Friday, December 23, 2016


Meredith Rossman (Julie Benz) is the daughter of the owners of Rossman’s, a successful department store in Portland, Oregon. In order to make sure her parents get the retirement they deserve, Meredith is in talks with a businessman named Daniel to start a nationwide franchise of stores, but Mom and Dad aren't yet on board 100%. When an old Mrs. Claus costume that Mom used to wear is found, the folks say they’ll consider the deal if Meredith will play Mrs. Claus in the store's Santa village—they hope doing this will help her relax a bit from the strains of running the store. Reluctantly, Meredith agrees, but she almost changes her mind when she discovers she has to work with Nick (David Sutcliffe), the new Santa. Young and handsome (and most assuredly not equipped with a Santa belly), the two start off on the wrong foot and continue that way for a while—she tries to remain all about business and he tries to get her to see the store employees as family, and perhaps to rethink the franchise opportunity. He also teases her with the possibility that he might actually be Santa Claus, which does not endear him to her. However, Meredith slowly thaws out and soon is helping some of her employees, including struggling single mom Jessie and administrative assistant Olivia who has career and romance troubles. But just as she and Nick seem to be striking sparks, Daniel raises the stakes by offering to buy Rossman's instead of just franchising. The catch: she’ll have to lay off a handful of workers.

This TV-movie is a nice variation on the Scrooge story, and to the movie's credit, Meredith is never presented as a truly mean person, just someone who needs a little help finding her way. The epiphany I had while watching this: these bland and formulaic Christmas movies are equally irritating and comforting: the rote ticking-off of all the plot points—introduction of the mildly troubled main character, introduction of the savior figure, slow growth of attraction between the two, the snag along the way, the inevitable redemptive happy ending—is irritating, especially when it's done in a fairly uninspiring way as it is here. But as in most genre pieces, it's comforting to watch the conventions fall into place. So on a scale of 1 to 5 for the Christmas TV-movie genre, this gets a 4, bumped up a bit because the blandly handsome leading man, David Sutcliffe, is particularly charming, and does a nice job keeping us off balance as to whether or not he's a magical guy or just the right man at the right time. Julie Benz is OK but sometimes seems like she thinks this is all beneath her, and to truly make these movies work, the actors have to be invested so that the viewer doesn't stop and think that the movie is beneath him or her. Paul Hopkins, who played Mouse in the Tales of the City sequels, is fine as Daniel, and in a bit of a break with tradition, he is not presented as a romantic foil. Pleasant, and despite the generally average production, one I'd consider re-watching. [Hallmark Channel]

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