind up being a little too low-key—perhaps to rein in the sometimes theatrical Long—and they don't have much to do in the second half. There is plenty of Christmas atmosphere, but the overall feel of the movie is drabbish-indie rather than colorful cable. I'm not really complaining as it's nice to run into something a little out of the ordinary, but it does feel a bit tamped down emotionally and visually. Bryant is nice looking, though he always looks about a week and a half overdue for a haircut which gives him a slightly seedy feel, like he might actually be a serial killer in disguise. Some shenanigans in the last half involving a pretty elf (Jessica Tsang) who gets mistaken for Peter's mistress feel forced, but overall I have to say that I enjoyed this more than I thought I would from the description. It's on DVD but Lifetime will be showing it on Christmas Eve. [DVD]

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